-With Christopher Hollis As Guide
Foreigners Aren't Fools by Christopher Hollis (Longmans, 6s.) Reviewed by MICHAEL DE LA REDOYERE.
Christopher Hollis writes so clearly and entertainingly that he is apt to be underrated as a serious thinker by the student of contemporary affairs. And since what he has to say cuts across the prejudices of the day his brilliant ability to popularise his knowledge will never elevate him in the eyes of the general public to the level of a Wells or a Shaw. Yet the fact remains that he combines their genius for attractive popularisation with a soundness of judgment all his own.
In his Breakdown of Money he showed that economics was in reality a simple matter artificially erected into an abstruse and largely artificial, science for the purpose of hiding the truth in the interests of the money-power. In Foreigners Aren't Fools -the value of which can scarcely be exaggerated-he shows that international affairs are very much more complicated and manysided than the Englishman has been trained to believe-in the interests of the British race.
Having travelled a good deal of late, he has in characteristically un-English fashion taken the trouble to find out what the foreigner himself thinks, and on the basis, no doubt, of real conversations has described the point of view of the Italian (chiefly about Abyssinia and England), the German (chiefly about France and Russia), the Frenchman (chiefly about France and Germany), the Russian (chiefly about capitalism), the Japanese (chiefly about the West) and the American chiefly about Europe and England).
The conversations have their charm as mere conversations, but taken together they form a carefully worked out analysis of the root causes of unrest in the world of to-day. One need not be surprised at the familiarity of each of the characters with the economic views of Christopher Hollis, for the clue to the problems raised lie in an understanding of the real economic forces at work, The Italian, German and Frenchman speak a language that by now should be familiar to the readers of the Catholic Herald, and it is in the conversation with the Russian that the voice of Christopher Hollis himself begins to be clearly discerned. The exposition of the Marxian economic theory is brilliant and it would be hard to find a better example of how important it is to understand and even to sympathise up to a point with one's worst enemy before being able to refute him, The difference between the first and second generation of Bolsheviks, the real motives behind Russia's foreign policy and her international propaganda, and the meaning of the new constitution are sketched in clear and unanswerable argument.
After the so-called Yellow Peril has been explained away in terms of raw materials, debts and the City of London and after the American has clearly demonstrated that an Anglo-American understanding is an English trick to bolster herself up in a world growing less secure, the author gathers together the many strands-so many undreamt of by the Englishman-in two chapters, entitled, The Man Who Knew Statistics and The Englishman.
The conclusion is relatively optimistic, and it is expected that if war can be avoided for a year or two talk of it will die down, for its causes are artificial. Neither colonies nor the competition for raw materials-the latter are needed to make war, nor war caused by lack of them-nor even high finance are causing the present unrest. The cause is moral and spiritual; not lack of goods, but lack of a sense of responsibility, not unemployment, but bad employment. Unfortunately few people have any grasp of the realities. Help is not to be found in the Left "which is so frightfully like the Right," nor in the Right which in nonFascist countries is too liberal and doctrinaire. " The true mongers of war to-day are neither the Fascists nor the Communists as such, but those mild liberals, who, in the name of liberalism. try to construct the building of friendship between the Fascist and the non-Fascist countries of Western Europe."
Despite the title, the Englishman does not come out too badly until the very end, when he is bitterly indicted for his blindness to glaring realities while he flirts, largely for financial reasons, with the Communist as against the Fascist, and attempts to uphold the unreality of a League which proposes to make moral judgments in a world that has no real international moral standards by which to judge.
The better the book, the harder it is to describe it in a few words. I can only end a most inadequate notice by imploring everyone to read it for themselves. Though it has no pretensions, even in its print and binding, to be more than of passing interest, it provides an education in its own subject-matter, and it is, alas, unique.