THOUGH the Levant crisis should in itself be a factor less disturbing to the conscience of the world than the things being taken for granted in Eastern and Southern Europe, it does provide an excellent object lesson to the Powers seeking some formula of unity and common action in San Francisco. It has been liptly noted that had it arisen after the international charter had been accepted and put into operation France could have made use of the veto so strongly insisted upon by her critic Russia and taken the whole dispute outside the Security Council's jurisdiction. And indeed it is perfectly obvious that Russia's insistence on this point makes complete nonsense of the present attempt to avoid war on the large scale through an international organisation.
But apart front this the Levant crisis and the way it has been handled suggests many disquieting reflections. The first and most important is that, whatever the rights and wrongs of the dispute, it is extremely short-sighted of Great Britain so to act as to increase the tension between Britain and France. If there is one thing absolutely clear it is that the future fate of Europe (and with Europe ourselves) is largely dependent on friendship and indeed formal alliance between France and ourselves. This alliance is the necessry condition for a further working understanding between the Western European Powers, each of which is relatively small and all of whom must therefore stick together. And finally such an understanding is a necessary prelude to the successful reincorporation of a freed and regenerated Germany into a concert of Western Europe. So overriding is the common need for these developments that any long-sighted British diplomacy must handle any trouble arising with infinite caution and patience.
A Common Policy
I NSTEAD of this we find Mr. Eden returning to the harsh and intemperate language which made matters so infinitely worse in the days of the Abyssinian War and Sanctions against Italy. And though one certainly does not suppose that the Foreign Secretary entertains the same antagonism towards liberated France as he did towards Miissolini, he perhaps finds compensation in the reflection that to-day he is backed by armies far more formidable than those of France.
Nor is the present trouble devoid of that hypocritical note so evident ten years ago. If we ourselves had no " vital interests " in the Middle East our indignation against France would come with better grace, whereas what is really happening is that we are bullying France over claims not different in principle from those we ourselves make and safeguard. The simple fact is that none of the Great Powers can 'afford for military and economic reasons to grant full and absolute sovereignty to any of the Arab countries. And because of , this they all insist on the maintenance of their prestige—a point foolishly being overlooked • by Britain when it comes to dealing with France. Let us not be deceived into supposing that the Arabs will in the long run prove to nave any greater love for outselves as protectors than for the French.
This is not to deny that the French authorities have been extraordinarily tactless. This paper has often enough .criticised the touchy and arrogant nationalism of de Gaulle, but one may doubt whether the best way of curing it is to bully him in public add invite from him the sarcasms which it may take many months to forget. Apart from anything else it might weaken his authority at home, and who is to take his place? The fundamental problem of the Middle East—as it is also of India and was of Abyssinia—is whether the Great Powers arc prepared to recognise Eastern sovereignty in the fullest sense and then negotiate on equal terms for economic advantages or whether they intend to maintain at all costs that military protectorate which really denies sovereignty. Whatever view is taken, it is necessary that all should act alike, and it is hard to believe that Britain could not have per-• waded France to behave in a more statesmanlike manner, long before matters came to the present crisis, had Mr. Eden realised the full implications of the position and persuaded himself to talk to other Powers in the same highly courteous and deferential manner which he reserves for Amerka and Russia.
MR. CHURCHILL'S SPEECH
FEW Catholics, we imagine, will quarrel with Mr. Churchill's vigorous denunciation of the evils
of Socialism and Communism. Indeed while Mr. Churchill was singing the praises of the great Communist Empire, elevating an ex-mcmber of the Comintern to Communist dictatorship of an allied monarchy well served by a distinguished and patriotic royalist General, and signing away to Cornmunist rule or overlordship an ancient Catholic people, some of us happened to remember how very well-founded were the sentiments expressed on the subject by Mr. Churchill himself in the olden days and now recalled for election purposes. And if it is suggested that the Prime Minister ,behaved in this way because of the vital need of defeating Germany at any cost, it is permissible to answer that even such needs did not warrant the exaggerated language and sentiments constantly resorted to by him. The fighting alliance between two peoples, each equally dependent on common victory, would have lost nothing if both (instead of only one) had stood on their own ideological ground. Success in the •Balkans would have been equally assured and Greece perhaps spared a civil war if 'Vito had not been empowered to persecute his people and stand in the way of a common military and peace policy to-day. And nothing was saved for Poland by Mr. Churchill's insistence that the Russian case was not only irresistible in fact but unanswerable ip justice. One has to recall these points because it is the same mind and character which today not only underlines the dangers of a full-blooded Socialist policy but accuses his electoral opponents of necessarily pursuing such a policy.
There is, so far as we can see, nothing in the Labour programme and still less in the personality of the main Labour leaders to warrant the inference that they intend to turn this country into an imitation of Hitlerism or Stalinism. It is true that there is a grave danger of a drift into a State domination, due in the main to technical and economic pressure and to popular demands for a standard and way of living incompatible with the old order of liberty. But we doubt whether the philosophy of expediency which at present governs the Tory Party is a very sound defence. For our part, we shall consider the country in danger from all and any parties until it is realised that the only real defences are in moral principles which themselves are rooted in religious convictions about the nature and destiny of man.
The Party Convention
VVEN tactically Mr. Churchill's " speech seemed extraordinarily unwise. It is perfectly true that the constitution of this country is of such a nature as to ease the way of the wouldI be dictatorial! party. With a sufficient majority such a pony could abolish the Lords, indefinitely. prolong the duration of a Parliament and give itself powers to legislate by Orders-in-touncil—and every judge in the country would be constitutionally bound to enforce such a dictatorship. Occasionally a Labour leader in a moment of exuberance has vaguely threatened to have recourse to such measures. Yet of all people the 1Conservatives realise that the moment the use of such powers becomes a question of public argument they are raised from the plane of abstract theory to the plane of possihle practice. For the Conservatives intemperately to accuse their electoral opponents of wanting to use them or of finding it necessary to use is to take a lone step towards their eventual use. And though that would be the end of liberty, it would incidentally also be the end of Conservatism.
Party Government in this country depends on mutual respect between the parties and a mutual connivance to go thus far and no farther. Labour has always been tempted, especially in Opposition public speech, to weaken the convention, and this has been one of its faults and dangers. For the leader of the Tories and especially for so respected and universally acknowledged a leader as Mr. Churchill to begin an electoral campaign by sweeping the coovention away by taking it for granted that his opponents, if returned to power, will not respect it, is surely extreme foolishness. Besides the moral that one only cries " wolf! " when nervy and unsure of oneself is obvious.
ONE of the questions which has agitated the San Francisco Conference concerns the purpose
which should govern Powers exercising authority in mandated or colonial territories, Russia and China defined that purpose as the ultimate granting of independence for the countries concerned. Britain and the United States voted for self-government with independence as a possible sequel. The question has now re-emerged as a concrete problem in connection with Burma.
A Burmese deputation visited this country shortly before the war with a view to gaining recognition as an independent State but met with a discouraging reception. Since then, as the debate in the Commons and two special articles in the Times on the subject show, the matter has become more complicated. Among the factors to which this increased complexity is due must be put the professed objects of the war itself as defined by the Atlantic Charter. But we must reckon;also, as influencing Burmese opinion the fact that, while claiming imperial rights in Burma, we,failed to observe the responsibilities attaching to those rights and left the country open to attack from Japan, a mistake which has cost us dearly. Russia's attitude, again, with its promise of independence, has encouraged the considerable section of Burmese Communists and has even affected opinion here, so that, in the Commons' debate, a Labour member, speaking in this connection, asserted that "the only country in the world that was solving the problem of nationality was Russia." A settlement is urgently needed, if only because India is watching developments in Burma to obtain a clue to imperial policy. But the problem is simpler than that created by the impasse between Hindus and Moslems, for no such deep religious divisions exist in Burma. The House, it appears, was satisfied with the policy defined by the White Paget and expounded by Mr. Amery in his speech on the second reading of the Government of Burma (Temporary Provisions) Bill, which aims at covering the period between the present and the time when order has been restored and the Burmese will be able to decide their own future within the British Com, monwealth of Nations.
AN interesting debate last month took place when the Minister of Agriculture moved the
second reading of the Forestry Bill. Mr. Hudson told the House that we were left to-day with not more than 1,000,000 acre, of woodland in the whole country, mostly either immature or second-rate wOods or woods very thinly stocked. The Government had therefore decided to increase this acreage by new plantings. Another member pointed out that a quarter of Germany was forest, a quarter of France, a quarter of Belgium, half of Norway, and three-quarters of Sweden, but Great Britain was at the bottom of the list with only one-twentieth. The Bill came up for second reading in the House of Lords this week where, after further discussion, it was passed.
The purposes for which wood is used have greatly increased. Its employment in the manufacture of paper is, of course, an important item as is also its use in building and as fuel, not to speak of pit props and railway sleepers. In some of these respects there is room for extensive development, as the shortage of houses and coal suggests. Were it more easily available, it would play a much larger mart than at present in the national life and thus save shipping for other purposes and increase our independence of imports.
The doubt was expressed in the Commons' debate whether afforestation on the scale contemplated would not interfere with agriculture. There are several answers to that. In the first place, forestry in the Bill passed by Parliament is placed under the care of the Minister of Agriculture, who may be trusted to see that his more special concern does not sutler. In the second place, there are large areas of moorland which afford but spare provender for sheep and are of no agricultural value but will support forests. The time has come to economise every acre of our country, and afforestation, besides adding a pleasant feature to the landscape, assists us in doing that.