VOL. 173 No. 5168

LONDON, MAY 27th, 1939




The Anxieties and Policy of Holland RUSSIA AND THE REICH Some Views on the Relations of the Soviet and Nazi Governments LEONARDO DA VINCI IS GERMANY INFLATING? Tancred Borenius on the Exhibition in Milan By Christopher Hollis


A Whitsuntide Editorial Full L ist o f Contents on page 672.

THE WORLD WEEK BY WEEK Forcing an Agreement

The negotiations between the British Government and the Soviet were transferred to Geneva through the accident that this is the time of year for the League Council to meet. But the League machinery, still officially in existence, provides, at the moment, a convenient setting for the new obligations. The more generalized the obligations, the greater the number of countries taking part in them, the better chance is there of avoiding the disadvantages which have made successive British Governments up to now wary of Russian ties. High among those objections is the restrictive effect such an alliance would have on British diplomacy in the future. It is very important, in the interests of peace, that the British should keep the fullest freedom of action. The British Government has been greatly handicapped in the negotiations by the way public opinion has been marshalled on the Soviet side, pressing for a complete acceptance of the Soviet view of what should be done. The journalists and politicans who have been leading this campaign in Great Britain have chosen to make an exceedingly blind act of faith. There could hardly be a greater instance of the mesmeric power of words. Russia today is a despotism and a tyranny, true to the historical Asiatic type. The affinities of Stalin are with the earlier Turkish Sultans and Russian Czars, in whose service high office was a most hazardous affair, and men were commonly removed if they knew too much or became too powerful. No modern ruler has carried inaccessibility to such lengths, or has so withheld himself, even from diplomatic contacts, on the plea that he has no official position. The double policy, sometimes of strengthening, sometimes of seeking to undermine, bourgeois States, has kept Stalin’s followers in other countries in constant uncertainty. The French Communists, in particular, have had a rapid alternation of orders from Moscow.

Today the Communist Press sees in the British negotiations a chance to discredit Mr. Chamberlain, and finds the delay and the expressions of Soviet doubts helpful in its main business of replacing the National Government by a popular front. Repercussions in Britain

In general, we may conclude that we are still in the phase which began after the Nazis had seized power in Germany, in which the Soviet Government ceased to abuse Geneva as part of the machinery of Capitalist imperialism and sought a rapprochement, in the face of a new peril, with the Western Powers. The events of 1939 repeat, with a quickened tempo and intensity, the actions and reactions of 1933 and 1934, which culminated in Russia entering the League as a permanent member of the Council. But this policy is as opportunist on the Russian side as on our own. It is the fruit o f an emergency finding its justification in that emergency, and the question arises, granted it achieves its fundamental purpose of bidding Herr Hitler to pause, what would be its further effects on the swiftly changing position in Europe ?

In Great Britain it will undoubtedly give a fillip to the otherwise rather discouraged extreme Left-Wing propaganda. The conclusion of a pact will be followed by a spate of propaganda of the kind which the purges and liquidations in Russia abruptly spoilt two years ago. The friends of the Soviet Union will take new heart in their endeavours to persuade the public that there reigns in Russia a rather genial philanthropic Socialist regime, to which life in Great Britain should be increasingly attuned.

The progress which has been made towards a Pact has been facilitated by a modification of Rumanian and Polish views. Those countries, the immediate beneficiaries, have made it clear that they do not propose to stand in the way of an agreement, and that a joint