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A People’s Peace

ISSUE:  Summer 1942

The Making of Tomorrow. By Raoul de Roussy de Sales. Reynal & Hitchcock. $3.00. Dawn of Victory. By Louis Fischer. Duell, Sloan and Pearce. $2.75. The Atlantic System. By Forrest Davis. Reynal & Hitchcock. $3.00. Peace by Power. By Lionel Gelber. Oxford University Press. $1.50. The Lost Peace. By Harold Butler. Harcourt, Brace and Company. $2.75. North America: Wheel of the Future. By Hawthorne Daniel. Charles Scribner’s Sons. $2.75. Total Victory. By Stephen King-Hall. Harcourt, Brace and Company. $2.00. America and World Mastery. By John MacCormac. Duell, Sloan & Pearce. $2.75.

Although the United Nations are sworn to win not only the war but a peace which will guarantee freedom everywhere, they must be on guard against the immemorial foe of man the social creature: Isolationism. Apparently backing down for the period of the war, isolationism may try to walk out again on humanity in the peace.

In World War I, President Wilson sought peace without victory and really achieved neither, thanks to isolationists at home and cynics of candid unscrupulousness abroad. In World War II, President Roosevelt has called for peace with victory, based on conditions that since have been incorporated in the Atlantic Charter and become the peace aims of the United Nations. Despite these aims, there still is much public confusion about what it is for which we are fighting.

All too many would have us believe that we are fighting for mere existence. But could we not save our lives, our blood if not our sweat and tears, if we accepted a Hitler peace? Physical existence is not enough, as millions under Axis domination know by now. To liberty-seeking peoples everywhere, President Roosevelt has said: “We are not making all this sacrifice of human effort and human lives to return to the kind of world we had after the last World War.”

“But,” says an American Legion spokesman, “thoughts of peace and plans for the future must not occupy our minds. We must forget peace and bluebirds and develop ruthless-ness, hate, and the desire to kill.” Clarence Budington Kelland, outlining the Republican Party platform for 1942, declares that the Roosevelt Administration will be compelled “to concede that it cannot run a war and social revolution at one and the same time.” Cessation or repeal of reforms is demanded by reactionaries as a price for their patriotism— as was the case in France—notwithstanding the growth of popular rule in Great Britain and in China and the inevitability of reforms in India if that nation is to resist new imperialists. To be sure, share-alike sacrifices are necessary and some reforms will await the end of Hitlerism. But antisocial thinking cannot win this war nor produce a workable peace.

That the war came largely because of our failure to make the most of democracy is implied in these books, where it is not amply stated. This failure is competently appraised by Raoul de Roussy de Sales in his extraordinarily successful and widely acclaimed volume, “The Making of Tomorrow.” Almost in spite of us, democracy along with collectivism was spreading, or about to spread, to more peoples, who were at last politicalized by what was happening to them in a prolonged crisis. Hence the Axis revolt by force against democracy and the civilization identified with it. Hitler took advantage of democracy’s weaknesses and failures, its contradictions which made collective security impossible; and, as Mr. de Sales observes, he has demonstrated to us “the reality of the vacuum in which we have lived for the last twenty years.” Following a decadence of reason and spiritual values, we had fallen into a “blind and irrational nationalism,” as represented by the extreme views of Charles Lindbergh. Hitler shrewdly pandered to this spirit of nationalism, this isolationism, this selfishness, this barbarism in fact, which is in all of us to some degree. His technique is really a bid to the sell-out instinct of man. “The barbarian in our hearts,” says Herbert Agar, “is Hitler’s secret weapon.” By refusing to understand this, we have fallen for his whole line and gone in for business-as-usual, “peace in our time,” appeasement, abolition of social gains, and Red-baiting.

With his French culture and a wisdom matured as a political journalist in the United States, de Sales is a sensitive, profound observer who writes vividly and authentically. In his chapter on the German revolt, he shows that “civilization contains the dual concept of preservation and further expansion of whatever has been found valid and beneficial and the constant fight against the forces which tend to destroy the principle of continuity inherent in human consciousness.” Believing this, we cannot accept the contention that we are fighting this war mainly to save our hides. “Civilization based on freedom, and translated as it is today into the formulae of democracy, has been a world-moving idea for many centuries, and there is no particular reason to believe that it has ceased to be so now. If such is the case, it is also the right and the duty of those who believe in this idea to avail themselves of whatever means will make possible its realization.” The war is our means now.

In “Dawn of Victory,” Louis Fischer—always daring, concise, concrete and realistic—is aware that backward-looking appeasers will not only try to sabotage our boldest war efforts but stack the cards, if they can, against the Roosevelt-Churchill peace which would reinstate freedom everywhere. Take this from Mr. Fischer on the backward-looking gentry: “They said: We will fight the war when it comes to us. They would not fight in China or Spain or Czechoslovakia. So it came to them. Now they say: We will make the peace when the time comes. They say that because they are reactionaries. They are afraid that clear thinking about the peace will expose their errors in the past. They are afraid that the public will understand that the biggest threat to peace is to put privilege, property, and profit above human life, freedom, and justice. . . . They lost the first World War through the peace. Shall they be allowed to do it again? Shall the devotees of the past always kill our future?”

Not always, as Mr. Fischer well knows; for the reactionary is somewhat like Lot’s wife. Having long looked back on old dead ways and lost his masculine boldness for adventure in a new world of opportunity, he is turned into a pillar of intellectual and spiritual petrification. The people surge forward and topple him over.

Winning this war, then, means coeval extension of freedom to all the world, particularly to our colored allies, who are the most numerous. Pearl Buck envisions a sort of federation of peoples in terms of a single human race. Certainly the war must be popular in Asia if it is to be, in the Roosevelt phase, “a people’s war.” Madame Chiang Kai-Shek recently warned former exploiters of China that her people were fighting not for existence alone but for democracy, freedom, and a new social order. Raymond Clapper returned from the Orient convinced the United States and Britain must realize that revolutionary imperatives in India and China must be satisfied. Even Lord Halifax, who too long temporized with Hitler because, with Baldwin and Chamberlain, he feared a levelling process in British society, now concedes that “this is a people’s war” which will end in a people’s victory.

Forrest Davis, in “The Atlantic System,” like most of the authors considered here, foresees an Anglo-American New Order, for which the foundation was laid, with the eight stones of the Atlantic Charter, by Roosevelt and Churchill in their historic mid-sea conference. A trained journalist and a sound student of the “long truce,” Mr. Davis surveys Anglo-American relations leading up to the inevitable alliance in war to uphold joint domination over the seven seas.

Solidarity of the two powers after the war, he thinks, need not take the form of organic union. A general treaty should provide “a realistic framework for collaboration within the terms of the Atlantic Declaration” as the result of natural cohesive forces.

Similarly Lionel Gelber, in his lucid, brief but trenchant “Peace by Power,” holds that the future of democracy will be determined in this struggle for a balance of power. “The English-speaking people,” he writes, “have had the capacity to release the body and defend the soul of Western society; there are in fact no others—Europe being prostrate under the German rod—who, together with the Russian counter-poise, could or would have done it.” Having won a war for power, Britain and the United States must “beware of dissipating their power for peace.”

Harold Butler, whose “The Lost Peace” is a personal narrative of the Geneva days when he was a high official of the League of Nations, looks back on the gradual, heartrending sabotage of peace endeavors and says wanly that the world cannot recover from its present anarchy by the exercise of power and organization alone. “The peace was lost because the policies of the nations were empty of charity toward each other. . . . A world of self-seeking nations is bound to be as unstable as a society of self-seeking individuals devoid of any generosity to each other or of any attachment to the public good.” But must mankind await perfection of most of its component individuals before attempting to right public wrongs or to defend itself against its worst elements? If so, we would do well to sit down with Gandhi in passive piety before the onrush of the Axis trinity of inhumanity.

Like all too many who look beyond the war, Hawthorne Daniel, the author of “North America: Wheel of the Future,” regards the current unpleasantness as merely an interlude before we take up again the best of all possible systems in the best of all conceivable worlds. Leery of the “bootstrap school of economic thought,” Daniel anticipates no new system nor even major reforms, but “wider and wiser application of the one we have.” North America will clearly become “the island center of world influence,” the modern Rome to which all roads will lead.

It is unlikely that the United States, if Roosevelt is around, will again make the mistake of withdrawing into selfish isolationism after victory. John MacCormac, in “America and World Mastery,” is sure that the “total bankruptcy of isolationism is written for all men to see.” (Mr. Willkie has clubbed the G.O.P, strategists into seeing it.) “The United States is now the natural center and impregnable base of the English-speaking people,” Mr. MacCormac points out, “and it is hardly conceivable that they will throw away their great legacy, heritage of the daring and enterprise of their forefathers.” But we must remember that the isolationists who piped down for a time after Pearl Harbor are not much different from those who broke Wilson’s heart after the guns were silenced on the Western Front.

In “Total Victory,” by Stephen King-Hall, who comes from a Royal Navy family, we have a rather simplified plot for total peace. First: Hostilities must be brought to an end “by an armistice between ourselves and a non-Nazi German government.” Second: “There must be a period during which future aggressions are made highly improbable. If they should occur they must be ruthlessly and speedily crushed.” Third: “There must be a period, overlapping the second period, during which peace is organized on permanent moral, political, social and economic foundations, so that the restraints needed in the armistice period may gradually and safely be relaxed.” All this would be as simple as the millennium but for certain possibilities. Hope for such an armistice lies in the psychological warfare being devised by Roosevelt strategists to inspire a labor revolution in Germany and the Nazi-occupied countries. If Europe can be shown that the rights of labor in the United States are not thrown overboard as they were in France, and if Russia’s vital influence is not rejected, Hitler may be circumvented and undone behind his lines.

The part that Soviet Russia must necessarily play in the peace is hurried over in these books, envisioning, as they do, a new world under Anglo-American influence. Mr. Daniel thinks democracy will reform Communism more than the latter will alter democracy. Mr. Fischer says that Russia may “lack energy and resources to do anything beyond her own borders,” but the same may be argued for the other great powers by their isolationists. Unable to walk out and leave a war-torn world to the vultures, the isolationists may turn exclusionists in an effort to stage a peace a la Munich, which would leave Russia out. But, with collectivism growing along with democracy, as de Sales recognizes without any jitters, the exclusion of any victim of Axis aggression, particularly the one putting up the best fight so far, would be a negation of a people’s peace.

Though concluding that a new world is in the making before our eyes, Mr. de Sales tells us, with a tolerant smile, that those who “feel that they cannot live without the intoxication of something irrational and romantic like a fundamental regeneration of mankind or a new spiritual revelation, will be disappointed. This civilization of ours contains all the inspiration we need for a thousand years to come.” This sane observation, unfortunately, will be quoted by those who oppose running a war and social revolution at the same time and who would not find it to their selfish interests to remove some of the causes of war, If this war lacks the grandeur of civilized man defending the gains of a peace already known and fighting for the envisioned good of a new peace, then we shall fight blindly—and lose the peace though we win the war. Those in the midst of production and actual fighting may “forget peace and bluebirds.” But our social thinkers, labor leaders, statesmen, educators and preachers, whose ideas must largely determine the kind of peace we are to have—the sort of peacetime use we are to make of our newly acquired world power—will not black out their souls for the duration and “develop ruthlessness, hate, and the desire to kill.” We must fight with righteous rage, not blind hate— rage against the barbarians, here and abroad, who cunningly have divided and degraded mankind so as to exploit its capacity for greed, hate and self-destruction. But if civilization divests itself of its character in order to defeat barbarism, then barbarism wins!


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