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AVERY large part of the young people in Britain are in the armed forces. They are discouraged from writing to the newspapers or speech-making. They cannot vote in by-elections. They cannot take part in organized political work, except to stand as candidates for election. They are cut off from ordinary contacts and ordinary responsibilities by a life of strong discipline, much hard and usually unfamiliar work, interspersed with periods of very great boredom. The regular surveys of public opinion -- official and private -- are concentrated on the civilians. All these factors would make it difficult to be definite about youthful British opinion in the forces -- which is the majority of youthful British opinion -- were it not for certain changes in army education introduced in this war, changes which are designed to encourage free discussion and the formation of opinion among the soldiers.
The establishment of the Army Bureau of Current Affairs, known everywhere as ABCA, was a revolutionary step in army education. During work hours -- not, therefore, as an extra activity -- the soldiers are brought together in groups of 30 to 40 to discuss current problems under the chairmanship of a platoon commander, officer or N.C.O. In the two years of its existence, ABCA has managed to establish two facts of procedure -- that the group leader guides but does not instruct, and that the men are perfectly free to discuss anything they wish in the course of the meeting. The bulletins, notes, wall-maps and literature supplied by ABCA are all intended to assist, not supplant, discussion and the formation of independent opinion.
The experience of ABCA makes it possible to speak with some certainty of young opinion in the army. Unfortunately the experiment has not so far been extended to the R.A.F., although the ground staffs badly need a similar discipline. Nor has it reached the Navy. Here, the chief guide to opinion is the un-coördinated experience of various Service lecturers. This obviously is more unsatisfactory, since it is the lecturers not the men who do most of the talking. Nevertheless the experience of these lecturers does not differ very much from that of ABCA, save for their report that the highest percentage of boredom and frustration -- called "browned-off-ness" -- in all three Services is found among the R.A.F. ground staffs where the inevitable gulf fixed between the flying and non-flying personnel is a permanent source of dissatisfaction; and that the standard of intelligence in the Navy is remarkably high, particularly among the technicians.
The young people working outside the forces are covered by a number of opinion-sampling operations. The British Institute of Public Opinion uses the same methods as those of the Gallup Survey. Mass Observation undertakes specialized research -- for an example, see its report last year on opinion in war industry. In some ways, these surveys are not such good guides as the experience of ABCA, for a direct answer to a question gives much less idea of a man's state of mind than the way in which he joins in a discussion. The British Institute of Public Opinion gives its summaries according to age-groups; and on a number of important questions -- for example, the establishment of a United Nations council or the efficiency of Britain's war administration -- a surprisingly large number of the 21 to 29 age group, about 30 percent, had no opinion at all. Possibly they had opinions but could not fit them into the frame of the question asked. This is one of the disadvantages of the sampling method.
Apart from the direct evidence of those whose job it is to collect information about public opinion, any intelligent observer can pick up a great deal of suggestive material simply by listening and looking and reading and talking. Changes of policy in newspapers obviously dictated by popular opinion are a good guide. So are changes of outlook in public men -- both politicians and soldiers -- which are traceable to changed opinions among the people with whom they are in contact. The kind of books that get written and published; the questions put to the "Brains Trust" (the popular British version of "Information Please"), the answers given, and the relative success of different Brains Trust performers; the most popular talks over the radio; the most popular films of the documentary type -- all these indicate the movements and shifts in public opinion.
Obviously there are gaps and inadequacies in all the ways of collecting evidence on the state of young opinion in Britain. The remarkable fact is the unanimity revealed in all the reports, coming from whatever source. Young opinion in Britain is radical. Young people in Britain want change. They see that the times are revolutionary. They think Britain has fallen behind. They want reform and progress. They want things to be different. They are frightened at the idea of another twenty years of appeasement, and when they think it may be inevitable they grow cynical and violent. They are in the same measure eager and responsive if something -- the Beveridge Report, the victories in Libya -- suggests that there are, after all, new and exciting horizons ahead. There is no mistaking the mood: radicalism is the only word for it.
I use the term "radical" deliberately. "Left" and "Leftism" in Britain suggest an ideological approach connected with the popular Marxism of the London School of Economics and the great publishing house of Gollancz. It is true that the dominant trends of young radical opinion are to the Left, but it is all very unideological. The traditional British distrust of thinking is probably not as great as some foreign observers would make out, but the thinking most easily takes practical forms and, in any case, the education of the great mass of the people does not leave them with much aptitude for abstract thinking about dialectics and economic determinism of states that wither away. Most ABCA officials are emphatic that the men are not Communist. Only a very small minority have active faith in any political party and probably a considerable percentage of these (Mass Observation puts it as high as 50 percent) are Communists. But in spite of the great advantages for propaganda which Communists enjoy due to Russia's resistance and the universal desire for a Second Front, the number of Communists has increased very little and their influence is still overshadowed by the memory of their antics in 1940 when, during Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain, they were for "a People's Peace" with Hitler.
The new radicalism is not radicalism drawn from textbooks. It is radicalism drawn from the experience of the war. Broadly speaking, it is concentrated on two points: the problem of living standards and the problem of democratic control. Looking back on the years before the war, even quite young people remember unemployment, blind-alley jobs, distressed areas, undernourishment, especially in the under-five age group, and simultaneously farms being left derelict, hogs "plowed under" and coffee and wheat burnt. They remember, too, the feeling of deepening frustration from 1935 onwards when the appeasement group ran the government under Neville Chamberlain, whom the public had not chosen as leader -- he at no time "stood for" Prime Minister at a general election -- and whom they grew heartily to dislike. This sense of living in a system they could not control was only increased by a series of arbitrary industrial decisions -- for example, "to leave Jarrow to rot" -- taken by anonymous interests who, as far as people could make out, owed no account of their stewardship to anybody.
Given these two strong points of interest, it is easy to see why the war has had such a radical effect on young people's minds. The standard of living of thousands of families is better, in spite of restrictions and blackout and harder work. The boys going home on leave find better food and brighter faces in their fully employed family circle. The young workers in the war industries have better wages and steadier work than many of them could have hoped for without a war. Steadiness and universality of employment, everybody with jobs, shipyards busy after years of decay, every productive unit producing more than ever before, new factories going up -- all this can be done in war. Why can't it be done in peace? The ordinary citizen knows that a good steady job is the best guarantee of his living standard. If the Government can see he has one in wartime by spending so much money on guns, what is wrong with spending some of it in peacetime too? The better wartime standard is due, too, to rationing, cheap food, controlled prices, utility goods. It seems just common sense to carry on with the milk schemes and the guaranteed prices after the war. The Ministry of Food is unquestionably the most popular Ministry. People have seen that better sharing can be brought about by the State. Why not in the future too?
On the side of control, the ordinary citizen has seen the State in a couple of years gear up Britain's economy to an all-out war effort. An easily comprehensible aim -- the biggest output possible to win the war -- has taken the place of the obscurities of financial control three and four times removed. Efficiency, a word with almost magical associations to young people just now, is the test of the work both of workers and managers. A management which the Government finds inefficient can be turned out, as happened when the Minister of Aircraft Production ousted that of Short Brothers. This is control in an obvious and comprehensible form. There are other forms. For example, wherever Joint Production Committees have been set up and are working successfully the workers feel they are helping to control the process of which they are a part. The J.P.C.'s are new just because they deal with production. The men are being called in to discuss not the conditions under which they will work -- wages, welfare -- but the work itself.
These are only a few instances of the revolution which must go on in the mind of a boy back on leave at Gateshead who sees the shipyards busy with riveters and welders where grass grew a few years back, and of the man in the mine who finds he can get more cheese than the man in the boardroom, because need, not purchasing power, decides his ration. When the future of Britain and of the world can be saved by a group of lads in Spitfires, and when people's homes are blown up in the night and little Johnnie next door turns out to be a hero and gets the George Cross for unexampled bravery, it is not ideology at work. It is experience. And it all points in one direction. The conditions of the twenties and the thirties were not inevitable. They were a bad mistake. We can do better, and any interests, vested or otherwise, that try to stand in the way have got to go.
Here the almost universal feeling for efficiency comes in. The old ways were wasteful of wealth and life and capacity and happiness and hope. Young people would like their society to make sense, in the way a really well constructed machine does. They would like it to be manageable. This attitude is developing into something of a cult among a limited group -- young civil servants and technicians for whom control or planning is the key to twentieth-century society. The errors and waste of the past are put down to the irrationality of the old social and economic system. The phrase "social engineering" has some popularity. It is the civic side of the "planned economy" in which control is invested in the managers and the technicians. A very small minority, chiefly civil servants, may even have read Burnham's "Managerial Revolution." I mention this small minority opinion not because it is typical of young people generally but because there are signs of its taking the place of the Marxism which dominated young progressive thinking in the thirties. It has a lot of the same rationalism and dogmatism but rejects the historical analysis, is interested in control not property, has no use for the proletariat which it believes to be disappearing anyway and is shy of many forms of representative control on the grounds that "only the expert can know."
It is hard to say how much appeal this emergent philosophy of managerialism could have for the ordinary run of young people. They would approve its desire for efficiency, and for getting things done, its ideal of production for use, its insistence on science; but here the rather perplexing character of Britain's wartime radicalism comes in. As I have suggested, it is a very empirical radicalism, based to a large extent on wartime experience. Nothing in this experience has taught ordinary men and women to feel more kindly towards intellectuals or bureaucrats or "nosey-parkers," those earnest people who might try a spot of social engineering in someone else's back parlor. ABCA officials are insistent on the extent of conservative currents in the Army, intertwined and not at all inconsistent with the radicalism. There are a great many things the soldier wants to get back to as well as away from. He does not mind the idea of a planned economy, but this emphatically does not include the idea that they will plan him. The idea that the cure of unemployment will entail some sort of "direction" to new kinds of work is worrying a lot of workers. Again, in the sphere of education, he wants his children to have a fair start but is very strongly against having them sent off to State boarding schools. A majority of women war workers want to get back to their own homes. Opinions about communal feeding are very mixed. A lot are against it because "it might break up the family." There is, indeed, a lively and, among the soldiers, nostalgic desire for family life. In a recent survey of housing needs, a vast majority were emphatically against flats and wanted detached houses and cottages with a bit of garden. Extreme Conservatives (who have recently set up two new propaganda organizations, "The Society of Individualists" and "The National League of Freedom") are using the average citizen's distrust of bureaucracy and control in order to make the postwar world safe for their own kind of control. The point is that there exists a feeling against interference which they can hope to exploit. We must take it into account in assessing Britain's radicalism.
One of the remarkable facts about the mood of the younger generation inside and outside the armed forces is the similarity of the reforms they want and the degree to which their program seems to be that of the country as a whole. It is a very long time since Britain was so much of one mind. Discussions, reports, letters, articles all tell the same story. Ask any moderately progressive Briton, young or old, to list the reforms he would like to see incorporated in a Four Year Peace Plan (or Five or Ten) and the lists would in the main be interchangeable. Even Mr. Churchill has been drawn into the nation's most popular pursuit -- peace planning -- in spite of his vigorous preference for concentrating entirely on the war. The young people's list is longer than Mr. Churchill's, but it covers all his ground. A large part of it is concerned, as I said before, with living standards. As a term in general use, Social Security was almost unknown before the war. Now it is the accepted way of describing the first priority of reconstruction. This priority point is important. Everybody in Britain has been made very conscious of priorities during the war. The country's stock of raw materials has rapidly been drained away from consumer goods -- the refrigerators, the prams, the cheap cars -- and poured out into tanks and shells and aircraft. People have learnt through salvage campaigns and savings weeks to see that there is a question of choice, that you cannot have all the tanks and all the cheap cars you want, and that on the priority list tanks come first and cars way down.
This kind of thinking in terms of choice and priorities is gradually being extended to cover postwar economics. Are there priorities for peace? Is a decent standard of living for everyone further up the list of national priorities than luxuries for a small group of people? If so, what techniques of control or allocation or rationing are needed to secure a decent standard, a "National Minimum," for all? It is this priority point that the Government missed completely in the Beveridge debate. People -- particularly young people -- did not want to be told whether or not they could afford it. They were not impressed when the Chancellor listed all the other future burdens on the budget -- housing, debt, armaments. They knew that the list of national necessities would be long. What the Beveridge Report seemed to give them was the assurance that the National Minimum -- Social Security -- would be at the top, not the bottom of the list, that it would stand in the same relation to the peace effort as tanks and fighters to the war. It was not enough for the Government to accept 75 percent of the Report. The people wanted its place fixed on the reconstruction priority list. Hence the insistence on the importance of the time factor and the agitation still going on for the setting up now of a Ministry of Social Security.
Actually, the Beveridge plan is seen to be only one side of the National Minimum, which is to guarantee that no citizen shall, through accident or ill health, unemployment or bereavement, fall below a financial minimum. It has become a symbol not because it is complete but because it is concrete and is felt to be a test of sincerity. Since the Beveridge debate, all independent (mainly of the new Common Wealth Party) candidates in by-elections have campaigned for the full plan now. The reception of the plan in ABCA (where, in spite of the army ban on its publication, it was eagerly discussed) showed that the military forces were at least as much interested in its assumptions as in its provisions. Of these, the two which are felt to be most important are the National Health Service and a full employment policy.
The National Health Service is too technical a subject and the eventual establishment of it is too much taken as a matter of course to be the cause of much discussion. Mr. Churchill has promised it. All parties are committed to it and the British Medical Association has produced a scheme with which most progressives are -- some to their own surprise -- in agreement. The prevention of unemployment is another matter. Nothing casts so dark a shadow over the minds of ordinary people as the possibility that once again after this war demobilization will bring with it mass unemployment. The belief is universal that the Government can provide work in peace as in war and that one of its most urgent duties is to do so. Where the argument begins is on the ways and means of a full employment policy and what it will imply in terms of Trade Union privileges, mobility, free choice of job and so on. The Beveridge plan includes provision for retraining after a certain period of unemployment. The Trade Unions are not happy about it. The ordinary man is puzzled. Public opinion surveys report that people in formerly distressed areas are more in favor of drastic control than those in normally prosperous regions. The discussion in the Army has been so intense that ABCA has prepared special discussion notes in which an attempt is made to relate the wartime experience of men and women in learning new jobs and accepting new responsibilities to the kind of world they may face after the war. My impression is that young people so far have not sorted out the cost in terms of restricted choice and a certain amount of "direction" that a full employment policy may entail. So much will depend on the temper of postwar Britain. In a confident and expanding economy people are naturally more adventurous, readier for change. One of the grim reasons which in the prewar world kept workers chained to their own area, however depressed, was the conviction that things would be no better anywhere else.
Perhaps the best way to describe the reaction of young people to the problem of living standards in the postwar world is to give the analogy which Sir William Beveridge himself is trying to popularize. The destruction of the dictators is the aim of the British war effort. The peace effort, too, must be directed against the great common enemies of the British people -- the Giants of Want, Disease, Idleness, Ignorance and Squalor. Against Want, the weapons are an expanding economy with good wages and sound insurance; against Disease, a National Health Service and a National Food policy; against Idleness, full employment; against Ignorance, an extended educational system open to all on a strict basis of capacity (no more "old school tie"); against Squalor, a National Housing policy, town and country planning, and national control or even ownership of the land. From one end of Britain to the other, the young people would unanimously accept this as a decent program of living standards.
The focussing of radical opinion on control of the community's economic life does not seem to me to spring from any sense of reverence for or confidence in the State. In practice, British people dislike bureaucracy and resent interference. Opinion against compulsory Youth Movements is strong among young people and the thorough propaganda against Nazi methods has very much weakened the uncritical acceptance of the State as a panacea which was characteristic of the Marxism-without-tears of ten years ago. But the desire for public control is very great because a majority of young people feel that only in this way will the nation's economy do what it is supposed to do -- produce rising physical living standards. Only in this way, too, will people cease to feel that their lives are being run by irresponsible impersonal forces and interests which hold the substance of power, however much they may permit a façade of democracy.
This point is important and we shall come back to it. Here it is only necessary to sketch in the kind of controls which a very large number of young people seem to be considering.
The over-all control is, of course, the control of investment exercised by the State to secure full employment. Specific industries which ought to come under public control are "natural monopolies" and public utilities: fuel, light and heat, water supplies, transport (civil aviation under international control); monopolies built by business itself; industries of vital concern to public welfare -- building (houses and ships), food, armaments, iron and steel. While the area to be controlled is thus very large, the general feeling is against the vesting of the control in government departments and the running of industry through civil servants. The most popular type of institution is the public corporation, the London Passenger Transport Board or Port of London Authority type. Common Wealth, one of whose planks is Common Ownership, favors this type of control, together with the development of municipal enterprise and services on a regional basis. All advocates of this system point out that it leaves the position of managers almost unchanged. Instead of the control of a board of directors responsible very often to remote financial interests totally uninterested in the enterprise which the managers are conducting, they will be controlled by a board publicly appointed and responsible to a public audit.
Naturally, young people are rather vague about the way in which control schemes would work. One of the attractions of the old slogan "public ownership of the means of production and distribution" was its simplicity. The State took everything over, and there you were. The enormous prestige of Russia has not been quite sufficient to counteract the fears created by the Nazi experiment and the experienced irksomeness of wartime controls in Britain. People want a freer and more flexible system than full State control can offer and, as far as one can tell from the various public opinion reports, they favor a mixed economy with some place for private enterprise but a predominance of control through public corporations. There is also quite a lot of feeling in favor of organizing industries as units under a Board representing employers, workers and the State. This syndicalist approach is popular among the keener young trade unionists. Young managers and civil servants view it with alarm as a sort of sanctification of the right to monopoly. Obviously young opinion is still feeling its way. All that is certain is the direction in which it wants to go -- towards a large measure of public control.
Perhaps it is Nazi Germany that has rubbed home the lesson that State control can destroy personal freedom and initiative far more effectively than a liberal capitalist system, however "imperialist" and rapacious. When they talk of control, quite a number of young people are thinking not only of State control but of popular control. How do we protect ourselves against the bureaucrats who are supposed to be serving us but may very well make the apparatus of the State their private property? This is a problem which worries the young intellectuals more than the average run of young men and women. It has been crystallized into a phrase coined, I believe, by Stephen Spender, one of Britain's leading young writers, after a lot of experience with youth in the National Fire Service. The phrase is "We and They" -- we, the people and they, the government, the boss class, the ruling clique. It epitomizes the drift in democracy towards passive citizenship and the dependence of great masses of people on small active groups in the parties, in business, in local government, in the coöperatives and in the trade unions who do the governing while the rest are content to play follow-my-leader.
There are some signs that this concern is spreading. For example, there is a marked increase in the number of young people in the forces who are saying, "After this war, I am going into politics." Warrant Officer John Loverseed, who was elected at Eddisbury in April as the first Common Wealth candidate, is only 34. Another sign is the interest in Joint Production Committees. In a recent poll, 80 percent of the young people questioned voted for their continuance and extension after the war. The Army Authorities both through ABCA and the ordinary education service are trying to get what is meant by active citizenship into the heads of the young men and women in service. It is too soon to say how effective the attempt is likely to be.
If this account of young opinion in Britain seems somewhat confused that is in part at any rate because it reflects the uncertainties that exist in young people's minds. The remarkable thing is not that the outlines are foggy but that on the whole the substance is as clear and unanimous as it is. I think it is safe to say that 80 percent of the young people between 20 and 30 want roughly the same program and that the main points in it have been mentioned above. This unanimity ought to breed confidence and hope. So far, it has not done so. The existence of a uniform body of ideas is at once the most encouraging yet in many ways the least important aspect of young opinion in Britain today. "Between the idea and the reality falls the shadow." Young people do not know how they are going to see their idealism translated into practical action.
The first obstacle is enormous ignorance of how the present system works. ABCA officials have been astonished over and over again to find men and women ignorant even of their most ordinary rights as citizens. There is no clear picture of the structure of government or of how the ordinary man can insert himself into it. There is equal ignorance about Factory Acts, town planning legislation, the health services, the civil service, what the Beveridge plan really means (and this although it was a best seller, with 250,000 copies sold in the first days). It is hard for people with education and experience to realize what a brake on action the feeling is that you don't know the ropes, that you are likely to make a fool of yourself and that the whole business is so complicated that you had best keep out.
This bewilderment, of course, feeds the "We -- They" feeling. "They" are the know-alls, the people who manipulate the system, the men with educated accents, the trade union official who understands the regulations, the manager who quotes scientific formulæ, the Labor Exchange Official who knows Subsection 2 Paragraph B3 by heart. Men and women can go through life constantly if subconsciously frustrated by the sense of being run by other people in a world that is somehow unaccountable. This sense develops easily into active hostility to "sinister vested interests." It is particularly strong in the Army, where the completely undifferentiated military life makes the men hyperconscious of discipline and the running of their lives by the "brass hats." When their officers are incompetent, or when reforms of which they read in Picture Post or the Daily Mirror take months to be put into effect, the sense of frustration and cynicism tends to swamp other more hopeful or coöperative reactions. Again and again in ABCA discussions, the men's attitude is "Oh yes, we want such and such a reform but 'they' will jolly well see we don't get it." "They" is not often analyzed very carefully; but the dominant figure is undoubtedly the boss class in industry. "Vested Interests" -- the insurance companies believed to be fighting the Beveridge Report, for example -- are an almost universal bogey. The feeling against them sometimes goes so far that even concessions and reforms are dismissed contemptuously as attempts to avoid granting the substance of people's demands by giving them a cheap imitation of it. This mood is obviously harmful, both to morale now and to the prospects of a more dynamic democracy after the war. Cynicism in young people is one of the worst diseases from which a modern society can suffer. Things are better in the Army now than at the beginning of the war. Many young officers have been promoted. But the feeling is still current that the "brass hats" are old for their jobs and that in this they resemble the "gang" that runs industry and the country.
The party leaders, apart from Mr. Churchill and Sir Stafford Cripps, do not stir much interest. It is widely assumed that Mr. Eden would become Prime Minister were anything to end Mr. Churchill's term of office. Sir Stafford's popularity is increasing steadily with young people. His connection as Minister of Aircraft Production with Joint Production Committees has earned him new recognition and wider contacts. Mr. Herbert Morrison's recent cycle of speeches made a strong impression on young people at the manager-civil servant level. But this relative interest in a few eminent figures is no substitute for interest in and readiness to work for a political party. The parties are probably the most discredited sector of British politics. The predominance on the Conservative side of men who are qualified for their seats in Parliament by the fact that they can afford them and of retired Trade Unionists on the side of Labor has alienated most of the young people. They feel they have no chance of getting elected and that if they work to elect the man selected by the party caucus he will not be in touch with young opinion. The party truce and the automatic return to office of members who often are of very ordinary caliber has discredited the party system still further.
This negative and distrustful approach to economic and social institutions is at its most obvious in relation to political parties just because they, the principal weapons in the struggle for a better society, look so inefficient for the purpose; but the feeling, as I have suggested, covers a great many other factors in our national life and it is always very much the same -- the feeling of separation, of no confidence, of detachment and indifference. One can see it in the Coöperatives, where about only 2 percent of the members trouble to attend the meetings, and that 2 percent is not young. One can see it in local government, where half the electorate never vote -- I believe the Birmingham figure is an average of about 35 percent, and again it is not the young people that take their responsibilities most seriously. One can see it in many empty churches; in many community centers run by the elderly; throughout the field of voluntary service, where the most reliable workers are all too often those trained in another generation to different standards of selflessness and hard work.
It seems to me that anyone who is trying to report fairly on the state of young opinion in Britain cannot help taking as the central point in his or her analysis this unhappy cleavage between a keen interest in a better future and cynicism about all the means of obtaining it. It is a dangerous situation for, as far as I can see, there are only three ways in which the irritating and frustrating conflict between the two states of mind can be resolved; and two of those ways are disastrous.
It could be resolved if the dream of better things were to fade. Then apathy could cover ends and means alike. The Britain of Baldwin and Chamberlain was not chafing under bad leadership. The "safety first" of the one and the appeasement of the other represented dominant states of mind among the people. A great majority were prepared to believe that £16 millions spent on the distressed areas over three years was about all we could afford to "cure" unemployment. To a great many, Czechoslovakia was just a country a long way off "about which we know very little." Personally, I find it hard to believe that the upheavals of the war will have so little effect as to bring back that attitude, especially since the new radical temper has sprung from wartime experience itself. It should be as difficult to root out the desire for a better nation as to wipe out the memory of the London blitz. Besides, a desire, however general, to return to the "normalcy" of the twenties and thirties provides no real solution of the state of mind of the young. Even if this generation were to be worn out by over-working and over-fighting, the next generation after them would present the same revolt and the same challenge. Either young people have to find their way back into a society which they feel is theirs and is a going concern or they will remain to be snatched up sooner or later by some form of extremism.
This is the second alternative -- that, maintaining their desire for change and continuing in their distrust for all existing institutions, they decide on the violent short-cut of attempted revolution. It is significant that of the small minority in the Army who still profess to have any confidence in a political party about half are supporters of the Communists. This is not because of any widespread extension of Communism. It reflects the fact of a soldier's existence, in which mutiny is the only way of securing a violent change. It often is asked whether there are signs of Fascism in Britain. If the question means -- Is there a Fascist party? Is there open Fascist propaganda? Do people call themselves Fascist or even think of themselves as Fascists? -- then the answer is emphatically "no." Most people believe they are fighting Fascism and are sufficiently indifferent to sociological analysis to believe that once it is defeated in Germany and Italy it will be finally scotched.
Yet it is true that Britain is still a pre-Fascist society. In other words, it has not yet met the crisis which in other countries produced Fascism. Its form of society is still predominantly that of the nineteenth century. So far, all new twentieth century forms have been totalitarian. The form of twentieth century free society has still to be evolved; and in this sense it is true that Britain could "go Fascist," or rather "go totalitarian," and that an unassuaged sense of revolt and frustration among its young people could be one of the factors driving it towards totalitarian control. Here it does not matter much that the ideals of the young people are progressive. The crucial thing is the spirit in which they would set about securing change. A revolutionary movement, headed by Britain's Frontkämpfer, even if it wanted the Beveridge plan for all and government control of heavy industry, would still end as a Fascist movement. I need hardly add that there is absolutely no sign of such a development at present. The only organized extremist party is Communist and it is very, very small indeed.
Fascism is possible, here or in any other liberal democracy. But is it likely? The answer depends on the events of the next years and, in particular, on whether there is any hope of achieving the third way out of the present impasse -- the emergence of creative political leadership. The apathy, the unenthusiasm about existing institutions and parties is not an incurable affliction of young people in Britain. It is hardly even their fault. Anybody needs the eye of faith indeed to get excited about our Parliament, 1935-vintage, the 1922 Committee and Transport House. The important thing is the immediate response to anything more challenging and hopeful -- the "so few" in their Spitfires, the gallant army of Civil Defence workers and firemen doing wonders of cool heroism during the blitz, the merchant seamen, the little boats at Dunkirk, the women in the war factories, the keen excited youngsters in the A.T.C. (Air Training Corps for the under-18's), the two million housewives in the Women's Voluntary Service, the Invasion Committees, the Home Guard to which thousands of lads of 16 are devoting most of their spare time after a day's work in a war factory. These people are not naturally apathetic. They are not cynical by choice. After the publication of the Beveridge plan which suggested that, after all, there was a more decent kind of society ahead, people's morale went up with a bound. Particularly in the services, more cheerfulness and more zest were reported from every part of the country.
The young people need so little to recover confidence in democratic society. Will they get it? It is still too soon to say. One can only report the hopeful signs. In recent months, Mr. Herbert Morrison has been growing in stature. Long known as a sound administrator, he has now shown in a series of remarkable speeches that his approach to politics is nearer to the ideals of twentieth century democracy than that expressed by any other statesman today. In his most recent speech, he voiced the opinion of the great majority of the country when he summed up Britain's postwar economic problem in these words:
A fundamental question . . . is how the community is to get its living -- the question of production, the question of the relation between the State and industry. After the war we shall have to solve this problem in all of its three parts -- how to get full employment, how to increase the productive efficiency of industry, and how to spread the increased product widely and fairly. To approach these three tremendous questions from the point of view of a preconceived dogma is not right, and also it is no use, because the country will neither understand nor listen. Neither the slogan of all-round nationalization nor the slogan of all-round decontrol (even if one adds the saving clause "after the transitional period") are, as such, the slightest use to the country. The one general principle that has some meaning and can be defended is that the interest of the community and not the interest of this or that group in industry or elsewhere must decide these questions.
If the Labor Party comes to accept his lead it has a chance of sweeping the country.
On the Conservative side, Mr. Quintin Hogg has emerged as the spokesman of a group of young Tory M.P.'s who are determined that social reform shall continue to be part of the tradition of their party. These young members have formed their own Committee in the Commons and are pressing for the immediate setting up of a Ministry of Social Security. Here again is a sign of an emerging leadership which, if it were successful against the arid "last ditchery" of the Conservative back benchers could put new life into the Tory Party. Mr. Hogg acknowledges his attitude to be due to his contacts with the soldiers in the Middle East where for two years he was on active service. It is a straight reflection of the radical mood of youth. It is an attempt to express that mood in political terms.
Common Wealth, already mentioned in passing, represents, broadly speaking, the social idealism of the Middle Classes -- a radical idealism -- and is profiting now by the party truce which debars Labor from contesting Conservative seats, and vice versa. Its candidates are mainly young people and it is getting a good deal of enthusiastic support from the young. Incidentally, Common Wealth is making a bid for radical Christian support. I cannot say that there is a widespread religious revival in Britain, but there are young people who are interested and bring religious enthusiasm to the task of social reform. The fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury is an outspoken "radical" undoubtedly tends to increase the prestige of Christianity among young people.
These, then, are some of the growing points from which a rehabilitation of British politics, of the machinery of British government, can spring. There is nothing incurable in Britain's disease. The quality of the young people is magnificent. Their ideas are progressive, yet there remains an undercurrent of conservatism bred of their love of old ways and places and possessions. The failure at the moment is a failure in political leadership. That leadership was magnificent in 1940; it is uncertain for 1945. For myself, I feel the scales of history are fairly evenly balanced. Our country may swing down on the side of frustration and apathy; or on the side of a new democracy. The material is there for either decision. But prophecy is as unfruitful now as it would have been at the time of Dunkirk.
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Takes a Hit