THE PROSPECTS OF INTERNATIONAL ORDER
AN ADDRESS BY DR. WILLIAM PATON
Chairman: The President, Mr. C. R. Sanderson.
Thursday, March 26, 1942
MR. C. R. SANDERSON: Gentlemen: Our guest-speaker today, Dr. William Paton, from London, England, has been justly described as a world citizen and a world statesman.
There are certain movements in which the British Commonwealth of Nations takes part, that are far beyond one country, far beyond one language, far beyond one creed. Some of these movements centre in one outstanding personality. Dr. Paton is one of those outstanding personalities. For five years he was Secretary of the National Christian Council in India, and, just as we know the complexity of the problem of India, we know also the responsibility attaching to the man occupying that position. Since 1938 he has been Secretary of the World Council of Churches, again embracing an enormous movement, stretching over continents.
At this time, Gentlemen, when the world is not only in a state of physical flux but also in a state of mental flux, it is a good thing for us that we should have the opportunity of listening in person to people of the knowledge, the understanding, and the status of Dr. Paton. Therefore, Gentlemen, it is my pleasure and my privilege to present to you Dr. William Paton, who will talk to us on "The Prospects of International Order". Dr. Paton.
DR. WILLIAM PATON: Mr. President and Gentlemen: I should like to begin by saying that I am conscious, as a person wearing a clerical collar and consorting normally with people in church life, that I am perhaps doing a rather bold thing in suggesting as a talk to this Club, "The Prospects of International Order". I recognize that I am addressing men of affairs who have a detailed knowledge of the problems of secular life and the choices which have to be faced which I cannot pretend to have. Nevertheless, I hope that I carry you with me when I suggest that we wholly misread the signs of the times, that we fail to understand the nature of the forces which are reshaping the world, unless -we realize that political and economic issues are only a part of those that have to be faced, and that moral and, indeed, spiritual questions are at least as fundamental as those of a political or economic type. We need, in fact, almost more than any other single thing, that temper of mind, both in the church (in the narrower sense) and in the great mass of instructed thoughtful lay opinion, which seeks to join together a realistic understanding of the actual choices which confront peoples and statesmen today, and, on the other hand, an appreciation of those ultimate laws, shall I say laws of God, which the universe can only transgress on pain of disaster. And those two things belong together.
A purely realistic outlook--I use the word realistic rather in a cant sense--leads one sometimes to a mere determinism, simply waiting for events, and saying, when each one happens, that it was inevitable. Equally, an idealistic attitude leaves one weaving beautiful fabrics of a future world order, which at no point have any real contact with actualities out of which in the present the future is being made.
Now, may I first premise, as the condition of international order, of any kind of international order that we need waste our time in thinking about, the necessity of victory. I am not going to argue that point. It seems to me quite clear that, on the basis of a Hitlerian victory, none of us here will be consulted about the prospect of international order, but, while I am not one of those who identify the Christian religion with victory in war, I do hold that the chances of building up a Christian civilization-I say the chances, I don't say more than that-the chances of building up a Christian civilization do in fact depend upon a victory. By a victory I mean at least these three things
First of all, the complete evacuation of the conquered territories;
Secondly, the ending of those tyrannies which are associated with such phrases as "Gestapo" and "the Nuremberg Decrees," and similar offences against the moral law in Japan;
And, thirdly, adequate guarantees against the revival of militaristic and aggressive tyranny.
I shan't say more about that. We have now the Atlantic Charter. Some think it doesn't go far enough. Some think it goes too far. It is the statement made by the leaders of the two great Democracies, the British Commonwealth and the United States. Remember, in that statement it is laid down clearly that those who set their hands to that statement desire that, beyond victory, there shall be a world order, economic and political, in which all, including vanquished, get a fair deal.
Now, Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, let us recognize the extreme complexity-indeed, I would say, the extreme grimness-of the prospect which in fact will face the world. I sometimes find people who seem to think that victory will in itself solve all problems. I doubt if any of you here, with your personal knowledge of affairs, are likely to fall into that kind of trap.
My mind naturally is full now of Europe. I only left England in the middle of February. I have, even under war conditions, had a good deal of touch through the various channels still open, with the Continent of Europe, and none of us who live on the edge of Europe can have any illusions about the nature of the situation which is going to face us, of widespread chaos and hunger, (and of need, therefore, for feeding and for policing on a great scale), and psychologically, of an immense amount of fear, revenge, hopelessness, and utter disillusionment.
Think of a young German who has worshipped an idol which is broken and the bottom of whose universe has fallen out. We are going to have all that kind of thing to face in Europe, and, when we think of the Far East and the Middle East, we can see already that there will be problems of a complexity and gravity which we can only yet barely begin to apprehend or indeed even to guess at.
The first necessity, as I say, will be feeding and policing and the starting again of the wheels of industry, and I suppose that none of us doubts that these tasks can be carried out only under some kind of International Reconstruction Commission, at least through the collaboration of nations, and pre-eminently the collaboration of the British Commonwealth and the United States.
Now, I should like to go a little further on that because there is here, I think, something to be laid hold of, which is far more readily evident to the minds of laymen and men of affairs than it is to some of us who, by our clerical profession, are naturally addicted to general propositions. I use the word realistic. Now, one of the things which has, I believe, to be faced-may I put it in a rather general, almost pedantic, way-is that the future is organic with the present. I mean by that that you never in fact make a jump from where you are now to a more ideal construction of things.
If there is to be in the years after the war, in Europe or anywhere else, a reconstruction of world order, either we use the instruments which are being forged in time of war between the nations, or we have nothing at all to use.
Let me illustrate that from our own experience in the British Isles. We are, as you know, under a regime which grows more and more national and planned day by day. It must be so. We are rationed and, may I say, as one who has enjoyed the sumptuous meals still available on this Continent, it has on the whole done us good! We have lost weight, but that is, in the case of most of us, a very desirable thing to achieve. We have now realized that the national control of food stuffs in time of war, while nobody would desire it to be continued in peace time, has shown us the things that can be done for the mass of the common folk by some coherent dealing with problems of nutrition.
Take the whole mobilization of labour. The Government of Great Britain has complete control of manpower and womanpower. Nobody desires that that shall be continued into the future in its present form, but, when you face the gigantic problems of the future, and the place of Great Britain in them, and the reconstitution of Great Britain itself as it gets back on a peace basis, does anybody imagine that we shall not use (transmuting them, if you like, but, nevertheless, use) the kind of instruments which have been forged in this time of war?
We are doing things for education m Great Britain. There is an intensity of public interest in regard to educational problems and especially in regard to the problems of religious education, such as I have never known in my lifetime. That is a healthy sign. It means that people are instinctively realizing that, under the tension of war, things begin to get done that might not have been done in the more complacent times of peace. Our task is, therefore, so to use and to develop and, as I have said, to transmute these instruments which have been created in wartime, that they become the nucleus of a more organized order in the days to come.
Now, if that is true, as I think it is true, of a single country like Great Britain, and, as I have no doubt it is, of Canada, it is surely true internationally. Let me take one example. Take the blockade. Now, the Ministry of Economic Warfare in Great Britain, a very large far-reaching organization with ramifications over the entire globe, in the days when there were neutral countries in Europe, had to develop a very elaborate knowledge of the needs of different countries. There was a kind of rationing. We had to find out how much ought to go through for the needs of a country in order that they might not have more that might be passed on to the enemy. The matter is simple and well known to you all. But it is also the case that there has been gathered together both a mechanism and a mass of knowledge which will be turned to the vast task of feeding and reorganizing great tracts of the earth. That kind of knowledge and that kind of instrument can be transmuted into the interests of peace.
And so I might go on. We have in Great Britain a number of governments of United Nations. They are now periodically gathering together. I, as a mere lay outsider, know no more of their operations than anybody else does through the columns of the press. Yet, it is difficult to repress in one's mind the thought that here is something beginning in wartime, a collaboration of governments, which may be developed into something greater and more permanent in time of peace.
The point I wish to make is simply this (and the precise content of it will be enlarged according to the knowledge of each one of you) that, unless we'do in fact use these instruments which are being created under the stress of war, nationally and internationally, we shall have nothing to use. And that is to my mind the great argument against all efforts to create ideal constructions. Things don't happen that way. What we need to do rather is to discern what is happening; to understand the direction in which things can be got to move; to see the dangers, the possibilities, the hopes, that are inherent in the trends of the time; and in that way to make the future, as I say, organic with the present.
Now, Mr. President, behind all that there lies, of course, the question: what is to be the aegis of power under which world order can be rebuilt? I take it that none of us here is likely to doubt the essential political truth that there can be no stable organization, whether national or international, which is not undergirded by power. Power is not evil, neither is it good. It is in our human world, a world of frail and sinful men, a necessity to any stable society. As Lord Acton said in one of his most famous remarks, "Power is corrupting; absolute power is absolutely corrupting." Christians, in particular, should not forget that. I shall come back to that later.
That does not alter the fact that there is no such thing as stable organization, whether national or international, which is not undergirded by power. Therelore, let us ask the question: what is to be the aegis of power under which the aims of men for an international order can be carried out? It seems to me that, in the great march of history, (which, I think, by a Christian or any other of theistic mind is to be regarded as the working of the Providence of God), there is emerging a fourfold concentration of power. And by "power" I don't, of course, mean only, nor perhaps even primarily, armed power, though I do mean that. I mean also economic power.
Those four great blocs of power are,--I think, coming to be seen to be the British Commonwealth of Nations, the United States of America, Soviet Russia, and China. Acting on my principle that the future begins now, that you do not make a jump, but that you build on what is happening, the task of creating in the world a responsible control of power, is, in other words, the task of drawing together these four great blocks of power--the British Commonwealth, the United States, Soviet Russia, and China. I say China, because, while she may be less organized in power than are the other three, it is upon her that Far East peace depends. Upon the drawing together of these four great blocs of power, with the Atlantic Charter open behind us, depends the hope of evolution into a fully international system of power. It is upon the correlation of these four blocs of power, then, that, I think, the future depends, and I would say again, that it is far better, far more useful, far more hopeful, to think in that way. I may be wrong about my details, but I claim it is more sensible, it is more fruitful, to think in that kind of way than only to give oneself to the ideal construction of international government of world states. These things are valuable as directing and corrective, but the question that practical men, and, I would say, Christian men, have got to face is: where do we go from here?; what do we do next?; what are the concrete steps that offer?
I have often quoted a remark once made in my hearing by the late Lord Lothian, who said "The task of a statesman is to do the best that a given situation will allow him to do." That is also the case with us and I claim therefore, that what we have got to do, whether we agree with each other or not, is to try to discern the signs of the times and to strive to see how the things that are happening and that may be brought to happen can themselves become the nucleus, the token, if you like, of a fuller and more international order.
Now, may I, at this point, interject something on a problem which I feel is in the minds of all thoughtful people. That is the problem of Russia. I am not going to minimize the depth and the gravity of the differences which exist between the Soviet, with its economy and its ideology, (if you will forgive me for using that nasty word), and the fundamental practices and institutions of the British Commonwealth or of the United States. No man who is not a fool will fail to realize that, as these differences are great, so also are the difficulties in understanding. Nevertheless, my belief is that we are living in one of the great historic moments of the world. Last June there happened something of world-historic importance. The isolation of Russia was ended. Russia, with her 180 millions of people, occupying a tract of land from Poland to Japan and from the North Pole to the borders of India, that vast people with vast resources had been cut off by a great high wall from virtually any knowledge of the western democracies, and the western democracies were cut off from any knowledge of Russia. There had grown up much ignorance, much misunderstanding, and now, by the action of Adolf Hitler, the veil has been torn away, the wall has been broken down, and there is now the opportunity of something happening which could not have happened at any time in the last generation. As I see it, you have the meeting of these two great opposites, or rather I would say, complementary forces: on the one hand, ourselves, with our, may I say, Christian civilization, our love of freedom, our incarnation of freedom in political institutions, and, at the same time, our inability in peace time--I think now of my own country--to eradicate fromour body politic the enervating, paralyzing fact of unemployment; and on the other hand, Russia, under a tyranny, governed by an atheistic philosophy, yet still largely a country of Christians. I have mentioned to one or two audiences in Toronto that the Journal of the Militant Godless League, which has now been wound up,--I mean the Journal, I don't think the League has,--says in the last number that two-thirds of the people in the Russian villages and one-third of the people in the Russian cities and towns are still Christian.
We may not too rashly equate Russia with atheism. She has a government which is pursuing a clear cut and intelligent view of life and understanding of man, which must be taken seriously, and is based upon a clear cut and coherent philosophy. At the same time, none of us can fail to realize that the organized working class all over the world, whatever its thought about Russian tyrannies, has always looked to Russia as a place where the economic security of the common man ranks among the first things in the consideration of the state.
Now, these two diverse bodies have come together. The opportunities of understanding and intercourse are still very slight. They will grow, they must grow. In proportion as our help to Russia becomes real, our countries will be drawn closer together in understanding. I have no proposition to make; I have no easy solution to offer. I do earnestly hope that the question of religious freedom will be raised again between us. I do believe that in this vast matter of Russia we should recognize the magnitude of the issues at stake, that these are great world historical moments in which we are living, and that we should lend our influence to processes of understanding and mutual learning from each other.
Then a word, a very brief one, just to get in the thought that we in the Western Democratic countries must learn to take the East far more seriously.,-and I don't mean by that merely to take it more seriously as a field of industry. I mean to take it more seriously as being populated by peoples of ancient civilizations, people who have dignity, people we ought to recognize as having their own initiative in the affairs of the world. I imagine that there are but few of us who have lived through these last weeks and have thought of China and Japan and Malaya and the Dutch East Indies and Burma and India, who haven't realized that a whole chapter was being rolled up before our eyes, and that we were moving on into a new period of world history in which at least we may be quite certain that the East will have a place of her own, as, in the eyes of so many Western men, she has not had.
Now, in closing, I don't think I abuse the hospitality of this Club if, very shortly, I mention one or two things in which I think the church, by which I mean the whole great body of persons who call themselves Christian, can help in this whole business. Much of what I have said depends upon the decisions of statesmen, backed up by public opinion. But there are, as I said before, deeper issues at stake than either the political or the economic. I would say first that, if there is to be a real control of power, it must, in the last resort, rest upon the sense that earthly power is derived from God and is to be responsible to Him.
I quoted Lord Acton with his famous remark about the corrupting nature of power. Part of the case for democracy is, I think, that, by the diffusion or distribution of power, you tend, so far as any political system can, to minimize the dangers of absolute power. Even so, you are never fool-proof. There is no short cut, in terms of politics, to the complete avoidance of tyranny, and I know no way whereby power can, in the last resort, be made responsible, except that there be people who will constantly witness to the fact that all power is of God, that the state enjoys power which is given to it by God, and that, therefore, the state, the government, the ruling people, the judges, are responsible to the God who made them, for the power which they use.
And I can conceive one of the jobs of the church in any decent society to be a constant reminder of that supremacy of the power of God.
Secondly, many of you must have realized, even with the very scanty news that the cables bring us, how important in Europe today is the stand which is being taken by the Churches. I don't want to exaggerate. I hate, very much, exaggeration by what I might call professional Christians, of the power of the church, its influence, its extent. I am well aware that Christians are a small minority in the world, even perhaps in our so-called Christian countries. Yet, in Norway, in Holland, in the little occupied countries of Europe, in the Confessional Church in Germany, in the little church groups in France, you have got case after case of the fundamental protest against iniquity, the fundamental witness to righteousness, centering in groups of Christian people, and with leaders who have shown, I think, quite amazing courage. I think of Bishop Berggrav, now thrown out of his Bishopric, Primate of Norway. I think of the churches in Holland with their protest against the anti-Semitic laws imposed against Holland. I think of the same things in France. I think of Niemoller, and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Muenster with his noble protests against the iniquity of the Gestapo. These men in Germany are not on our side, politically. They want Germany to win the war, but they are still people prepared, at immense personal risk, to lift up their voices for righeousness against the entrenched and embattled power of evil in high places. I say those people are people we can talk to, and there are a lot of men in Europe today whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose, who have stood things most of us would not have the courage to stand, who know one another, and who, in these years of the drawing together of the churches of the world, have learned to love and trust one another, and who, although they can't meet now, have a fellowship present in faith, if not in sight.
Now, all I urge is this, that, when the statesmen are looking for the principle of world order, deciding between this and that,--Federal Union, and regional organization, and world courts, and all the rest of it,--there is in existence a certain fundamental human unity, a kind of cross section of humanity, of people who differ in language and colour and forms of government and wealth and education, but who are united in one thing, which is common religious loyalty. This is not just words. I remember, some years ago, I had the good fortune to visit Japan. I remember talking with various Christians whom I got to know, about some most difficult questions on which our respective countries radically differ. One had the sense all the time, that, while there were great differences between us, yet, nevertheless, we started from a certain unity which we bad not created. We started from within a certain loyalty which bound us both. And that, I think, is a real fact of some importance for the world.
Here we are going to have this grim future, with all this chaos, and hate, and revenge, and fear, of which I have spoken. At least we are going to have little islands, little oases, scattered about, of people who have been through the fire, of people who have held fast, of people who have gone on believing in one another across the boundaries of race.
I don't claim too much for this. I claim very little, in the secular sense, but no man of imagination, no man, I think, of spiritual imagination and sensibility, can fail to see how great might be the possibilities inherent in such a supra-national fellowship as that of the Christian Church. Now, in my last minute, may I venture one other suggestion, which I think goes very deep down to the basis of our very understanding of man and the world. I suppose, Sir, that most democratic persons of British stock, if we were asked what the war is about, would say something about freedom, liberty, or, perhaps, the value of the individual man, the sacredness of the individual. I can well understand that, and I say it, too. But I would just say this, that we need to realize on what all that is based. There are great masses of people in our western lands who, in fact, have ceased to believe in God, and for whom the world of reality is an unending flux of change, matter in motion, rising and falling cultures, civilization, economic forces interlocking, an endless flux and change, and that is all that is known.
Now, if that is all that we know, I do not know what we can say to the people who urge that a great nation or race or class is a more important thing than a man. There is more of it, it is bigger. Why should it not be right, if all we know is this endless moving flux, for the larger entity to have more importance than a man?
But, if, on the other hand, the thing that Christians have believed, placing themselves--don't let us forget this--upon the noblest insight of Old Testament prophesy, if the things Christians believe are true, then man is fundamentally one whom God made, one to whom God speaks, one who has been made so that he knows no peace on earth until he does the will of God.
More than that, a man is one for whom the Son of God was content to die. Now, this isn't going to become a sermon, but surely, if this is true, it is of the most immense and immediate relevance to this question of freedom. And if these things are true, there is a link between the humblest human creature and Eternity. You can't make such a one, of whom this is true, into a cross-section of a racial bloodstream, or a mere unit in a national entity, or anything like that, because he has a link with Eternity.
I say, therefore, this doctrine of God is the basis of human freedom and, as I mentioned to our Chairman during the luncheon, it is one of the paradoxes of our time that mankind has been trying during the whole humanistic period to erect the values of humanity in their own right, and has landed in various kinds of idolatry of nation and race and class. The paradoxical truth is, that it is when you place the values of humanity upon man's dependence upon God, that you achieve real freedom, and either these things are not true or they are of supreme relevance to the world of politics as well as to the world of religion. (Applause.)
MR. C. R. SANDERSON: Dr. Paton, it is my privilege, on behalf of the audience in this hall, and on behalf of the audience on the air, to try to say "Thank you" for this thoughtful and thought-provoking address. I think, Sir, you put your finger on the thing of which some of us are already half conscious. ' That is, our acceptance, so to speak, of the inevitability of inevitability. Perhaps it is our greatest weakness of this moment, because, Sir, as you say, it tends to make us misread instead of discern the signs of the times.
Gentlemen, on the physical side, history has to reach back to the time when invading hordes spewed themselves over Euro-Asia, to find a world conflict as great as the conflict today. On the mental side, history has to reach back to the Renaissance or the French Revolution for anything that can possibly parallel the mental influences of this conflict. As we look back at the vast panoramic changes that have taken place in one epoch and another, we cannot help wondering-couldn't people then see what was happening?
Sir, you have asked us today: Can't we see what is happening? Or do we not follow that human failing of tending to take the landmarks in life as solving future problems? When a boy goes to public school, when he goes into high school, life is solved. When he leaves school and goes into the university, life is solved. When he leaves the university and goes to work, life is solved. When he falls in love, life is solved. When he gets married, life is solved. Instead of this being true, we know that these landmarks merely open up new problems which require not only stability of character but also real wisdom for their solution, because, as one grows older, the problems of life become more and more complex.
We stand facing another landmark today, and, Sir, as you have so emphatically pointed out to us, a stable peace will depend not only on victory, which is a physical thing, but also on preparedness for peace, which is mental as well as physical. On behalf of this dual audience, Sir, may I express to you our gratitude for your stimulating, your thoughtful, and, as I said before, your thought-provoking address. (Applause.)