"THE SPRING OFFENSIVE"
THE long heralded spring offensive is now in full swing. So far, however, there is nothing decisive to record. The Secret Weapon, with rumours of which the Germans sought to unnerve their adversaries, if it exists, is quite unspectacular. The Russian line advances here, retires there. But this indecisive character of the fighting is itself significant. It is now improbable that the Nazis will score the sort of dramatic victory which their winter preparations and propaganda had led Germany to expect. Lacking that element of surprise on which they have depended in the past and hampered by the memory of their ill success through the winter, they have made what must be described as being, from their point of view, a disappointing beginning. The campaign begins where it left off, and continues in the same fashion. The intervening months when weather conditions necessitated a comparative lull have made no essential change.
THE course of events in the Carib bean island which the United States has, with the tacit consent of the Governor, temporarily appropriated, presents a curious spectacle. On the one hand, we are told, Vichy has been ignored in the negotiations which have taken place. On the other hand, the Governor, who remains the ultimate authority, is under no compulsion to identify himself with General de Gaulle.
American diplomacy has at least shown itself unconventional. It maintains relations with the Vichy Government and at the same time is able to prevent an outpost of that Government becoming a jumping-off place for the enemy.
What will strike the reflecting mind most forcibly is the contrast which the policy followed by Washington offers to that adopted by our own Government in its relations with Unoccupied France. A little more tact in those cases where we have been brought into collision with Vichy might have Saved us from the unhappy state of affairs into which, egged on by a provocative press and carefully cultivated prejudices, we have drifted.
U.S.A. AND EUROPE
R EFERRING to the new American " Ambassador to Spain. the New York Times says that, in appointing Dr. Carlton J. H. Hayes, a Catholic scholar and professor at Columbia University, to this post, President Roosevelt " has shown wisdom and tact." It adds that Spain's policy is " of vital concern to the United States," both because of her position in an Axis-dominated Europe and because of her traditional influence in South America. Dr. Hayes, it says, is " admirably fitted to carry on the good work " of keeping Spain out of the war.
Geographically, Washington is further from the European centre than we. Culturally, it is still further removed, but diplomatically it seems to be pursuing a course indicating a closer understanding than is commonly shown by British opinion. It is not always remembered that in the southern half of the continent and in the Spanish and French traditions associated with certain parts of its own territories, the United States has an indirect connection with Europe which is calculated to modify its Westernism.
A REPORT from the New York " correspondent of the Times in the issue of May 16, runs as follows: " A Federal Grand Jury at Trenton, New Jersey, has indicted eight American corporations .. . charging them with world-wide conspiracy with leading chemical companies in Germany, France, Britain, Switzerland and Japan, and some of their satellite corporations in South America and Canada, to monopolise the manufacture and sale of dyestuffs. The German dye-trust is alleged to have been the central organisation of the conspiracy." It was alleged in the indictment that the agreements inaugurating the " conspiracy " date from 1929.
Such evidence coming at this grave hour might he thought sufficient for all time as an exposure of the ultimate folly of such economic despotism. Eliminating the seditious element, we find similar movements of Big Business at home. In an editorial note, the current issue of the Economist makes this statement: " A warning has been given by recent discussion of the three hundred export groups, each controlling the trade of anything from a handful to over a hundred companies, which came into being to organise the export drive which is no longer necessary. The point is that these bodies are potential centres of monopoly and exclusion. The argument advanced in some quarters that they are needed to carry through the rationalisation of manufacture and merchanting for export is in sonic ways dangerous. Britain's only strength in export trade in the future will he in having a specialised and highly adaptable and almost endless range of highly finished articles,
which must be produced by relatively many firms. There is no reason in the trading interests of the com
munity why new centres of economic power should be created by the elevation of export (and, it is suggested, import) groups to control and determine trade policy." The Economist then proceeds to give a detailed example of what it says. Our contemporary is to be thanked for calling attention to this menace. It is a pity, however, that it might leave with some readers the impression that it desired a continuance of the unfettered competition of the past. A properly authorised organisation of the export trade, open to all concerned, is, it seems to us, both desirable and practicable.
A PARTY ISSUE
WHILST electors have been show ing their indifference to party labels by returning Independents to Parliament, there has been a recrudescence in the House of Commons of the party spirit. The division of opinion regarding the fuel rationing scheme is following party lines. The threat of 100 Conservative members voting against the Beveridge scheme was a considerable factor in causing the Government to postpone final decision. On the other hand, the Labour Party sees in this opposition the evidence of those vested interests of which the Tories are supposed to be the guardians.
Nothing could remind us more forcibly that the present House of Commons was elected before the blitz blotted out the traditional political divisions. Secure of their seats at Westminster " for the duration," some at least of the members seem to have lost touch with the outside world and to be still living in the period when they were elected. However natural, that is unfortunate. The national life has been revolutionised, and a truly representative assembly would register this fact. Whatever may be the truth about the Beveridge plan, it is a pity that the controversy concerning it should have revived these antiquated labels.
SOCIAL ASPECT OF OWNERSHIP
WHEN the story of this time comes to be written we believe that the pressure which is now being brought for a reform in the manner of presenting published company accounts will be recognised as among the most important formative influences of the age. A very remarkable leading article in the Financial News last week had the following passage: " The day when it could be maintained that the policy followed by any important company in matters like output, selling price and profits was the concern merely of its own directors and shareholders has gone and may never return. The view that workers, consumers, the Government and the entire community are beneficially interested, and must have an effective say in all these questions is not limited to any one party at Westminster." This is nothing less than a recognition of the social aspects of ownership which is an essential part of Catholic doctrine. it is highly gratifying to find that these views are finding expression primarily at the very heart of the business world, yet it is not altogether surprising. If all the books of business were opened much would come to light that would be open to criticism. But taken as a whole the picture would not be such a shocking one. We should here and there find extortions of monopoly revenue, and we should find many instances of a sad disproportion between manufacturing and selling costs. But, taken as a fraction of the national income as a whole, these excrescences are not large. The truth is that the secrecy so sedulously adhered to in business affairs derives not so much from a guilty conscience as from the inertia of habit and tradition, and even the hoary superstition that disclosure would give away secrets to competitors is, as the Financial News again plainly implies, largely irrational. In the long run business men stand to gain enormously by frankness. They are the servants of the community and are often only too glad to see themselves in that light. The public respect for them will only be enhanced if they give clear, explicit and accurate accounts of their stewardship.
THE GOVERNMENT'S APOLOGIA
THE debate on war strategy,
which, at the time of writing, stands adjourned, has yielded but little comfort to the Government's critics. Mr. Attlee was apologetic and contented himself with repeating the account already familiarised to the public of the difficulties under which we have laboured. Sir Edward Grigg stated the truth when he said: "The Prime Minister before the war had devoted four years of solid, persistent, and extraordinarily effective argument to trying to get more effective and rapid rearmament. Those arguments were borne down and blanketed by the Government of the day." It may be argued of course that since Germany intended war and prepared for it, she had the initial advantage: our own failure to prepare similarly is, from this point of view, to our credit. Since we are a peace-loving nation it could not be expected that we should devote ourselves to rearmament on the same scale.
But that argument overlooks the necessity for a peace-loving people to take into account the attitude of other peoples. Here we encounter our national habit of insularity which leads us to attribute to others our own motives. The complacency which assumes the universality of the British outlook is at the root of the trouble. It is still in evidence in our broadcasts to foreign nations— broadcasts which almost invariably fail to take into account traditions different from our own.
THE announcement that Whit
Monday is to be taken as a holiday is to be welcomed as a sign that the part played by properly apportioned rest plays in production is being appreciated. The observance of bank holidays is not a mere concession to human weakness but a recognition of the fact that such interludes are, or at least should be, recreative. It has been conclusively proved over and over again that shorter hours and longer periods of rest do not necessarily mean less work, and certainly do not result in inferior workmanship. It is a fallacious sort of logic which argues that if a worker can produce so much in 8 hours, he will produce three times the amount in 24 hours. Men are not machines, but delicate organisms.
To get the most out of them requires a deeper knowledge of human nature than the Capitalism of the past has commonly shown. While perfecting jots machinery, it has left untapped resources of man-power of which a more humane regime would have availed itself.
Speeding up industry is a far more complicated problem than is generally understood.
THE NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS
AVE had occasion recently to urge " the desirability of control over its irresponsible members by the National Union of Journalists. We are glad to find that the Home Secretary has been saying the same thing. Addressing a deputation of the Union, he suggested " something in the nature of a consultative council to bring the influence of group opinion to bear in the interests of higher standards of responsibility and journalistic procedure." It is a pity that, in view of the opposition to his proposal encountered, he refrained from pressing it. As we said before, the journalistic profession as represented by the deputation has lost a great opportunity for the selfgovernment of its affairs.