A Commentary (Oct 1936)
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394 ] A Commentary The Criterion: A Literary Review, 16 (Oct 1936) 63-69 One would prefer to deal with questions that are soluble, and discuss subjects on which understanding is possible. But one is impelled, by the receipt of manifestoes to be signed by “artists and writers,” as well as by scientists and other intellectual workers, to pursue reflexion on the subject of peace and war. I have at the moment some matter from the “International Peace Campaign,” also a round robin or snowball letter of a semi-anonymous nature, and a pamphlet by Lord Allen of Hurtwood, entitled Peace in Our Time.1 There is also, of course, Canon Sheppard’s movement, which does not appear to employ the method of circularization.2 Artists and writers are exhorted to efforts of various kinds in the cause of peace. So far, I have not been invited to sign any manifesto in favour of war; but I do not doubt that if a war broke out in which there appeared to be any reason for Britain’s participation, manifestoes to this effect would at once be offered for signature. I confess that I am only confused by the variety of reasons submitted to me for supporting peace, besides those of which I am aware without being told, and by the variety of ways in which peace is to be secured. Lord Allen, who declares himself a “lifelong pacifist” [8] (and from his record no one can doubt the sincerity of his conviction), is an ardent supporter of the League Militant. “Either,” he says, “the Government does not mean that it accepts force as an integral part of the League (in which case it ought to return to armed alliances and prepare for anarchic war), or it does mean that force should be employed through the League (in which case it should stop talking of world-wars and take steps to make collective force workmanlike )” [9]. The problem about which Lord Allen leaves me in the dark is this: while I concede that on the highest plane it is equally to the advantage of all peoples to preserve peace, there appears to be a lower plane on which the preservation of peace is more to the interest of some nations than others. The preservation of peace is of interest to at least three or four great powers which have everything to lose, and to the interest of a number of small nations which have nothing to gain, by war. (With respect to the countries which might have at a given moment, or might think that they [ 395 A Commentary (oct) would have, something to gain by war, the question of who in those countries would be actually the better off for a successful war, is not immediately relevant.) But we have to be very careful to separate our ideal motives for maintaining peace from our worldly motives. The value of Lord Allen’s peace programme seems to depend upon whether a renovated League (which, Lord Allen would probably agree, would require the adherence of Germany, and if possible of Japan and the United States also) is capable of being “a means of mutual service for the welfare of its members” [15]. While one can hardly be expected to brighten at the suggestion of setting up more “fact-finding commissions,” one is willing to hear what sort of “revisions in the status quo, both territorial and economic” [15], Lord Allen has to suggest – revisions which should satisfy everybody. I can see that economic revision is desirable – perhaps revision of the whole system so drastic as to bearevisionofhumanemotions:onewouldliketoknowhowfarLordAllen thinks this revision should go. Lord Allen’s pacificism does not rely exclusively upon the belief that by nothing more than some as yet undiscovered reshuffle everybody can be satisfied and pacified. There is a mystical element in it too. He says: “I do not believe that an unarmed nation would be a universal victim, for it would no longer be feared as a menace to its neighbours” [21]. This is a belief which I have never yet seen put in a wholly persuasive form. It seems possible that if an individual was known to be unarmed and helpless, a gang of footpads might be less likely to use violence against him, because they could possess themselves of his money without putting themselves to that exertion. Does Lord Allen mean by “unarmed,” furthermore, merely being without armies, fleets and instruments of war? There remain economic...


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