THE BALANCE OF THE WAR
THE success of General Wavell's Lybian campaign can be measured by the fact that only a few weeks ago expert neutral opinion did not think that we could hold Egypt and Suez against Graziani's numbers and equipment, and no one supposed that there could be any chance of invading Lybia itself until the closing stages of a successful war. The sudden change in our fortunes can he directly related to the criminal invasion of Greece and the altogether unexpected Greek resistance and counter-attack on Albania.
It is too early to guess the full effects of Italy's spectacular defeats on two fronts, but we can fairly suggest that modern warfare is a matter of quick victories, patiently prepared for over long periods, and equally quick collapses, not merely of an army, but of whole nations. The total collapse of Fascist Italy in a comparatively short period of time is at least a definite possibility, the more so as the strain of the war on that poor country so largely dependent upon foreign supplies has been terrific. And it is patent that the morale of the people is very far from satisfactory.
At any rate we can safely assert that the balance of the war has undergone a remarkable transformation Britain is no longer standing alone against the onslaught of totalitarian might astride the continent of Europe. Italy's defeat has given new heart to all the countries overrun by the Nazis or threatened by them. Much of the strength of France has been restored, and every bit of that strength is anti-Nazi, even though much of it may not be exactly pro-British. And the great industrial resources. as well as the moral strength of America. are fighting for us. In fact the war, from the Nazi point of view, has developed into a dramatic race against time. Can the island of Britain be conquered before these new factors begin to operate powerfully enough in our favour to undermine Hitlerism?
Let us not forget that the race may be decided by our success in proving to the world that when we win we shall be guided, not by nationalist and capitalist considerations, but by the principles given to the world by the Pope. It is not enough to say that we are fighting for Christianity. Victory may in the end depend upon Christianity fighting for us.
THE POSITION IN ABYSSINIA
WHILE the Italians have been losing heavily in North Africa almost complete silence reigns about what is happening in Abyssinia. Those English commentators who expected an Immediate rising of the native population have been disappointed, and the Italians are in a much stronger position there than easy imagination would have us believe. They are able to play on the differences amongst the various tribes and the fact that the large masses of the native population have no political knowledge of any kind: most of them probably accept their new Italian masters as they accepted their old masters the Amharas.
The other strength of the Italians consisted in the fact that after the conquest of Abyssinia they organized the country for war and a siege to face the ultimate struggle with Great Britain which has been in the air since sanctions, The Italian military forces in East Africa must number some 250,000 men, perhaps even more if we remember that the majority of the settlers there have military training with arms to equip them. The greatest problem the Italians faced was not so much being militarily cut off from the mother land, perhaps, as living on the country over an extended period. Though they may boast that Abyssinia is self sufficing, this is obviously not true for Europeans, and though Italians are able to live on a more restricted diet than Frenchmen, Englishmen or Germans, they cannot live as the natives do. During the Abyssinian war the troops in East Africa were supplied with tinned and dried foods from Italy and this process of supply went on afterwards. During the period of non-belligerency there seems no doubt that the Italian government laid up a store of European food to last a considerable period of siege, and they certainly did the same for petrol and other necessities.
But however large their stores they cannot last indefinitely and this was a typical reason for Italy's hope of a short war. The Italian government certainly never expected the war to last as long as it has, and the situation in Abyssinia will be very serious in eight or twelve months if not before. What the attitude of the Viceregal government in Addis Ababa will be when the serious moment arrives no one knows. The Duke of Aosta, the present Viceroy, other things being equal, would not go through fire and sword for Mussolini. It is thinkable that rather than face the hideous consequences of starvation and native revolt the Italians in East Africa might seek to make a separate peace with Great Britain. But the real Fascist hope can only be that Hitler will help them by dealing a knockout blow against Great Britain itself. Unless he were to succeed in doing this between now and next winter, the Italian Empire should be considered as an episode of the past.
THE death of Bergson is an event that should be noted outside academic circles, for Bergson is certain to live as one of the philosophers of all time. Christians moreover undoubtedly owe a debt to his genius, for he more than one other single thinker brought to an end the reign of the crass materialism that began in the seventeenth century and still to-day affects a good deal of popular thinking. And though Bergson initiated another philosophic craze that is best recalled to people's minds by the phrase elan vital, he himself moved a good way during his long life towards a perception of truth much mere: to Christianity. Where the materialists worshipped space and whatever could be measured in it, regarding all else as at bottom illusory, Bergson introduced the worship of lime, life and the conception of the organism. necessarily moving and adapting itself -to its ends. His best known work was Creative Evolution which might be described as the parent of all that contemporary thought, science and political ideas that fry to have it both ways, accounting, that .is, for spiritual values without postulating the existence of a personal God. But this at any rate is a great advance on those who denied the reality of the spiritual altogether. And Bergson in his last great work Les Deux Sources de la Morale et de la Religion raised the élan vital from the animal plane to the theological, accounting for it through a Divine emergy. In other words while still uncertain about the nature of God and God's relation to man he accepts a definitely theist point of view and in some ways deepens our understanding of the Divine action. This however is not the place to discuss such details. The point of interest is that Bergson, acknowledged one of the profoundest and most influential thinkers of our time. has spanned the gap that separates the long materialist and agnostic tradition of philosophy since the seventeenth century from the tradition of Christian philosophy. His work is symptomatic of an immense change that has come over the profoundest and most sincere thinking of the last fifty years.
THE CHURCH AND POLITICS
THE essential simplicity of the outlook A of the Church in the modern world causes sekere headaches to even the best diplomatic and political commentators. They spend so much time seeking of what was never there. Thus the wellinformed and sensible Memorandum of Information issued by the Imperial Policy Group has just gone out of its way to drag the unfortunate Jesuits into the fray. " The Germans and Italians," it says. " arc maintaining a specially close contact with the Father-General of the Jesuits, a German-Polish nobleman, who is extremely active at present. Observation of his work is most illuminating.' Unfortunately the results of that observation are not disclosed. It is however suggested that the dislike by continental Catholicism of Freemasonry is accounting for the support which the totalitarian regimes receive in clerical quarters, and we are left to infer that the General of the Jesuits is busily engaged in maintaining Nazi-Fascist power. We happen to enjoy particularly close relations with many members of the English Province of the Society and our experience is that they are, if anything, more wholeheartedly behind the whole British cause than some other members of the clergy who, while wholly loyal, are at least more outspokenly critical of certain aspects of that cause. Does the General of the Society wield no authority over so important a section of his army?
The fact is of course that the Church's policy is determined—like that of most simple people—by the degree and kind of hostility towards her spiritual authority shown by her enemies and critics. Among these she awards pride of place to Communism and Continental Masonry —and with good reason. The Memorandum of Information is right in suggesting that most Continental Catholics would view the overthrow of Mussolini or even of Hitler for the benefit of either Communism or Continental Masonry as a very poor bargain And this fact should be borne closely in mind by post-war planners in this country. It largely accounts for the clerical popularity of Main, Franco and Salazar. In this country on the other hand the danger of Masonry or even Communism is relatively unimportant for the present. and not unnaturally the immediate danger of a Germanised regime is considered more to the point. Such is the simple and honest reason for any apparent differences of emphasis. As for the Jesuit General he is probably busily engaged in giving spiritual direction to such Germans and Italians as may visit him or protecting the interests of his farflung Order.
GOVERNMENT expenditure is mount ing steadily and should by the end of this month have reached a figure not far short of £4,700 millions a year. It is difficult to say what proportion this constitutes of the national income, because at the moment we do not know how large the naiional income is. One of the ways of guessing at this is watching the magnitude of bank deposits which seem to maintain a fairly constant proportion to the total national income, but even this guide is falsified by the fact that cheques take five days to clear so that the slight increase recoided in deposits does not mean very much. On the whole therefore there are no grounds for supposing that the national income (exclusive of debt service) greatly exceeds £6,000 millions. Of course in reality there is more than f1,300 millions for the nation left to feed and clothe itself with. since a part of the Government's expenditure is being covered by the sale of gold and capital assets, but as to the size of this contribution we are again in the dark. We only know that this fund is limited, and that we cannot go on drawing on it for ever. There remains of course our Empire gold production of £120 millions a year, but that is only a drop in the ocean, and we may as well face the fact that we shall soon have a period of unexampled stringency to face. It is also quite clear that the principles of orthodox finance must be departed from. Present taxes at the most optimistic estimate and after allowing for the expansion of war industry are unlikely to bring in more than f 1,600-£1.700 millions. The savings campaign will no doubt bring in its £1,000 million. but owing to the incidence of EPS., institutional savings may actually decrease. There does not seem to be any alternative other than set about the manufacture of new money to fill the gap. If rationing is tightened up, this should not for the moment have any inflationary effect. The critical time will come at the conclusion of hostilities and all will depend on whether we have the strength of mind to maintain our war time controls of consumption. production and price. If this can be done we may indeed achieve the planned economic order that so many of us desire. Failing this we shall be faced with all the inequities of a run-away inflation and ultimately with mass unemployment.