SINCE the war a large number of thinking Catholics have been attracted to the political and social ideals which the main body of the Labour Party in this country has professed. Such Cltholics have felt—and in our view felt not without very good reason—that Labour's general aim to assure all members of the community a fair deal as its first object was the policy most consonant with Christian social teaching. They have further realised that such an aim can hardly be seriously pursued in a community like ours without the State assuming considerably increased powers and without depriving of power, influence and wealth that minority of the hitherto privileged and successful which inevitably rises to the top in a conservative and capitalist society.
Few Catholics would have contended that the Labour or Socialist party could in practice have pursued this path without views and actions that the Christian Socialist or Christian Democrat must deprecate or see as dangerous if carried too far. But the Catholic's choice has not been between a Christian social order and the Labour one, but between the Labour one and the Tory one. Faced with this latter actual choice, the Catholics we have in mind could not hesitate.
THE first is that the Welfare State has been solidly established.
The second is that the international situation has steadily deteriorated, The third is that our own country is in an economically highly perilous position.
Immediate aims common to any honest parties and any honest politicians should therefore be to safeguard the actual protection which the Welfare State affords to the people generally; to think out and support measures necessary for ensuring world peace; and, first and foremost, to ensure that the country as a whole remains solvent and steadily strengthens its economy.
As to how these common aims can best he achieved there is ample room for difference of opinion. A Conservative Government is in power and has given evidence of a serious resolution to tackle all three problems in the way which it thinks right.
There is nothing to prevent indeed there is everything to encourage—the Opposition criticising these plans and suggesting improvements to them.
Unfortunately. however, there are far too many signs that Labour spokesmen, even at the top level, are more interested today in a campaign to smear the Government and its supporters than to oppose them by honest means.
The tactics are obvious. One point is to pretend that because national economies are gravely needed, the Tories are up to their old game of taking the means of a decent life away from the people. A second is to make out that the policies necessary for safeguarding world peace in the face of Communist defiance are another example of the old Tory game of warmongering.
Anything. is good enough to prove the first smear. Did not Labour provide the means of a better life? Its policy, its organisation ensured more and more benefits and steadily increasing standards. The Tories come in, and the old cuts begin again. The so-called economic crisis is a Tory invention to justify their connatural meanness and hatred of the people.
As for the charge of warmongering, the Churchill line-up with America means sacrificing our country to military adventures all over the world which must lead us into general war and destruction. Here the implication is that the Labour Government was never lined up with America and never undertook the mammoth defence bill which was the only alternative to the appeasement of Communism.
This smear campaign is going to increase in force. It appears to he the answer of the present Labour leaders to the Prime Minister's statesmanlike and generous tribute to Labour's record and seriousness in putting national issues ahead of party ones in times of real national stress.
WE have explained all this, not in order to take party sides in grave issues where two opinions as to the best means of dealing with the present situation may well he conscientiously held, but to insist that the increasing demagogy which has unfortunately been a characteristic of Labour tactics is not only utterly vile in itself, but can only lead to national, and international, disaster.
There is absolutely no connection between an honest Catholic support of broad social Labour aims—a support which this paper has offered within certain limits for a good many years—and the despicable, demagogic means which have grown in Labour circles as the country's predicament grows graver. Unfortunately with the world as it is, one cannot say that smear campaigns, base vilifications, dirty electoral tactics, bad manners in public life do not pay handsome party dividends. Too often they do.
But let those of us at least who have tried to view the party political issue in a Christian light—whether we came to the conclusion that Labours' ideals were good or that they were fallacious be honest enough to denounce as utterly evil and utterly un-Christian any party conduct whose sole aim is to denigrate party opponents. In saying this we remain perfectly free to offer honest opposition to certain points, or even to the general atmosphere of, the international Western defence. Likewise we can honestly quarrel with the specific means adopted for national economy.
But great national economies there must be; and the Communist danger must be somehow met. To pretend to deny or disregard these truths in pure party interest is today a confession that one has no real concern about anything except to try to grab at any national and international cost the power which fair democratic procedure has given temporarily to others. It is monstrous.