The Battle For Europe's Mind
- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 7 Apr 1949, p. 306-315
- Price, Major Vincent W., Speaker
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- Item Type:
- This address is divided into seven sections, the first of which is "The Universal Theater" of the world. Section II, "Three Scenes on the World-Stage" discusses the Canadian scene, the Soviet Russian picture, and the European scene. "The Devastation of the Mind" talks about the intellectual damage of the war. Section IV, "Three Gigantic Problems" looks at the material, human, and mental and spiritual problems with which Europe has had to deal since the end of the Second World War. Section V, "The Battle for the Mind" looks at the two opposing forces in the world today: world-wide Communism as taught and practised by the Soviet Republics, and on the other side all those vast and intangible forces which embody the conception of freedom, in its broadest and deepest sense: the freedom of man, his mind and his soul. Section VI, "The Forces of Freedom" considers just three of those forces: UNESCO, Canada, and the North Atlantic Security Treaty, called the "Freedom Pact," and looks at the activities of each. The last Section, "The Challenge" addresses the task and challenge ahead of us to find peace and security.
- Date of Original:
- 7 Apr 1949
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- The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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- Full Text
THE BATTLE FOR EUROPE'S MIND
AN ADDRESS BY MAJOR VINCENT W. PRICE, K.C.
Chairman: The President, Mr. Thos. H. Howse
Thursday, April 7th, 1949
HONOURED GUESTS AND GENTLEMEN
We have heard much from this platform regarding the war devastation in Europe, we have heard and read much regarding the progress that is being made in the recon struction of those devastated areas, but comparatively little has been said on the vitally important problem of what progress is being made in the restoration of a saner outlook on the part of large masses of the European population who have been saturated for the past two decades with Nazi, Fascist and Communist doctrines. This is a far more difficult problem than the replacement of physical assets and on its solution the peace and future welfare of Europe unquestionably depends.
Today our guest speaker, Major Vincent Price, has chosen as the subject of his address "The Battle for Europe's Mind" a subject on which, I venture to say, no Canadian is more qualified to speak, because Major Price has been Chairman of the Canadian Council for Restoration since 1947. This Council is the Canadian Section of UNESCO the important United Nations' Agency which is concerned, among other activities, with educational, scientific and cultural reconstruction in the devastated areas of Europe.
Major Price is a graduate in Arts from McMaster University, studied law at Inns of Court in London, England, graduated from Osgoode Hall and has practised law in Toronto since 1920.
He served in the First World War with the Royal Grenadiers of Toronto and was mentioned in despatches on two occasions.
He was also President of the Ontario Branch of the English Speaking Union for 10 years and among his many other activities, has found time to contribute numerous articles on international affairs.
It now affords me very great pleasure to introduce the sixth member of The Empire Club of Canada to address us this season, in the person of Major Vincent Price, K.C.
1. THE UNIVERSAL THEATRE
I suppose, Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, that of all the well-known lines which have come down to us through the centuries, from the mind of William Shakespeare, no words are more familiar than these, from the play, "As You Like It"
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;"
I would link with those words, the less-known lines which come immediately before them, and they are these "This wide and universal theatre
Presents more woeful pageants than the scene Wherein we play in."
Today, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the privilege of being with my fellow-members of this Club. I would invite you to accompany me to Shakespeare's "Universal Theatre", and to look out upon the broad stage of the world, where scene after scene passes before us.
11. THREE SCENES ON THE WORLD-STAGE
At the moment, I see this world-wide stage set with three scenes, each separate and distinct, yet all on the same world-stage.
On one side is the Canadian scene: Here the stage is well set; all the properties needed for dramatic action are there--science, industry and nature have provided these--allowing a bountiful choice. There is an atmosphere which only the things of the spirit--a free spirit--can produce; education, the humanities and freedom of religious faith have contributed their subtle influence. Then, there are the actors, the men, women and children of Canada, and for these actors, by comparison, life is abundant, life is free and life is relatively secure.
On the other side of this great world-stage, there is another very different scene. It is the Soviet Russian picture. Here a dark curtain hangs in the front of the stage; no action is visible; no characters can be seen, and at present we can only conjecture on what is actually going on behind that dark curtain.
We shall return to that scene later, but now, I would ask you to look at the centre of the world-stage, for there is the European scene. The curtain is up: there are only scattered and damaged properties; the actors, tired, but hard working, at times seem thwarted in their performance. But the first thing which draws our attention is the Back-drop, for there, on the Back-drop of the stage, is a vivid picture,--drawn in vital strokes--depicting the material destruction and human suffering brought about by the war.
There, we see Norway and Denmark! The agony of five years of Nazi occupation; stripped of their assets; schools destroyed and some 700 Norwegian teachers put in slave labour camps and tortured because they refused to Nazify the schools-martyrs in the cause of freedom! There, we see Holland! More than 20% of her land destroyed by enemy flooding. Famine, in the winter of 1944-45, when people died at the rate of 1,000 per week. Schools wrecked, and more than 70,000 Dutch children with no means of education until the work of reconstruction got underway.
There, too, on the Back-drop, we see France! The Normandie Invasion coast, and elsewhere, show terrific suffering. The Nazi-occupation has affected the entire pageant; Universities and schools demolished; world-famous works of Art lost and great Cathedrals in ruins!
Then, there is Belgium, Land of Learning, and the traditional "cock-pit of Europe"; high-lighted by vast areas of appalling damage. As I look on that scene, I cannot forget the remark of a high Belgian official. "We have the custom of being destroyed, but we have the energy to start again!"--"The custom of being destroyed" -What are the results this time? 2,500 of Belgium's bridges demolished, many of them on two occasions. One-half of all the elementary school destroyed. Once again, the historic Universities of Liege and Louvain seriously damaged. The Library at Liege having lost more than 50,000 books. Louvain, with ancient manuscripts and many rare volumes gone forever. We see Public Libraries, like those of Ostend and Tournai completely destroyed: the Public Library of Tournai, alone, with 72,000 volumes lost. Those are only some of the pictures in the Backdrop of the stage. Add to them the stark revelation of
Italy, with its widespread damage to schools, universities, and means of communication.
The appalling conditions still continuing in Greece. The colossal destruction in Poland, yes, and in Russia too.
The plunder and devastation by the Nazis, in Jugoslavia.
And their suppression of Czechoslovakia.
And then, the inestimable destruction in Germany itself.
The entire picture is part of the balance-sheet of World War II, which left as a legacy, a multitude of orphan and suffering children, and a wrecked and shaken humanity. How true are Shakespeare's words that "This-universal theatre
Presents more woeful pageants than the scene Wherein we play in."
III. THE DEVASTATION OF THE MIND. Tragically, there is another very important aspect to the European scene, and that is the Devastation of the Mind.
The destruction, and forced closing of schools and institutions of higher learning, the wanton burning and looting of libraries, the wrecking of families and home life, the wholesale liquidation of teachers, professors, scientists and religious leaders, which took place in the Nazi-occupied lands,--all these combined to tear clown and destroy the things of the Mind and the Spirit. For, let us remember this important fact: In time of War, as wars are now conducted, it is the intellectual life, the mind of the nation, which is the very first to suffer, and it is the last to recover when the fighting is over.
IV. THREE GIGANTIC PROBLEMS.
And so it is that, since the end of the War, Europe, in the face of that Back-drop, has had to cope with three gigantic problems
First: A Material Problem: Rebuilding and re-equipping thousands upon thousands of educational institutions.
Second: A Human Problem: Rebuilding the lives of millions of children and young people who have been without normal education and home life.
Third: A Mental and Spiritual Problem: Restoring intellectual life and thought among the people of those lands, building up self-confidence, and renewing faith in themselves and in the fundamental things of life, in the concept of freedom and the value of the individual personality.
V. THE BATTLE FOR THE MIND.
But now, today, just when this process of recovery was getting underway, the European scene has become the main battle-ground of a new War. This time it is a War o f Ideas! For, there is taking place on the world-stage, a gigantic struggle for the minds of people everywhere. Primarily, it is a battle for the mind of the people of Europe.
This is not a political or economic battle.
There are two great opposing forces: On the one side, the idea, the almost fanatical religion of world-wide Communism, as taught and practised by the Soviet Republics, and as controlled and directed by the Soviet-dominated Cominform. On the, other side are being mustered all those vast and intangible forces which embody the conception of freedom, in its broadest and deepest sense: the freedom of man, his mind and his soul.
Just about a year ago, by a sudden move from behind the dark curtain, there came the tragic fall of Czechoslovakia. It made a most profound impression upon the people of Western Europe. It increased their feeling of insecurity. It also destroyed the fund of good-will which Russia had built up by her stupendous efforts and sacrifices during the War. In Czechoslovakia, as in all Sovietdominated countries, there followed coercion and suppression in the realms of art, of science, of thought and of religion. I venture to suggest that the future will show- that the greatest mistake which the Soviet leaders have made has been their relentless attack upon the freedom of the mind and the spirit. It may well prove the eventual undoing of the Communist ideological aggression. For, above all else, the people of Europe want to maintain their own way of life, and their intellectual and cultural freedom. As Mr. Churchill said last week "You can never quench freedom".
VI. THE FORCES OF FREEDOM.
In this great struggle for the freedom of the mind and spirit, let us consider for a few moments, what are some of the forces mustered on the side of freedom.
Today, I would mention only three A. UNESCO.
First, there is one agency of the United Nations, which may, and should be able, (I underline those words), to--play a most significant role. That agency is UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, with Headquarters in Paris. Forty-six nations, including Canada, are members of UNESCO. Thus, it cannot represent any particular political or economic system. Essentially, it is a Peoples' Organization. Its main purpose is to help the cause of Peace by taking a stand and working against certain things, and by taking a stand and working for other things.
UNESCO is working against Ignorance, Prejudice, Intolerance and Coercion in all its forms and wherever found.
UNESCO is working for Knowledge, Understanding, Tolerance, Human Sympathy and the Freedom of Man. It is dedicated to the task of breaking down national barriers, so that the people of all lands may see each other, study each other and understand each other, so that, eventually, they may co-operate with each other. Unfortunately, and I think, significantly, the Soviet Union has never joined the UNESCO organization. Nor have some of its satellites. It is equally significant that three countries--Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, at present dominated by the Soviet,--are members of UNESCO. That, in the long run, may mean a great deal. It is encouraging and important to note, Gentlemen, that everything UNESCO stands for, is the very antithesis of the restraints, the coercions, the bondage and all the evils of the Soviet Totalitarian System. For, in that System, as we know full well, there is no freedom of the mind and spirit, no freedom of expression in the realms of science, art and literature; no freedom in economic and social life and no freedom in religious faith.
The major problem on the world-stage today is the threat to freedom, and all that is wrapped up in the term "Iron Curtain". The Challenge of UNESCO is to bring together People and Ideas!
Of all the agencies of the United Nations, UNESCO is the one most likely to penetrate the Iron Curtain. "Ideas have Wings"! No curtain has ever been made, which can keep out Ideas, no matter how vigorous a censorship is maintained behind it. A few of the people come out from behind, and return again. The radio waves are hard to imprison, and in those lands there are heroic souls struggling to keep alive the sparks of freedom. Nothing can prevent the basic ideas of UNESCO from infiltrating the countries of Eastern Europe.
The Second force for Freedom, which I would mention, today, is our own Nation. What part is Canada taking in this colossal task of the rebuilding of the Mind? Canada, through the Canadian Council for Reconstruction through UNESCO, is spending about One Million Dollars, given by the Canadian people, including the children of our schools, to carry out a great five-fold project:
First: 20,000 Boxes of School Supplies have been sent to the elementary classrooms of the damaged schools in eleven European countries. In addition, food and clothing have been sent for the teachers and pupils.
Second: Financial assistance is being given to nineteen selected Universities in France, Italy, Greece, Belgium, The Netherlands, Norway and Austria. This will help them to replace much needed scientific equipment, which was destroyed during the War. In addition to these, ninety-three European Universities are each being given ten subscriptions, for three years each, to the leading Scientific, Literary and Art Journals of Canada.
Third: Sixty-four Fellowships are being awarded to 64 persons, holding positions of responsibility in their own lands. They are from some fourteen countries, and, have been most carefully selected. They will return to their own lands after a period of study, and after seeing and sharing in our way of life. It is important that we should make them welcome.
Fourth: Practical aid is being given to the creative artists, the painters, sculptors, writers, musicians, architects and workers in the crafts in the countries of Western Europe. This aid will help to supply them with the materials and tools of their crafts, and also much needed food and clothing.
Fifth: The recent "March of Books" Campaign, throughout Canada, will carry thousands of selected books from the people and the libraries of Canada, to the people and the libraries of Europe, to help in filling the great gaps of which I have spoken.
This five-fold programme has been planned on the belief that education and the restoring of the intellectual life are among the strongest weapons in developing and preserving freedom in all lands.
C. THE FREEDOM PACT.
The Third potential force for Freedom is the North Atlantic Security Treaty, signed in Washington on Monday last. It has been rightly called the "Freedom Pact".
That Pact is realistic; it is necessary. It is a pact for Defence and Security; it is not for Aggression. In my judgment, it will strengthen and not weaken the United Nations, for it will attempt to assure Security in at least a large part of the world, where Security does not now exist.
But it would be folly of the highest order, to treat the Pact solely as a military alliance. We must not think of this Pact as a sort of "Maginot Line", armed and fortified, behind which we can sit in complacency. The mentality of the "Maginot Line" means apathy, indifference and a false sense of security.
There is much more in the North Atlantic Treaty than a military alliance for defence. It calls specifically for the strengthening of our free institutions, and for 'bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which those free institutions are founded. We cannot rely on weapons alone. The atomic bomb will not save our western civilization and all the things we cherish. There must be much more than a policy of containment of Russia. There must be a fuller justification of our free way of life. And, perhaps, Mr. Chairman, it is not out of place to suggest that there must be, too, a spiritual rededication which should end the preaching of hate and race--prejudice, wherever that occurs, and should bring about more fully the practice of tolerance, human sympathy and respect for the dignity of the ordinary man.
Thus it is, that the underlying ideas of the North Atlantic Pact can be crystallized in these words: Strength, Firmness, Patience and a Dynamic Programme in the cause of Freedom. While we are thinking in terms of our own security, vital as that is, let us not forget that the only effective way to meet the spread of the Communist ideas in the war-torn lands, is to provide the people of those lands with a means, and a way of life that is better, so that they may be free to five, free to learn, free to think and free to act.
VII. THE CHALLENGE
In this battle for the mind, the greatest responsibility rests upon those who have faith and are free to express it. That imposes a special obligation upon the peoples of the British Commonwealth, and the great English-speaking World, For, among all our peoples, we enjoy as a gift and a heritage, the essential freedoms which are now in danger.
Gentlemen, in this great struggle for the minds of men I am confident that the British Commonwealth will continue to stand, as it has stood firmly in the past, a strong bulwark for peace and freedom.
Canada, now expanded with her ten provinces, her ever-widening horizon and her increasing responsibilities, must be a solidly cemented corner-stone in the Peace structure, confident, prepared and unafraid.
The task and the challenge in this grave hour are embodied in simple words which came to me from that little island across the sea, Britain, which, down through the long centuries, has done so much in the cause o f justice and liberty. The lines are these:
"And we who have inherited the Trust Must also pay the price that it demands, And share the burden faithfully, as they Who gave their all, to place it in our hands. Thus shall we prosper, thus undaunted, free, Shall we fulfil our splendid destiny."