By Bernard Prentis
THE exploits of great-hearted
men in little ships have been an inspiration to peoples and the stuff of enduring literature from the earliest times. But at no other time and in no other place could the " daring exploit " of the little frigate Amethyst have served so well to inspire and hearten as did its escape on Saturday from the Communist forces which held it prisoner in the Yangtse River.
While it may be true that nothing about Amethyst's provoking and seemingly unnecessary presence in that Chinese river becomes the annals of British Naval history so well as the daring manner of her withdrawal from it, nevertheless, as the New York Times said, the " escape " is a " moral victory." It is also a victory for morale where morale is at its lowest ebb. It will restore something of the lost prestige of the West, and it will make the too easily victorious Communists in China "lose face." Both the time and place of the exploit could hardly have been better chosen to have the best possible effect. The world's Press soon realised both the epic quality of the news as a story and its significance.
There is, however. one lesson from the daring of Lt.-Commander Kerans and his crew. to which none has so far drawn the attention it merits, though his well-deserved immediate award and the honours for his crew have been much publicised. It is that ordinary men respond to decisive leadership. in issues they can understand, with heroic endurance and courageous action, which in the normal human and Christian course of things should he recognised. by reward and honour or blame and punishment; and that rewards and punishments and leadership are of the stuff of everyday. life as well as the essence of the epic story.
Yet it is a principle which has recently been most gravely flouted in regard to the docks strike in London, and there is every indication that little regard is being paid to it where it concerns the railwaymen.
The Dockers ALL the evidence pointed to the " fact that the stoking dockers were misinformed or totally ignorant of the reasons for the stoppage. Their ignorance and exploited loyalty may have been a very good reason for failing to punish any of them for the actual physical and moral harm they did not only to themselves but to the community at large; but it is certainly a compelling reason for a complete overhaul of leadership among them. The confined world in which a small ship's company sink or swim together makes the realisation of mutual Interdependence comparatively easy. The task of the leader is easier too. When instead of a small ship's company it is a question' of tens of thousands of men, who themselves only form part of a vaster industrial machine. the problem is in essentials the same but vaster and requiring the closer attention to the preservation of personal contact. Those who are to be called upon to endure, or to work, must have as individuals hope of reward, fear of punishment and the inspiration of leadership blended into a direct personal appeal. The fact is that the " good of the community" does not make this immediate appeal while the upstart unofficial strike'leader does.
The Rail Dispute
THE railwaymen, whose case for an increase in wages is much stronger than many allow, are ill at ease and ripe for trouble on a large scale. There have been already sufficient pointers in individual areas and places to make this a statement of fact rather than a gloomy forecast. The rewards for responsibility are not, in fact, sufficient, yet in remedying the one grievance a second is likely to be aggravated. The situation is one requiring the fullest possible personal diffusion among rank and file workers and union branches, of the facts, the rights and wrongs, and the reasons why, at this juncture, even their just demands may have to wait.
Both in the docks, therefore. and in the branches of the various railway workers' unions, there ought to be a decisive, well publicised attempt by the official trade union leaders to recapture the persbnal allegiance of the men, and a full scale campaign set on foot to make known to the men who will have to suffer continuing injustice or hardship the compelling reasons that exist for the demand that they should do so. Rewards for loyalty and responsibility ought to be clearer and more immediate. and the sanctions or punishments for disloyalty to the trade union, their work contract or other obligations be made clear and effective down to shop and union branch level.
If the human and Christian principles of leadership, rewards and punishments are flouted, there is no doubt but that the inhuman and impersonal economic sanction will ul1 timately have its way in national 1 insolvency, a breakdown in the industrial system and staggering unemployment.
It may seem a far cry from the Yangtse to Limehouse, but the principles which make possible the occasional epic exploit are required just as much for the humdrum business of life, punching tickets or humping cargo.
While no one imagines that the invention of a Distinguished Order of Shunters will introduce an era of railway peace the human principle behind such things cannot be neglected unless we are prepared for "the corrective labour camps."
COUNCIL OF EUROPE ON Monday next, August 8, the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe meets in Strasbourg. It will consist of 87 delegates from the ten founder countries, viz. Belgium (6), Denmark (4), France (18). Ireland (4), Italy (18), Luxembourg (3), the Netherlands (6), Norway (4), Sweden (6), and the United Kingdom (18). It is likely to be a landmark in the history of European civilisation without parallel in magnitude of achievement or of failure.
1 he responsibility of the present Consultative Assembly will be great whether the outcome be a real move towards a United Europe pledged to sustain those principles from which Europe sprang, or whether it be merely a preliminary bout in the jockeying for positions and groupings on a European scale of those national, political and ideological forces whose caperings in national parliaments have tended to bring the very name of democracy into dispute.
Federation Now THERE are indications that two A tendencies will be at work. There will be those, who like Mr. R. W. G. Mackay, M.P., will ask the Consultative Assembly to advise the Committee of Ministers to press on now to a Federal Europe. The case for a true Federation of Europe has been frequently argued in this paper. It remains substantially true that Europe must in the exact sense of the term " federate or
perish." There will also be those who, taking for granted the momentum of the present movement towards some kind of federative union, will be more concerned with the admission of their own proteges to the new and powerful European club than with the real business of preparing it.
For the first group those anxious to press on immediately to formal federation the basic fallacy, the wrecking fallacy, will be in their definition-of Europe. The present ten member nations have no more right to speak for Europe than they have to speak for America. To attempt to initiate even a European Federation, as opposed to a Federal Europe or United States of Europe, before the problem of Germany has been solved and Spain and Portugal have been allowed to find their rightful place will he but to perpetuate. to harden and embitter a split in Europe for which there is from their point of view, now, some kind of reason, no matter how unreasonable it may be for us who recognise whence " our common cultural heritage " sprang.
Those who would bog down the Consultative Assembly in discussion of new members, be it France backing the Saar, because of a future German membership, or others backing Turkey with an eye to defence needs, will do the meeting as little service.
The Real Task THE ten foundation members and their 87 delegates have a clear cut and constructive task to perform. They must elucidate the " common cultural heritage," assign_ its European frontiers, and endeavour to achieve as great-a measure of unity as is practicable now. Further, they must prepare for the gradual abrogation of national sovereignty which will enable a true Federal Europe to be created In due course,
The true ideological basis of Europe must be recognised, and that is Christendom and Christian primciples—democra tie Socialism notwithstanding. So that without, at least, a frank admission of the source of the rights and liberties " which we have inherited" as being founded in the natural law and depending on the brotherhood of men under the fatherhood of God, there can be no sure standard against which to measure the invasions and violations that may be made in the name of the "common good."
That such a real step forward should be made in the present Consultative AsSembly is not beyond the bounds of ordinary possibility with the representation allowed to Catholic and residually Christian nations. And certainly every Catholic ought to make it a subject of earnest prayer that the deliberations of an assembly that can mean so much to the cause of true religion in what remains of Europe be given God's grace and help to do so.
The issue between the forces that stand for the preservation of what we call Western civilisation and those which would destroy it were never clearer than at the present moment. A wise European Consultative Assembly would call to its deliberations a representative of that spiritual power which has always stood firm against the enemy, and preserved the true basis of " our liberties "—the Papacy.
THE GERMAN ELECTIONS THERE is Little consolation to • be derived from being an
accurate prophet of woe. It is hard nevertheless at this juncture, when in the German election campaign Britain is made to emerge as enemy No. 1 of Western Germany, not to recall the consistent stand made in this newspaper on behalf of a sane and generous. or at least, a logical policy in regard to Germany.
Eighteen months ago Britain's prestige stood high and Germans of all shades of political opinion looked to our humanitarianism and our sense of fair play to save them from the understandable logic of the French position which saw them only as a defeated enemy from whom as much as possible was to be wrung by way of reparations and insurance against future aggressiveness. High Churchmen, politicians and business men to whom 1 spoke had real hopes that Britain would see the necessity of a wise policy which would enable Germany to regain her " rightful place" in a United Europe. Now, as 1 write, on my desk lies a letter from a German Bishop asking my personal intervention as a journalist to contact people of influence with a view to getting the present dismantling policy reversed at once. This may be taken as a measure of the desperation into which continuing dismantling has driven individual Germans. The Bishop says nothing that has not been said before by others of equal and greater authority than himself, to persons and in places more aptly placed to influence British policy.
Against advice from inside Germany and outside Germany the British Labour Government has backed the Social Democrats of Marxist tradition against those who were more truly parallel in policy and inspiration to our own Labour Party, the Christian Democrats, so that today not _only the Marxist Schumacher and the Communist Reimann but even the Catholic Dr. Adenauer, the leader of the Christian Democrats, talks of Britain as a " virtual opponent of Germany."
The Bishops' Statement THE German BishopZ" statement issued last Sunday is a fearless and forthright statement of the principles for lack of which our policy in Germany has foundered, and without which the Council of Europe will prove nugatory. After stating the duty of all citizens to vote and condemning abstention they forbid Catholics to vote for those whose principles violate Christian teaching.
The real battle is for the confessional, or Church school. The same battle is joined here in Britain. It is opening in real earnest again in France. It is continuing in Belgium.
Is not this fundamental right of the Church to teach the basic principles of our civilisation and our European way of life capable of discussion and definition at the level of the European Consultative Assembly?