FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 1942
HEAD OFFICE: 67. Fleet St., London,
E.C.4. (Central 6264-5i BRANCH OPiricEs:
30, Manchester St., Liverpool.
(A DVance 36891 6. Vernon St., Leeds.
(Central 24891) SUBSCRIPTION RATES (post free): British Isles and Overseas
52 weeks .. 15/26 weeks 7/6 Canada 52 weeks .. 13126 weeks . 6/6
The Guilty and the Innocent
W E have noted with pleasure the fact that Labour and Left circles have in general kept their heads about the enemy peoples and their responsibility for he war. It has been left to those who claim to be better-educated and more soundly-established to damn the Germans as a whole and to threaten punifive and repressive measures for all the defeated.
Strangely enough, some of these fireeaters were, during the years before the war. notorious for their anxiety to do a deal with the Nazi leaders.
And yet the explanation of the apparent inconsistency is not far to seek.
In some cases one is dealing with folk—often self-made—who have never really convinced themselves that the people are not canaille. They have no love for or interest in their fellowmen as such. and they think instinctively in terms of rulers and business men When it seemed to pay to make a bargain with the Nazis, they were all for the bargain. Now that wiping the Germans off the face of the earth seems a sounder proposition they are all for trying this. And to-morrow, when they find out, as they did twentyfive years ago, that this is not so easily done they will quite happily recommend friendship and loans.
In other cases the apparent inconsistency is the result of a more or less uncivilised mentality combined with the instinct of self-protection. It is not without significance, for example, that the Communists who were quite ready to do a deal with the Nazis against "capitalism am! imperialism " should now habitually refer to the latter as "cannibals" and be determined to treat them as such. And there are many among our own people who feel much the same about it.
Looking To Ourselves
The idea that a better or juster world can possibly result from this sort of mentality is preposterous
Let us try to apply a little lesson.
Since Russia became our ally—not by her own choice—every effort has been made to convince us that Bolshevism is nothing like as bad as it has been painted And our people !nee not required much convincing. The tyranny, the persecutions, the secret police, the purges and travesty of trials, the sufferings of the Kulaks, the Finnish war and foreign aggressions, these are all forgotten; and in their place we gloat over the picture of heroic people fighting under a beloved leader for country, freedom, civilisation and even Christianity.
Whatever may be thought of all this, the point of interest is the speed and spontaneity with which people to whom the word " Bolshevik " conveyed all that was most horrible and immoral a few months ago have now persuaded themselves that it must, after all. stand for something fine.
The reason is obvious. We have a very strong motive for changing our views. Russia is an alb,. She is fighting our battles. Her people are fie: ting with determination and heroism.
The Ease of Self-Deception Now !et us think of the German people. They also had a very strong motive for believing in Hitler and the Nazis who rescued them from national humiliation, stagnation, purposelessness and depression Was it so very surprising that millions, u.esd by such a motive, should have conveniently forgotten the methods by which the Nazis came to power and maintained
their power? Was it so very surprising that they made the best of the acts of tyranny and aggression and explained them away?
Have we ourselves not acted in regard to Bolshevik Russia in a way that is at least comparable with the way in which the people of Germany acted in regard to the leaders in whom they put their last trust?
We are not concerned to argue whether Nazism or Bolshevism are as evil or as good as they can be painted; we are only concerned to show that it is very easy for averagely docile and propaganda-fed men and women of any country to persuade themselves, under sufficient motive, that black is not so very black.
he Least Guilty
The least guilty of all in the world to-day are those whom we call the people, whether the people of Russia or the people of Germany or the people of Britain. Everywheee they are the victims. They are the victims of bad education, of the dope sold for e high profit by equally badly-educated monopolisers of the spoken and written word, of the publicists and teachers who think themselves little gods, of their industrial and financial masters who hold their security in irresponsible hands, of politicians and careerists who play power-politics for the sport and glory of it, of despots. open or veiled.
It is to the credit of Labour in this country that, despite its pusillanimity and narrow vision, it has consistently tried in foreign and national politics to remember that the people of every country have been the victims.
The Battle for Peace
Labour is mocked at to-day for having advocated disarmament and the rule of reason and for having with the greatest reluctance yielded to the pressure of events. But a Lansbury was right throughout, and it was those in every country who sabotaged such ideals who are the truly guilty of thk horrors of this war.
Despite appearances, the road of the ordinary man's simple commonsense (when left to himself), the road of economic reform, the road of reason and disarmament is the only road that holds out any hope for mankind aftei the war.
We only wish that this instinctive defence of the real interest of the cornmon man, wherever he may be, could be allied with the spiritual strength and age-long experience of men which to-day is represented so magnificently by the Pope.