By DEsmoND Eistika Progress against Hunger (Sword of the Spirit.
Communism in Asia, by Douglas Hyde (Sword of the Spirit. ls. 6d.).
IT is possible to trace a connected theme in these two latest pamphlets in the excellent Sword of the Spirit series. It is that the peoples of underdeveloped world are desperately seeking the aid which we. in justice as well as in charity. owe them and that if we do not give it. their frustration with appalling living conditions will drive them to Communism.
It is a theme which 1 do not think should he pressed too far. We should not be blackmailed for our help: far better appeal to our idealism than to our fears. But vie should bear it in Mind all the same.
Three writers contribute to the first of these pamphlets. The first article is by Fr. James J. Bernie a Jesuit from Poona, who produced a community development programme fur forty fishing villages in the area round Trivandrum. the capital of the Indian State of Kerala.
The 130.000 inhabitants. many of them descendants of converts made by St, Francis Xavier, live in extreme poverty all the year round. but particularly in the monsoon season in July and August when they cannot put to sea.
Starving families have to mortgage their land for food, The sums involved may be pitifully small -Moyra Hasdak. land mortgaged in 1959. 3-1 acres. debt: 100 rupees U:38); Barnahas Fuchs 1959. 21 acres U7): Benjamin Ludu, 1954. ft acres (e55): Richard leaskey. 4 acres (e45) but they are too big to be repaid.
Landlessness and hunger breed hopelessness and even viciousness. Decent men become an mean and dishonest that they try to cheat even their benefactors. Indeed, says Fr. Berne, "it is open to question whether the concept of altruism can he grasped by people living on this level".
Large-scale help from the German Catholic organisation, Misereor. is being used to improve the fishing industry. to provide housing resettlement and to improve social education. improvements arc being made but at the cost of hostility and jealousy On the part of those who have still to benefit.
When new nylon nets were given to some fishermen, the others spread the rumour that the nylon thread emitted rays which attracted fish and thus prevented the traditional net users from getting their fair share. Result: fishing ceased for a month.
I-or Fr. liana. the worst aspect of the area's subsistence level living and the chronic hunger which accompanies it is the gradual erosion of the community spirit by jealousy. resentment and fear of another's progress. His deeply-etched article catches the atmosphere exactly. No one can read his few thousand words and feel the same about the underdeveloped countries again. Dudley Plunkett on Rural Education in Bolivia and Gillian Amies on The Bibwe Settlement (in Kivu. Congo Republic). contribute further facets to the story of the light against world hunger.
The gist of Douglas Hyde's attitude to Communism is now well-known. He knows Communism from inside as well as outside and he does not make the common American mistake of condemning Communists out of hand as "had guys". He knows the real truth that many Communists arc spiritually hungry people. Frustrated by the world's indifference or injustice. they turn to a creed which seems to hold out a promise of creating a better life.
This study is of Communism in South-East Asia, an area which Stalin believed was ripe for Marxism and which would become Cormunnist in a few years. How the Communists miscalculated and the reasons for their failures and their successes is told here.
Mr. Hyde underscores the theme that hunger. slums. poverty. ignorance and injustice are the Communists' good allies in Asia.
Once these were accepted as the will of God. Now the Asians know they arc preventable and that we have the means to prevent them. This is what makes Asia a continent of promise to the Communises. 11 also makes it a continent of opportunity for Christians. Will we avail ourselves of it.