restricted access A Commentary (Oct 1938)
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648 ] A Commentary The Criterion: A Literary Review, 18 (Oct 1938) 58-62 In the last issue of The Criterion we gave first place among the reviews to a noticebyMr.MiddletonMurryofSeñorMendizábal’sbookontheSpanish War, Aux Origines d’une tragédie, with its long and important introduction by Jacques Maritain.1 In the August issue of Blackfriars I find an interesting note to which I refer for two reasons: first, because the incident does not appear to have received much notice elsewhere in this country, and second, because those who have approved the independent and courageous position of Maritain should have the opportunity of affirming their approval. It seems that Señor Serrano Suñer, General Franco’s Minister of the Interior, attacked M. Maritain very violently in a speech which is reported in La Gaceta Regional of Salamanca, a speech making at least one allegation which, besides being untrue, would probably be regarded in England as definitely libellous. Blackfriars gives some extracts from the report. What inflamed Señor Suñer’s anger appears to have been, primarily, M. Maritain’s refusal to admit the assertion that the war of the Franquistas is a “holy war.”2 The importance of Señor Suñer’s outburst need not be exaggerated. He is not the first politician to utter foolish and intemperate words; a politician can be quite efficient at his job without having much intellectual ability ; and a person of that type, in the midst of a civil war, would have to be a very superior person indeed to appreciate the just impartiality of a Christian philosopher. Nor is it necessary for us to put the emphasis where Blackfriars, for its own public, quite rightly puts it.3 Our concern should be rather with that part of the public which is inclined to attribute all the “holiness” of this war to the party of Valencia and Barcelona, and which, though not likely to express its views so immoderately as Señor Suñer, would hardly find M. Maritain’s philosophy any more acceptable. I do not refer, of course, so much to the small number of communists, as to the larger number of the heirs of liberalism, who find an emotional outlet in denouncing the iniquity of something called “fascism.” If the intellectual is a person of philosophical mind philosophically trained, who thinks things out for himself, then there are very few intellectuals about, and indeed the [ 649 A Commentary (oct) position of M. Maritain is as “intellectual” a position (as well as being Christian) as anyone could adopt. The irresponsible “anti-fascist,” the patron of mass-meetings and manifestoes , is a danger in several ways. His activities, when exploited by a foreign press, are capable of nourishing abroad the very ideas which he so vehemently repudiates; they confuse the issues of real politics with misplaced religious fanaticism; and they distract attention from the true evils in their own society. What some of these evils are may be learned by reading Viscount Lymington’s Famine in England (Witherby: 7s. 6d. net). The ideas of the small minority may be causes: the ideas of the mob are merely symptoms, and often very deceptive symptoms indeed. Lord Lymington’s book is concerned with agriculture, but with agriculture as it concerns everybody. “Exchangers,” he remarks in his Preface, “are less important than producers, and among producers it is those who till the soil upon whom civilization is based, more than upon those who mine or manufacture .”4 It is a melancholy thought that only the imminent danger of a national famine in the event of war arouses people’s minds to the neglect of the land: it is better that they should be aroused by that prospect than not at all. But Lord Lymington is still more concerned with the apparently inevitable deterioration, not merely of the land, but of its people – whether we have war or peace – if the present tendencies are not checked. His particular views about the state of agriculture, and the measures to be taken to improve it, have been dealt with by a few reviewers qualified to criticize them: I am interested in this context rather in the general bearings and implications. To understand thoroughly what is wrong with agriculture is to understand what is wrong with nearly everything else: with the domination of Finance, with our ideals and system of Education, indeed with our whole philosophy of life; and he who is able to look for...