16 FEBRUARY 1940, Page 23

Books of the Day

Ways to Peace

IF the Government does not publish its peace aims it is not from lack of advice on the subject. Was there ever a war which provoked so much discussion about the settlement to be aimed at when it was over? In most wars the plain object of each belligerent has been to get the enemy down and then grab as much as he safely could. But at the Treaty of Versailles that idealism or " utopianism " whose entry into politics Professor Carr so much deplores began to assert itself, and in current discussions of peace aims it is positively rampant. Indeed, two qualities strike me about our war-aim literature in general: first, its eager desire to be just and unvindictive and even generous, and, secondly, the terrible subordination of its thoughts to its wishes. We really are an amiable people.

The crudest examples, I suppose, are those who foretell a rapid victory, an anti-Hitler revolution, and a friendly peaceful Germany which will become a model member of a great Federation ; or, on the opposite side, those who see the re- demption of the world from war and all unhappiness by Stalin, whose noble purposes are at present thwarted by the Fascist despotisms of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Britain, France and America. The first is ordinary amiable wish-thinking ; the second invincible fanaticism, like that of the religious wars ; but both expect paradise and neither is vindictive.

And then on a higher plane, much higher, we have Mr. Lansbury. This Way to Peace is wish-thinking through and through, but the wishes are those of a kindly and thoughtful man, with a wide and long experience of life. A fair-minded man, too. He does not call his political opponents war- mongers. No; "the war is an almost intolerable sorrow to Neville Chamberlain, Clement Attlee and the mass of people." As to the enemy, or those dictators, duces, kings and generals who are commonly regarded as the villains of the piece, Mr. Lansbury has had long friendly talks with all of them, and reports : " All these men are very human personalities and possess a very keen sense of their responsibilities." They all admire pacifism ; they all hate expenditure on armaments. I wonder how bad an enemy would have to be before Mr. Lansbury spoke ill of him!

It would be an interesting study to see where it is that Mr. Lansbury goes wrong, if indeed, as most of us think, he does go wrong. He is scrupulously fair. I have only noticed one unfair argument ; that because we wrongly allowed " wickedness to triumph " in China and elsewhere we are to be blamed for not doing so again now. He is not rashly dogmatic. He is, or believes he is, more cautious and " less confident " than most politicians. Yet his results are odd. It is partly this confidence that human beings are really good if only you are nice to them, and that whatever two nations are fighting about, a World Conference will have the will and the power to give both of them what they want and make them contented. It is partly, I think, a tendency to use unanalysed terms. " Imperialism " to him is a mere vice ; colonies and territories are " possessions " which generous statesmen would give away. Yet surely the careful administra- tion of a wide empire is both a high duty and also a great education in public spirit? Surely colonies are great human responsibilities, not mere property to be tossed generously to those in need? To aim at " success " is the great vice of our civilisation ; but what else can one aim at? Are we to build bridges, start enterprises, invent scientific treatments for disease without caring whether they succeed or fail? And, of course, Mr. Lansbury maintains the current popular dogmas, unanalysed and constantly contradicted by facts, that all wars are the result of economic conditions and that world peace depends on national peace. Are there no waits of ambition? Have no nations waited till they were rich enough and united enough at home before attacking their neighbours?

But one cannot quarrel with Mr. Lansbury. He is at his weakest when repeating political catchwords. Where he is

really expressing his own ideals as " a Socialist, a Pacifist and a would-be Christian," one can read him with admiration and gratitude, if not always with agreement.

Mr. Greenwood's book, nevertheless, comes as a relief. It is wise, practical and of real value both to the author's own followers and to many outside that rigid circle. Some, indeed, will regret that it is called " Labour's Case " ; it is the case for humanity in general, and many people are a little tired of the high claims made by such abstractions as " Labour," " Youth," " Democracy," &c. Mr. Greenwood bravely rejects two of the most dangerous demands of these abstractions. He knows we shall have at the end of the war a bleak and impoverished society, not a " new world " of socialist abund- ance ; he warns against the idea of exploiting the nation's need in the interests of the trade unions. He is a statesman, not a demagogue. The chapter on the background of the present struggle is well-documented and fair. He is right, I think, in attaching central importance to the doctrine of Mein Kampf that " the Big Lie " is superior to the small one and that " the skilful and unremitting use of propaganda can persuade people to believe that heaven is hell or conversely." One may well, as he says, " stand aghast " at such professions, and still more at the way in which they have been fulfilled.

But probably the most valuable chapter in the book is on the " Things We Have to Defend." This case desperately needs stating. The great writers of the Victorian Age were constantly attacking the society they lived in ; it was so safe and strong that no attacks could hurt it. Their successors, Shaw and Wells, carried the attack further, and denunciation of existing conditions forms the commonplace of ordinary speakers of the Left. And now, suddenly, we find that an enemy is at the gates. We begin to recognise that this much-abused Western civilisation in which we live is, with all its imper- fections, one of the best that has ever existed, and that it is now in mortal peril. It is well to be reminded of the meaning of a free Parliament, of free trade unions, of the immense strides in local government, of the change in the social conditions of industry, of the magnificent achievements of recent times in the care of children ; of the absence of Gestapos and Ogpus and all their hideous progeny of treachery and terror. "Had there not been a free Parliament," writes Mr. Greenwood, " I should not have been in it, and I should not have been asked to go to the microphone on the most critical nights in the world's history."

Yes, we have something very good to fight for as well as things most evil to fight against ; and Mr. Greenwood has stated both sides of the case as befits a wise and broad-

minded leader of a great party. GILBERT MURRAY.