(PRESS GLEANINGS By Air Mail)
HOW MUSSOLINI FELL FROM GRACE
A fortnight ago our leading article was headed " Peace without humiliations." Last Friday a highly-placed prelate in Rome said that the Holy See was using all its energies "to bring about peace without humiliations." Naturally we are pleased to find ourselves in step. Now may we comment on this whole affair at some length? There are some aspects of the national feeling against Italy which are important. They show once more that religion is a factor in the making of history.
We patted Italy on the head from Garibaldi's days till 1929, because it was a country which we regarded as hostile to the Papacy. Mussolini got a good press until 1929. Newspapers tumbled over one another to get an article from him. The news reels featured him frequently. He was an object of admiration. Ir 1929 he fell from grace. The world learned that the centenary year of the Emancipation of Catholics in Great Britain and Ireland was going to be notable for the emancipation of the Papacy as well.
On February 11 the Lateran Treaty was signed. At once Mussolini was out of favour.
HIS UNPOPULARITY INCREASES.
HE had never been popular with the Socialist crowd, because Fascism has no use for the world connexions of the Socialist movement. The corporations had not only supplanted the trade unions: they had cut the connexion with the Third International and its subsidiaries as well.
Fascist Italy was definitely outside the Socialist cobweb, and, though the corporations did better for the workers than the unions, with their political schemes, had ever done, yet Italy was anathema to the Daily Herald and all the Socialist inspired press and movement.
Fascism was held up as the enemy of the workers, which undoubtedly it is not. It was denounced as anti-democratic, with some appearance of truth during the era of consolidation.
Then Hitler arrived with his racial and religious persecutions. The Protestant element, which was not in action yet except against Mussolini's friendliness with the Pope, now came into the open not against the one who really deserved it, but against dictators and Fascism in general.
PREFERENCES AND PREJUDICES.
THUS everything was ripe for a popular outburst just when Italy moved against Abyssinia. As soon as our Government began to interest itself seriously in the affair at Geneva the press, with a few exceptions, fell into line, and Mussolini got the worst reception that has been given to anybody since " Hang the Kaiser" was in the headlines.
If Masaryk had invaded Poland or Rumania he would have found Mr. Wickham Steed ready to describe him as a devout follower or John Huss. If Germany had invaded Ukraine, or France Abyssinia, we should have heard pious expressions about the horrors of war, but we should have been consoled with reflexions on how much better "It would be in the end for "the natives to come under the rule of a beneficent and enlightened modern power."
When Italy invaded Abyssinia the press and the B.B.C. were scandalised by the Italians adopting our North-West frontier tactics, and raining bombs on mud huts from the air.
THE PUBLIC DELUDED & MISLED.
TWO things were not referred to which should have been proclaimed from the housetops. First that for fifty years we have, in repeated agreements, recognised Italy's special interest in the development of Abyssinia, and second that war would be the result of sanctions. Mr. Baldwin did say the second thing in a burst of confidence before the Abyssinian crisis, but it needed repeating and driving home. He is in a difficulty now for not being more open on both matters! all the time.
Mr. Belloc threw the cat amongst the pigeons at once by sending a letter to The Times pointing out how deeply we were already pledged to Italy over Abyssinia. Still The Times went on as if relations between Italy and Abyssinia had commenced on December 5th, 1934, with the Wal-Wal incident.
We have never had such a spate of moral indignation since 1914. Obviously v/e were counting on Italy's weakness or on solidarity of the nations on sanctions and the subsequent war. Gone was all the horror of war which had inspired us since 1918. This was a war we could win.
DO WE REALLY HATE WAR?
IF France had been willing to come along quietly we should be at war by now. Do we, then, really hate war? Or only long and doubtful ones? What a pity that the League, which was founded because we thought that we hated all war absolutely, should be the occasion and the instrument for provoking a conflict!
This League will have to be buried quietly. It was never a reality, or rather its reality never corresponded with the ideals from which it sprung. It was a victors' club, an instrument for perpetuating the iniquitous Versailles Treaty.
A new League can and should be formed now, whilst the lessons we have learned about sanctions are fresh in our minds. Let it be restricted to Europe and the Empire, let it be a meeting place of equals and peace-lovers, and let its sanctions be pre-arranged, automatic and unanimous—to the bitter end if need be. But let there be no discussion except about the identity of the aggressor. Once that is established the rest should be automatic. No nation with sinister designs will join such a League.
WAS SIGNOR GAYDA RIGHT?
SIGNOR GAYDA was in a mood of exaggeration when he described anti-Italian feeling as being due to Protestant bias against Catholics. It was not due to that a? one. There was, amongst the sincere idealists who did not know all the faces, genuine horror at Italy's action.
Two blacks do not make a white. Italy's broken word at Geneva is not justified by Abyssinia's prior contempt for her treaty obligations with Italy. At Geneva itself, in the Press, and by the B.B.C, Italy's case was suppressed. She was herself responsible for it, because you cannot hear the case of a person or nation which has taken the law into its own hands. Italy should have convicted Abyssinia at Geneva, and nowwhere else.
Nevertheless it is a regrettable fact that latent Protestant bias was worked up, by the leaders of the Anglican Church, to add fuel to the flames. The Pope was pilloried for not subscribing to a verdict based on half the evidence, and falsely accused of silence.
The implications were obvious, and we Catholics have only just escaped a great trial. If this country had gone to war the Pope would have been regarded as an enemy.
THE POPE SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN REVILED.
THE Pope had spoken, and in a way which showed that he had all the evidence before him. Enlightened Catholics would have known that the Pone does not fail the world in a crisis, but the unenlightened would have suffered much unnecessary and unwarranted pain. We knew that already in the workshops anti-Catholic bigotry was making difficulties for our people. Hence our special leading article, of which over 30,000 copies have been sold as pamphlet reprints, in addition to 400,000 people reading it in a revised form in The Daily Telegraph.
We did our bit to counteract the mischief, but we hope that those concerned will learn from the incident to show more restraint another time, before bringing the Pope's name into international conflicts.
Since 1929 it has been the proclaimed policy of the Holy See (see article XXIV' of the Lateran Treaty) to have nothing to do with temporal disputes, or with conferences connected with them, except for the use of its moral and spiritual influence and except when called upon by both sides to arbitrate.
(Catholic Times, 20tb Dec. 1935.)
- Malaya Catholic Leader, Saturday, 4th January, 1936 (1936.pdf pp2)