3 MARCH 1939, Page 26


Foreigners Aren't Knaves. By Christopher Hollis. (Long- mans. 5s.)

Foreigners Aren't Knaves is the third of Mr. Ho lls's books to deal with contemporary political problems, but this time the argument is conducted by means of a correspondence between two friends instead of by the customary dialogue. The book . has all the merits of its two predeczssors, and, indeed, of all Mr. Hollis's numerous writings : a pellucid style, wit, learn- ing and a refreshingly individual manner of approach. More- over, it is astonishingly up to date.

The epistolary form is adopted, according to Mr. Hollis, so that the reader, having acquainted himself with both points of view, may be able to form his own opinion. Algernon is, or rather was (for the book begins with his disillusion), an enthusiast for the League of Nations. Bobby, in addition to being a firm disciple of Mr. Chamberlain, is a practical Chris- tian. There is no doubt that Mr. Hollis identifies himself, to a greater extent than in his previous books, with one rather than the other. It is not without significance, for example, that Bobby always gets the last word ; that he is allowed to ramble on for as long as he pleases (whereas Algernon is ex- pected to be brief) ; and that he is continually threatening to tell Algernon what he really thinks of him, being restrained from so doing only by the fear that their correspondence might thus be rendered unfit for publication. In other words, Mr. Hollis wants to convert us all into Bobbies. Such a title is not wholly inappropriate ; for did not Disraeli assert that the traditional role of the English people must always be that of mediator and upholder of law and order in the affairs of Europe?

Mr. Chamberlain never had a more ingenious defender than Mr. Hollis, who begins with the assumption, with which we do not necessarily quarrel, that there never was a states- man like Mr. Chamberlain. And what does he find so unique about Mr. Chamberlain? The fact that " he is a man who, having accepted a principle, will apply it whether it makes for his advantage or not, and whether it makes for Germany's advantage or not." This policy, which Mr. Chamberlain might have some difficulty in recognising as his own, is plainly concerned with what ought to be rather than with what is ; and it is Mr. Hollis's claim that Mr. Chamberlain, by pur- suing this policy steadfastly, has accomplished in the past few months more of the League's work than the League did in all the years of its prime. I confess I do not quite understand how the League's work can be accomplished by violating the very principles upon which it was founded, nor why it should be Mr. Chamberlain and not (say) Hitler who has accom- plished this work ; but that is by the way. What I find most difficult to understand is how Mr. Hollis can reconcile such a statement with his previous assertion (p. 59) that the reason why the League failed was precisely because it endeavoured to pursue ideals without regard to the prevailing realities of self- interest and advantage. Was it not because Germany, and later Italy, saw no advantage in adhering to the policy of the League that they deliberately broke with it and thereby ren- dered it the laughing-stock that it has since become? And what is to prevent them—indeed, what has prevented them— from doing the same thing in the case of Mr. Chamberlain's " principle " of appeasement?

Mr. Hollis's book is full of statements which turn out, apon examination, to mean rather less than their happy )hrasing would at first imply. On page so, for example, he remarks that, in the 20's, " temptations to join the Reich were not large." Is this to suggest that, since the coming of Hitler, they have become any larger? On page 49, he asserts in all seriousness that " the most extraordinary of all modern interferences with liberty was carried through not in a totalitarian State, but in the very home of democracy and through democratic forms—American prohibition." To suggest that prohibition, which at most can be regarded as a physical cruelty, is a greater interference with freedom than the attack on religion in both Germany and Russia is surely preposterous; especially as Mr. Hollis has asserted on the previous page that " physical cruelties are less to be feared than loss of faith." Again, on page 12, he maintains that it was " probably right " to cede Hitler the Sudetenland in order " to prove to the world that he is an inordinate man." I do not see how you can prove to the world that Hitler is an inordinate man except by inviting him to take as much of the world as he likes and then observing whether, having taken it all, he wants something more. Finally, it is Mr. Hollis's view that a world war, even for the sake of Christian principles, is never justified except when the enemy is " completely in the wrong." Now this is simply a way of saying that war is never justified at all. For there is no such thing as being completely in the wrong. Since error is always the perversion of some truth, it follows that the truth is always recognisably present, though in a distorted form; and it is precisely the presence of this " element of truth " which makes error the mischievous thing that it is. As Mr. Hollis so rightly says: " We shall not get much further so long as we continue to play this game of heroes and villains." Exactly : there are no blacks and whites in politics; which is the reason why a " holy war " of the kind which he envisages is an impossibility. Now in stating these minor objections, I do not wish to imply that Mr. Hollis's views are to be ignored. In striking a new note in modern political controversy, he has done much to raise that controversy to a