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GREAT BRITAIN: Revolution Wanted

2 minute read

Last week, with totalitarianism in the ascendency throughout Europe and democracy fighting for its life, first stirrings of a counter-revolutionary movement to reassert democratic principles became apparent. Once a revolutionary idea of the first order, democracy, reasoned a small group of thoughtful Britons like Basil Kingsley Martin and Cyril Connolly, was a latent force which, if it could be revived in Germany, Italy, Poland and France, would offer the easiest way of crushing Naziism.

“Either we turn this war into a war of European revolution or we shall be defeated,” wrote New Statesman and Nation last week in calling the democratic-minded of all countries to arms. “There is no halfway house. Against the brute force of Hitler no mere material forces or military power will prevail. But against the idea for which Hitler stands . . . the revolutionary idea can prevail. . . . With that war aim as our strategy, the defense of this island takes on a new form. Britain becomes the rallying point of revolutionary forces all over Europe and beyond its frontiers. . . . The Nazi offensive against plutocracy is finished: the new German plutocrats stand suddenly on the defensive guarding their ill-gotten gains against the revolutionary fury of the oppressed peoples. . . .”

Adding its voice to the cause of a democratic revolution, highbrow Horizon proclaimed: “We are fighting for capitalism, for empire, for culture, for democracy, for Christianity. . . . Our empire must be a democratic empire, our Christianity a spiritual force, our culture a living thing, our materialism within the reach of all, and our fat sweated off us. . . . Whatever we may think of the objects of their revolution, he [Hitler] and Mussolini are active revolutionaries. They cannot be opposed successfully by the old, the rich and the rigid. . . . It is not a question of parties but of enabling all the progressive forces of England to take control and the born leaders to lead, and of relegating to obscurity those who have prepared Hitler, Mussolini and Franco and not prepared anything else. Each country gets the fifth column it deserves; had we interned in time our Elder Statesmen, we would not be locking up our Fascists today.”

The question facing the standard-bearers of European democracy was whether, having been exploited, abused and distorted for more than a century, the democratic ideal still retained sufficient heat to ignite revolutionary flames.

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