Some Jubilee Reflections
By Michael de la Bedoyere i" ANY people are thinking in these days of Jubilee about the contrast between the stable government of this 1 V I country and the series of shocks and smashes that have been the experience of the greater part of the Continent. And it is right and proper that satisfaction should be derived from this stability and especially from the thought of our good fortune in possessing a Sovereign so peculiarly suited to our traditions and our times.
While the word "leader" is on the lips of so many abroad and "leaders" themselves are reverenced and obeyed with a spontaneity that would seem incredible to an earlier generation, we continue quietly to live our social lives, waiting for an occasion like the present one to give way to our emotions and to prove that our loyalty to our leader is no less deep, even though it may be less of ten manifested.
But self-congratulation, even if justified, will not get us much further, and if we are to face the difficulties and problems of the future we would do well to try to understand the deeper political issues of our times and see whether they may not contain a lesson for us.
Why Parliaments Have Collapsed The rapidity with which the system of representative government has declined on the Continent is a real puzzle to most of us. We feel that the growth of parliamentary democracy—apart from its having been a flattering imitation of the British example—represented the growth of the idea that each and every man stands as a free, responsible person with a right to participate in the running of the society of which he forms as important a part as does any other man. And the growth of this idea
surely constituted progressl How then account for the way in which a Continent after having, as it were, come of political age, threw away the advantages of its majority?
The easiest answer, as well as the most flattering to ourselves, is that the inhabitants of darker Europe do not possess either the character or the education needed in order to live up to the gospel of representative democracy; they made a mess of it, and they are paying for it by the tyranny which always succeeds the abuse of democracy.
Leadership and Freedom Is it so simple? if we ask ourselves what are the essential principles in a good society. whether it be a case of the fully formed State or of any petty communal activity, we shall find that they can be reduced to two: the principle of leadership and the principle of freedom. Ultimate authority in society comes from God whose law must be obeyed; ultimate choice of destiny In matters morally indifferent must come from society as a whole, but order must come from a leader, someone with sufficient character and initiative to guide his fellows and make himsef responsible for reaching the end or purpose of soeluettyt
B he best guide would be use less if he could riot secure the cooperation of others and bring out the best that is in them. Such co-operation can be forced or it can be free. Since man is a rational being, endowed with free will, forced co-operation is repugnant to him, and since all men feel themselves to have equal rights to human happiness, they feel that their leader should pursue an end that will be as good for them as for him. Hence free, spontaneous co-operation with the leader is in the long run essential to well-ordered society.
Principles of Order Thus one sees that the two principles. while both equally necessary, should be harmonised if order in society is to be secured and its fullest good attained: the principle of leadership. demanding a leader or sovereign to whom others are subordinate and owe obedience: and the principle of freedom, whereby that loyalty and cohesion, essential to fruitful co-operation, are ensured.
Unfortunately in a falen world. order is always difficult to secure: the tendency is for the two principles to conflict with one another, instead of to harmonise. The leader will abuse his authority and turn it to his own profit; the subjects will interpret their freedom as a right to do nothing but what happens to please their own private tastes.
Reaction Against Authority
; The rapid growth of parliamentary democracy on the Continent was a violent reaction to the abuse of leadership. The leader sometimes tended to be a pure despot, though more often in delegating his power to his agents, he became the victim of the vested interests of the agents who often represented themselves as the people's mouthpiece,
I Reaction Against Freedom But the reaction went to the other extreme, and parliamentary institutions disregarded the principle of leadership as completely as the leader had neglected the principle of freedom. That was all the more gaby fig py Umrentous doicau possible to pretend that leadership under the name of sovereignty somehow resided in the people. Then again the device of party govern-, meat by a system of alternating party-leaders, each one representing the interests of groups rather than of the whole, gave a semblance of ordered and united action over a period of time. Lastly a comparatively new power entered on the scene to throw everything out of balance, namely, money power which' was able to disguise itself as freedom or authority according to its convenience, and in fact run society In the interest of those who possessed it.
Fascism: A Form of Democracy It is not surprising then that the chequered history of our times has led to the re-assertion of the principle of leadership in its simplest and crudest form; that it has also simplified the principle of freedom,. which had lost itself in Its own excesses, and asserted it in its simplest and crudest form, the form of spontaneous acclamation by a whole people 9f a self-assertive leader. For there can be do doubt that there in a democratic note in the continental leadership of our day. Where it has departed from democracy and the principles of a good society has been both in the totalitarian philosophy It has assumed and in its harnessing of the powers of modern technique to maintain itself in power in defiance of the people's freedom.
The British Compromise To return to this country. If we have so far achieved stability it is largely due to the fact that we have not been over-assertive in pressing either the principle of leadership or the principle of freedom. The king has lost political power, but he has retained and greatly augmented what is equally necessary for a leader, his power to evoke personal loyalty to and affection for himself as the symbol of leadership. This personal note can do much to provide the cohesion necessary between ruler and subjects, a cohesion that should normally depend on spontaneous co-operation between them. And on the other side the Englishman has been willing in the past to abide by the title of free man and yet actually allow a host of traditional encumbrances and devices to soften and mediate his freedom. In particular he has accepted the party system, and, because of the guarantees against tyranny that it has provided, he has handed over a great deal of his political initiative to his party leader who takes his turn as actual leader under the ceremonial and emotional shadow of the permanent sovereign.
To -morrow Will this compromise endure? With the raising of the economic issue and the demand for economic as well as political equality as a guarantee of genuine freedom it may be doubted whether it will. This new and justified demand for more real freedom on the part of the people may shatter the pretence Of ordered leadership made by party leaders under the name of the sovereign. It may be that nothing short of a restoration to real power of the "leader" will be able to harmonise with and direct the new spirit.
Our Natural "Leaders"
But England is lucky in the fact that she possesses in her royal house the natural leaders of the country, the leaders for whom she has a devotion that is the wonder of other nations. Should a leader again be needed she will not have to depart from her own tradition. Her constitution has evolved from a state of affairs where the principles of leadership and freedom were both recognised in their simplest form, and, should the times demand it, she can return to that state in some modified form.
As we watch the great royal procession on Jubilee day we may reflect with thankfulness that in our sovereign and his family we have leaders on whom we may call as soon as the need arises. They will not fail us. In Mr Buchan's words: It is at present the King's "duty to be," but, in view of the perils of the future, he may yet be called 141011 by his pe.o.Die to ae4.