29 MAY 1936, Page 17


Sot, —Your Parliamentary Correspondent puts his finger on the governing factor in the present drive towards rearmament IvIten he says " the electors are badly frightened " ; but his suggestion that pacifists should strike an unholy bargain by accepting "a drastic reconstruction of the Distressed Areas " as the price of rearmament is to ask them to compound a felony, It is notorious that when people are " badly frightened "

they do silly things and hit out blindly ; and this seems to be precisely what the British public is being induced to do today. Mr. Baldwin tells us that another war will mean " the end of European civilisation," and then asks the country to assist in the process of ending it ; Mr.. Duff Cooper says that every country is like a man who is "preparing for his own suicide," but he goes on to urge the younger generation to facilitate this "suicide." and complains that the pacifist is an obstacle to this desirable end ! The pacifist indeed seems to be the only person who is keeping his head in these days, for no one seriously believes that a competition in arms will save us from war ; yet none but the pacifist opposes rearmament.

It is the fashion nowadays to urge frenzied preparation for war in the name of" collective security," but there is a tang of profound—although of course unconscious— insincerity in such a plea. For if the plea were genuine, we should seek to pool the burden of armaments and organise a real collective system whose aim would be to defend not this country alone but the peace of the world, and thereby ensure the security of all countries against the disaster of war. In the pacifist view however then this cannot be a final insurance against the " end of civilisation" ; and hence the pacifist looks to a complete reorientation of foreign policy as the one and only key to a troubled situation. We need to deal with causes and not only with symptoms.

To rearm apart from such a treatment of the problem is to engender the suspicion that we are bent merely upon enforcing the maintenance of the Versailles status quo ; but it is precisely this status quo which provokes the aggrieved nations to violence. The remedy therefore is to be sought not in the folly. and futility of rearmament, but in frankly facing the underlying facts of the international situation.

In the economic field, tariffs, quotas, currency manipulation, and all the other devices through which world trade is being strangled by " frightened " politicians, must be considered in the light of human welfare rather than for the benefit of particular nations or special interests. In the political field also the existence of a few great empires vis-a-vis " land hungry " powers must be faced as a moral issue of prime importance ; it is futile to condemn Mussolini or Hitler for coveting empire. so long as Britain and France act on the principle of " what we have we hold." Only mutual repent- ance can avail here, and as the wisest of teachers pointed out ■-ears ago -" except we repent we shall all of us perish." Empire may not be the economic asset which hard-pressed dictators allege it to be ; but it carries with it prestige. strategic. advantage, pride of power. and many other values in the realm of what Bismarck called "the imponderables." It is only therefore as we are prepared to surrender or to share these imponderables (a beginning. which would also be a guarantee of our bona fides. could be made forthwith by administering non-self-governing territories under a League of Nations mandate) that we can cut the entail of the resentments and the fears which are today turning the whole of the world into an armed camp and causing " frightened " men everywhere to talk of the inevitability of war.

The pacifist insists that war is not inevitable, and he will not be " frightened " into preparing for it, for he knows that " war is no remedy " but only an aggravatiou ut the ills

from which civilisation suffers. The pacifist therefore refuses to succumb to the imbecility of meeting a threat of (lest met ion by intense preparaf to destroy the very thing that is threatened ; and instead he seeks to play the part of a good world-eitiwn by being ready to accept the sacrifices without which a stable and peaceful world order can never be estab-