THE RIVAL CREEDS
By W. J. BROWN, M.P.
THE Penguin series has added to our already considerable debt I to it by producing two very topical books on politics—one, by John Parker, M.P., entitled Labour Marches On, and the other, by Quintin Hogg, M.P., entitled The Case for Conservatism. The intention was that these two books should expound the case for the Labour and Conservative points of view respectively ; that each should be of approximately equal length ; and that each should be sold for a shilling. But Mr. Hogg's manuscript turned out to be twice as long as Mr. Parker's, and so is published at twice the price. While an appropriate sub-title for Mr. Parker's book, there- fore, might well be A Shilling for my Thoughts, the sub-title for Mr. Hogg's would aptly be A Florin for my Feelings.
It is extremely difficult to compare these two books—as difficult as to compare Bradshaw with Burke. They belong, in point of intellectual content and litefary style, to two different orders. Moreover, they are directed to two different ends. For while Mr. Hogg does state the case for Conservatism, Mr. Parker does not state the case for Socialism. he assumes it. Then, having made this not inconsiderable assumption, he considers the past history of the Labour Party, its work in the present Parliament in various fields and its likely activities in the near future. What he gives us is not the case for Socialism, but a kind of directors' report on the past and present activities of the company, with some estimate of the prospects for future business. This is not to say that the book has no merits. It has many merits. But not the merit of stating the case for Socialism. For that we shall still have to go back to earlier writers.
Mr. Hogg is not, in his volume, a director of the company. He writes, not as director, nor even as shareholder, but as a member of the general public. He questions not merely the handling of the company's affairs, but the very ends to which the business is directed, and the principles upon which it operates. He does state the case for Conservatism, and a finely written and eloquent case he makes. His argument begins, as all high argument should begin, with the assertion of fundamental principles. Mr. Hogg knows the truth of Cardinal Manning's dictum that "all human differences are ultimately religious ones." By that Manning did not mean, of course, that men never quarrelled about anything but religious matters. He meant that a man's attitude to all problems was deter- mined, or at least largely coloured, by his fundamental estimate of the nature of man, and of man's relationship to the universe and the power behind it. Or in other words his religion. If men differed on this, the fundamental thing, they would differ on all its derivatives. So what Mr. Hogg does—and this is the book's outstanding merit—is to start with fundamental principles. From these prin- ciples he deduces certain broad conceptions as to the nature of society, and the bases on which, if it is to serve man and not be his arbitrary master, it must rest. Only when this ground has been covered does Mr. Hogg pass from principles to practice, from the general to the particular. Then having done the job he was asked to do, namely to state the Conservative case, he delivers, for full measure, a hearty onslaught on the case which Mr. Parker should have made, but omitted to make. Dialectically, all the honours go to Mr. Hogg.
For Mr. Hogg man is not merely, or even primarily, a political animal, concerned only with making such social arrangements as will best see to the provision of food, clothing, shelter and the rest—though, of course, he is that. Primarily he is a religious animal. So the bases of society must be fundamentally religious. Indeed, man will not succeed in being even " humanist " unless he is first religious. The "century of the common man "—a " humanist " conception—has produced, because it has been largely divorced from the fundamental truths of the Christian faith, more tortures, more killings, more uprootings and exiles and imprison- ments of common men than all the centuries since the Thirty Years' War. Society depends for its cement, for the common assumptions without which there cannot be common action, upon religion. It takes some courage in these days for a politician to proclaim this ; but it is true.
Next, society is organic. It is subject to laws of growth and development. You can no more uproot it, re-fashion it and re- plant it and get the planned result you want than you can a tree in its maturity. The Russian experiment shows that plainly. What you get, if you take this line, when you do get it, is something you never bargained for. In an organic society you must take what is, and build upon that foundation. Mr. Hogg admits that all sorts of things are wrong ; but he will have nothing to do with the modern heresy that nothing is right. Our fathers were not all fools ; nor did wisdom begin with us. Next, Mr. Hogg argues that, to whatever end society wishes to direct and guide the efforts of its citizens, its modus operandi must be governed by the nature of man himself. Men will work hard from a proper ambition to "fulfil themselves in many ways." They will work hard for wife and family. But if you organise society on the basis of destroying these incentives you will get less production out of planned order than out of unplanned disorder. For output is the work of human beings and not social abstractions.
Not that Mr. Hogg favours unplanned disorder. On the contrary, he is as emphatic as any Socialist that the community has the right and the duty to condition the efforts of its citizens to good social ends. But he affirms that those ends will not be reached unless, within the broad framework determined as desirable, we have regard to the things that make human beings 'tick over." It is from this background—to which space prevents me from doing anything like justice—that Mr. Hogg then elaborates the Conservative attitude to particular problems of the day. The informing generalisation underlying his proposals is that, as it was the function of Con- servatism in an earlier age to oppose the unrestricted kisser fair* of Liberalism, so its function today is to oppose the threat to free- dom represented by the modern tendency to concentrate all power in the hands of the State. For good measure, as I have said, he delivers a powerful broadside against the Socialist case which Mr. Parker does not make.
If I have devoted much more space to Mr. Hogg's book than to Mr. Parker's, it is because it demands it. Mr. Parker's book starts on the circumference and stays there. Mr. Hogg's starts from the centre and works outward to the periphery. Mr. Parker's book is, so to speak, mechanical. Mr. Hogg's is vital. Mr. Parker's book will serve a limited and temporary purpose. Mr. Hogg's will, I forecast, long rank with Lord Hugh Cecil's Conservatism—pub- lished in my youth—as one of the classic statements of the Con- servative faith. The only thing the two books have in common is that they are published in the same edition. Mr. Parker's book you should buy. Mr. Hogg's you must.