AS one year passes over into another, we have all become more fully aware of the dilemma which faces the free world.
Ever since it became clear, after the war, that Communism had no intention of coming to terms with the so-called capitalist world, this world has been upheld by its conviction that its intrinsic superiority, moral and economic, would suffice to keep the Communist danger at bay. Nor had it any real doubt that in course of time the Communist danger would recede. The possibility of the Soviet catching up with the free world in the technical fields which underlie rearmament and modern economic progress was scarcely entertained at all—still less the idea that the Soviet could run ahead of us in one field, and that a vital one: ballistic nuclear missiles. It seemed ridiculous to suppose that a totalitarian regime of relatively uncultured peoples, driven on by a false, debasing, and inhuman philosophy, could achieve any real success, even in a purely material field.
LOOKING back today, we realise that there was never anything inherently impossible or even improbable in the Russian spectacular advance. Indeed, a totalitarian organisation, in which men and women can be automatically diverted to priorities, whatever the political and economic consequences, must be in an even better position than any advanced democracy to make purely technical progress. The actual speed of overhauling must still surprise us, but the fact should not. This lesson should at least stimulate the free world to consider today how far a modern free political and economic system can compete with a ruthless and technically efficient dictatorship in any field of purely material progress. We should reflect on the fact that the great days of political democracy occurred in conditions of culture that were transient and exceptional.
At that time, there was a balance between an enduring sense of respect for authority and tradition, on the one hand, and, on the other. the fresh realisation of a way of living in which the ordinary citizen would freely co-operate for the common good and ultimately decide on the morally best paths to follow. Since then, respect for authority and tradition has greatly weakened, and the loss of real belief in stable moral values has reduced democracy to a party and class struggle for sectional power, wealth, security, and comfort, as priorities far ahead of the common good. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that only a great fear can drive a democracy today to dedicate itself for the common good.
MUCH more puzzling, we think. than the Soviet success in technical advance, and the making of armaments more up-to-date and more efficient than those of democratic capitalism, is the endurance through so many years of the Communist ideology and driving power. We have been too prone to believe that the evil of the Communist creed would sooner or later cause internal fissures that could not be patched up. We have expected that the original Communist faith, reacting against manifest social injustices in the free world. would fall away from its pristine idealism, however perverted, and fall back into a moral negation resembling our own.
In all this we were not wholly wrong.
The Hungarian rising last year. and the general disaffection in the satellite countries, have proved that men, even under the bitterest tyranny and oppression, can retain their faith in religion and essential freedom. Few would have prophesied that a rising like Hungary's could break out — fewer still, perhaps, that Poland could peacefully win its way to the small measure of ideological autonomy it is at present enjoying within the Cornntunist empire. But despite this the Communist empire is today not only holding together; it is Making a sort of moral headway.
We do not believe that the present Communist leaders are moved by the ardent materialistic faith of those who originally established Communism, still less by any moral sense of rectifying economic injustice in the world. But they have managed to drift from the original ideal to that service of nationalistic aims and that sheer love of power and empire which, when all is said and done, account for so much of nations' policies in the record of history. And in this, too, they are strengthened by their autocratic system, as the Nazis and Fascists were strengthened between the wars, when the free world was so rapidly losing the faith that had made it free.
IF we really appreciate the nature of all these developments, we must be driven to realise anew the vital need for something much more and far other in the free world than armament races and mere technical progress. Doubtless, the realisation of the Russian advance may yet drive us to find the ways and means of stepping up progress in these fields. We may draw ahead again. But in the long run we can have no security on this materialistic plane. We are already beginning to talk of the futility of mere armament races— races which, with modern weapons distributed all over the world, can hardly fail to end in catastrophe. But a technical economic race offers little more. The day may well come when the Communist rulers (who are no fools) can offer the world planned economies in which comfort and security will be far better distributed than a free world can manage. Such an evolution is perfectly logical, and the natural result of an avowedly materialistic and this-world faith.
TODAY, at the beginning of
the year 1958, the real question before the free world must be simply this: does it really believe in freedom ? Freedom is not just freedom to have one's way, whether it he a question of nations, associations, or individuals. Freedom is meaningless unless it springs from a consciousness that man is a •spirit capable of knowing what is intrinsically right or wrong. what is a duty as well as a right, what is good in itself and what is a rejection of that good. And the use of freedom consists in choosing to pursue what is right and what is good. The Communist world is beating us, because it is at least consistent in applying its own faith that materialistic good can be achieved by a materialistic outlook. We recoil from this, while recoiling also from the only alternative: faith in God and obedience to the commandment to love God and our neighbour for God's sake. What the free world has to start learning again in 1958, no matter what else it may see fit to do in the military and economic fields, is how to shape a better worldwhose spiritual, moral and social pattern decisively beats whatever Communism can offer. The free world is full of good people, but as a world it is drifting downwards to a level not so very much better than the Communist, and a good deal less effective.