Que stions of the week
by Michael de la nedogere
FROM Liberal and Labour addresses one often hears complaints of the failure of democracy to institute those social reforms of which the Communists boast and which appear to have been put intri practice in a place like North Korea or China. The argument is that Until democratic regimes are prepared to do the same, we must expect the connivance of the kind of trouble of which the Korean war is an extreme example.
Our readers Nk ill hardly deny that this paper has been foremost in underlining the point that Comnmpion will not he overcome until the free countries produce a constructive way of living that will morally defeat the Communists and ultimately make their spiritually bankrupt position untenable.
But we must be realists to the extent of appreciating the true position as it is today. It is true that a Communist regime is in a position to dispossess the better-off, and share out land and wealth to the poor. A dictator can
order such changes with a stroke of his pen. and his henchmen can en force his orders. But the conse quences are more apparent than real. Only a minority can be certain of profiting.
At first, it may be a matter of luck whether a man will profit hut in the end one may he certain that those who hold their profits will pot be the most needy, but the cleverest and those who understand best how to please the dictator. At the very least, the new injustices will equal the old ones. In other words, this kind of dictated reform is very largely window dressing,
A free regime crtnoot in conscience behave in the same way. precisely because it possesses some sense of morals and law. It is bound by its ideals to try to pursue economic reform in such a way that the reforms will diminish. and not equal or increase, the old injustices. AD absolutely necessary condition of such reform is lime. Moreover. if a democratic regime is not to be as dictatorial as its opponent. it must allow decisions to rest with leaders who are not blatantly imposed but in sonic way are representative of their people. In undeveloped. new democracies this will certainly involve incompetence and corruption.
The spiritual element
IT is perhaps worth mentioning these obvious truths again, because it is so frightfully easy to be impressed by the Communist propaganda and, consequently, unnecessarily to blacken our own cause.
We are playing the enemy's game when we try to interpret the real failings of the free countries in terms that are patently false. Free countries cannot. in justice and decency, imitate the sort of crude social ad economic reforms which the Communists put into operation for the sole purpose of rewarding their own creatures and deceiving the masses into momentarily believing in an era of emancipation.
The real moral is always the same one. Free countries, in their search for the answer to Communism, will always be thrown back on the spiritual element.
Unless they can teach and preach the intrinsic dignity and responsibility of every human being because he is a creature of God from Whom all idealism comes and in Whom it is all fulfilled, they have no message worth considering.
And note that it is only from this ultimate basis that social and ecopomic reform can healthily and constructively proceed, just as it is equally true that this Faith alone, when properly held, gives absolute obligation and urgency to proceed with such reform.
When a human being is living in a social and economic condition which makes the fulfilment of his temporal and spiritual destiny intolerably hard, then the first duty of the State is to move heaven and earth to get the situation altered.
If the West could once again get this simple truth into its head and train its will to he guided by it in practice, we should hear very much less about the social and economic successes of Communism as opposed to our failures.
"Ilesistanee to aggression" SUCH reflections may seem, at first
sight, a little remote from the urgent practical questions which perplex our leaders at the present time—from the Korean war and the situation in the Far East, from the Schuman Plan and the closer integration of Europe in the West. from the financial perplexities which are likely to result frpm the new and more warlike phase into which the whole world has been thrown.
And it is only too true that for the last five years, the West, had it understood its proper business, would have been hard at work putting into practical effect the material consequences of the spiritual faith it should have
possessed. Those five years have been largely thrown away, especially in the international sphere. Such are the inevitable results of a general loss of faith, even if d vague goodwill survives that loss.
Even so, probably the most dangerous and alarming aspect of the tragic Korean war lies in the fact that no one in the West appears to have the slightest glimmering of any policy better than the formula " resistance to aggression."
Where aggression in some form is likely to be continuous, the mere policy of " resistance to aggression" envisages the maintenance of a running sore that must ultimately prove exhausting.
The real cost
EVEN in the economic sphere. it
is clear that the countries of Europe at least will be unable to stand the cost of the kind of defence needed to maintain such resistance.
This, of course, is not a question of money in the ordinary Kase of the word. Budgets measured in thousands of millions can just as easily be measured in millions of millions. We did not fight the last war with our money; we fought it. first. with the resources we commanded across the face of the earth, and when those were exhausted we fought it with the resources which America commanded. Our own contribution was front the first limited to what our own people could produce with their own re'sources. And the net result was. first. that the value of our money was halved, and, second. that we have since had to depend in substantial measure on gifts and loans.
Defence expenditure on a scale commensurate with the needs of a coptinuous " resistance to aggression " must today produce an inflation that will shatter our socialised standard of living and destroy the whole economic basis of the country. It is not improbable that this consideration is one of those most in the forefront of the minds of the rulers of Russia. They have never given up hope of capitalism succumbing to economic disaster, and if this disaster does not come about naturally, they are always ready to ertcourage it by straining the system to breaking point.
Source of aggression
IN these circumstances. it is not 2. surprising if Soviet Russia remains quite content with a general policy whose purpose is to waste the substance of the West, while avoiding ay step that would inevitably precipitate world war.
At first, one thought that the Korean aggression was a try-out to test America's reaction. It seemed to follow that if America resisted with the cooperation of the United Nations, Russia would be deterred from further similar ventures.
Korea is undoubtedly a try-out; but does it follow that because we resist. Russia will not make trials of a like nature elsewhere ? So long as Russia feels sure that in each case the West will only offer local resistance. there is everything to be said from her point of view in seeing her enemy personally involved in further resistances which may strain Russia's satellites, but leaves Russia itself uninvolved.
Unpleasant as the prospect may he, it looks very much as though it would be necessary for the United Nations, under American leadership, to declare specifically which Soviet aggressions will be followed by a United Nations declaration of formal war against Russia itself.
Already there is a division of view about Formosa. since Britain declares that she will not be involved there, despite the fact there is no moral difference between aggression against Formosa a,pd aggression against South Korea, while, even legally. Formosa has never been formally returned to China. If we are to take the United Nations seriously, we have surely reached the stage when it must look to the realities. rather than the mere legalities, of the world position. and be prepared to try to put a term to aggression by the fullest invocation of sanctions against the source of that aggression.
IN the adjoining column the .1' enormously difficult moral problem of the use of atomic weapops is discussed. The International Committee for the Study of European Questions—a title rather more imposing than the apparent reality — suggests that the United Nations should. after due warning. use atomic bombs against the aggressor. But it leaves undefined who the aggressor is—the one who gives the orders or the one who has to carry them out ?
Since the original reports of this, the English members of the committee have resigned. It would be pretentious and indeed utterly puerile for any one writer to pretend to be able to see a way through all these terrible complexities. One can only attempt to state the issues as clearly as possible. The issues of the utter disaster of world war. But the issue also of the apparently fated disintegration of the West if Russia is to be allowed to keep a running sore of continuous aggression open in the world. The issue of the atomic bomb. hideous in itself yet possibly the only available deterrent and this of course involves if necessary its actual use-against the most criminal aggression of history. The greater. over-riding issue. if some temporary solutiop can be found. of what the West has spiritually and morally to offer to the millions who still suffer injustice and have to live below standards of humanity. The issue whether a word without religious faith can in the end maintain what we call civilisation, freedom and order.
Thank God, the Catholic realises that even in the face of worldly catastrophe he possesses still the supernatural Faith. Hope and Charity which guarantees. if he lives up to them, that the end of human life and all that is eternally valuable are secure in God's hands.