VOL. 173 No. 5161

LONDON, APRIL 8th, 1939


IN T i n s I S S U E


By Mgr. Ronald Knox


By T. S. Gregory


By Our Central European Correspondent


Full List o f Contents on page 444.


One o f the great defects o f democratic politics is that foreign affairs cannot a t critical times be conducted with the necessary reticence. Before the Government have been able to ascertain the views o f other States, they have had to put before British public opinion their invitation to other countries to engage in some sort of mutual pact. Such a pact already exists among all the nations who signed the League Covenant, but what is now envisaged is a more circumscribed and specific commitment. I t is pretty clear th a t the small countries which are Germany’s neighbours will not alter their attitude because of the absorption of Bohemia. Their attitude is to keep clear of generalized commitments while welcoming specific alliances on which they really believe they can rely. Colonel Beck has made this plain in London. Poland will accept and reciprocate a British pledge o f help if Polish independence is threatened. But Poland will not enter a general antiGerman front. In a word, bilateral agreements are acceptable, and the notion of collective security is disliked. There is a complete opposition between this attitude of the States o f Eastern Europe and the Russian refusal to look at anything but generalised collective obligations. We are running the risk o f a great diplomatic reverse. The Pressure of Public Opinion

Mr. Chamberlain makes these gestures and offers so that it shall be made plain in England that it is the smaller Powers and not Great Britain which are the obstacle, because at the moment a strong tide o f angry and ill-instructed public opinion is again running in Great Britain. Twice before in the post-W ar era, public feeling has driven the Ministry o f the day, and each time with disastrous results. The first occasion was in the Spring of 1919, when the House of Commons and the Press compelled Mr. Lloyd George to abandon his tentative approaches towards a more moderate peace treaty. I f Members o f the House had been elected a few months before, with loud promises to make Germany pay to the last farthing, they thought it their duty to their constitutents to keep the Government to these promises. The same thing happened in December, 1935, when the Hoare-Laval proposals aroused a storm o f indignation before which Mr. Baldwin bowed his head. Today the Government are seeking to change their policy in Central Europe from the conviction that some counterpoise must be sought to roughshod German expansion, and again a public opinion is pressing upon them and calling for the creation o f a grand alliance and reviving the idea of collective security. I t is extremely disquieting to see how imperfectly the chief lesson o f the last few years has been learned. There are cheers for the announcement that our frontier has now moved from the Rhine to the Vistula, but indignation and alarm are no substitute for strategy. Neither Great Britain nor France can reach the Vistula. It cannot be thought th a t they are preparing to hurl their youth against the immense German fortifications in the West, to be decimated. The false solution of this dilemma is that favoured by Mr. Lloyd George and the Labour Party, a pact with Russia, which would give the Western Powers a backdoor approach to Eastern Europe. The reasoning here is false. I f it be asked what single thing ruined French influence in Central Europe, the answer is the Franco-Soviet pact. The issue is wrongly stated when men say th a t the internal regime of another country is no bar to common action for mutual advantage. The small countries o f Europe prefer to court their perils alone rather than to allow the Red armies in their country, precisely because Bolshevism is not merely the internal regime in Russia. The position is that Russia has been captured by a movement which is worldwide in its theories, its ambitions and its activities, and which constitutes in consequence a very real threat to the national life of each o f the States now invited to find security along that line.