6 NOVEMBER 1936, Page 28

Controversial History

The Faith of an Englishman. By Sir -Edward Grigg. (Mac- millan. 108. 6d.) THAT Sir Edward Grigg should give wrong dates for the formation of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald's first Government, for M. Poincare's return to office to stabilise the franc and (if I understand a passage on p. 137 of his book rightly) for the Congress of Berlin, is a small matter, though it may set readers a little on the alert. That he should state that " moral reformers often defeat their own objects by appealing to force. Slavery was erased from the practice of the civilised nations by general agreement " (was the United States in the '60's uncivilised ?) raises what after all is only an academic question now. As to such affirmations as that " Herr Hitler has found a language which strikes an answering chord in the normal English breast. No Frenchman has ever done so " (was this country deaf to Briand ?), or that " few Englishmen do not regret the cessation of all payments on the British debt to America," these are admittedly matters of opinion.

But when Sir Edward states more than once--to clinch or base an argument—that at the last General Election " the Government declared itself against military sanctions and thereby scored a victory of unanticipated size," questions of fact as well as of opinion arise. There may have been some declaration against military sanctions at that stage (though I cannot recall it), but the country's vote was unquestionably cast for a Government which had for the first time helped to put some kind of sanctions into force ; the Government's official manifesto claimed support for Mr. Baldwin on the ground that " we shall he prepared faithfully to take our part in any (my italics) collective action decided upon by the League and shared in by its members." And when Sir Edward says that " in the case of Abyssinia we determined to do our utmost to penalise aggression and vindicate the Covenant without involving ourselves in war," how can the italicised words be justified in view of the failure to put on oil or mineral sanctions— unless indeed it is suggested that an aggressor may properly impose a veto on any League action that inconveniences him by declaring that it will drive him to war ?

But Sir Edward Grigg's analysis of the post-war situation suffers from more serious flaws than this. What is to be said of an author who discusses British opinion on the Abyssinian

affair to the length of five pages, with precisely thirty words on the Hoare-Laval episode and its consequences ; or German rearmament without a single mention of -Herr Hitler's offers of 1988 and 1985; and the French rejection of them ; or sanctions without a mention of Article XVI of the Covenant ? (There is actually one incidental mention at the other end of the book.) All Sir Edward's attention is concentrated on Articles X and XIX, which he regards as contrasted, though in fact they were always meant to be complementary, and actually formed part of the same article in President Wilson's original draft. Sir Edward regards Article X as fatally stereotyping the status quo, though there is 'not a syllable in it to preclude peaceful change. But Sir Edward favours a peculiar type of peaceful change, effected not indeed by war, but by threat Of war. He is perfectly frank about that. The ambitions of an expan- sive or acquisitive nation are euphemistically styled evolution.

Evolution, under the pressure of force, is inevitable so long as there are stronger and weaker peoples in the world. The League cannot bring about change, however salutary, by force ; it can only oppose it self to force and thereby prohibit change." —which involves a risk of war. Therefore " evolution " must It is true that only a strong State can evolve—at the expense of the weak—but that, if unfortunate, is inevitable, as Sir Edward Grigg observes a little later, " force must operate to change the configuration of the world, and it will lead to war if its operation is repressed. . . . It is in the interest of world co-operation and economic recovery that peaceful reorganisation should take place, even if it means that lesser sovereignties accept what they can obtain by com- promise and not all that they think themselves entitled to by right." Nor, obviously, all that the world may think them entitled to. Force alone is law. On this showing the partition of Poland was an unexceptionable act.

One other argument, completely fallacious as it seems to me, is developed at some length by Sir_ Edward. I have to summarise a little here, but I do not misrepresent. There are frankly two codes in the world ; we and France and some other States may approve one (the prhicipIes embodied in the League Covenant) but States like Italy and Japan and Ger- many honestly repudiate it ; (" other nations quite as sin- cerely repudiate them as inconsistent both with national right and with the progress of humanity ") ; what right have we to force our code on them ? This, in view of the facts, is the Liberalism of Bedlam (as expounded by an old Liberal). For what are these facts ? The code is the Covenant. Italy helped to frame it. Japan helped to frame it. Both accepted it then as consistent both with national right and with the progress of humanity. The Germany of Stresemann accepted it in 1926 ; Herr Hitler when he came to power did not repudiate it. Italy (I take Italy since Sir Edward stresses particularly. Signor -Mussolini's right to repudiate " our " code) supported it from 1919 to .1922, when Fascism secured power, from 191-2 to 1981, when Japan seized Manchukuo, and in 1933 Signor Mussolini's delegate at Geneva voted condemnation of - that act of rapine as unhesitatingly as Great Britain or Norway. Actually' Signor itussiflini has not forthally repudiated the 'code yet—only driven his fist

through - it. . .

Having tried to show how unreliable a guide Sir Edward Grigg is, in my view, through the mazes of post-War history, let me add- that in -his general conchision0 find little to criticise. That we cannot do better than base ourselves on the blended heritage of Greece and Palestine T warmly agree. With a-striking passage on patriotisni I agree equally, though I decline utterly to oppose patriotism -to internationalism. I agree with him that from the quarrels of Nazism with Communism we must do our utmost to Beep resolutely aloof. His emphasis on new nutritional standards is admirable, and, subject to full reservations "regarding his demand for re- armament involving a Two-Power standard (at least) in the air and compulsory service for Home Defence, I see no ground for dissenting from the view that " there is blue water ahead of us if only we pursue a policy of moderation and tolerance and so strengthen our defences that war is kept froM Western. Europe till economic revival can play its essential part and heal the continent's_ unrest." And the decision that for the moment our League policy must consist of definite-obligations within a limited region and a free hand outside that -May. well be the right one.