“Of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can hope to get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.
The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”
I am not a pacifist. My concern is that those who have cried in the past for “No More Brothers’ Wars” have been enthusiasts for the regime of which Goering was a member and have defined brotherhood in his, its and their preposterous “racial” terms. Such is not in fact the basis of Western civilisation. That is the recapitulation in Jesus Christ and His Church of all three of the Old Israel, Hellenism and the Roman Empire.
How, and I do not mean these questions rhetorically, can those formed by that recapitulation be in any sense faithful to it by taking up arms against each other? How can nations long ago called into being either directly or (because the bonds thus forged led to political union) indirectly by the baptism of kings and chieftans, so that those nations have the baptismal covenant as their fundamental charter severally and collectively, abrogate that covenant and charter by waging war against each other? How can individual persons united by a common baptism raise their hands in anger against each other?
How can anyone who sees every human being a child of the One True God, Who desires that everyone become part of His one family and community of faith, go into battle against any other actual or potential member of that family and community, any other child of the One True God, any other human being whatever? This is the genius of monotheism in international affairs. As much in principle, or as little in practice, it is the witness both of Islam and of Christianity, not because they are both worshipping the same god (they certainly are not), but precisely because they both affirm that there is One God, to Whom all must relate equally, which means that all can and may relate to Him equally.
No more bothers’ wars, indeed. Which means no more wars at all. And that, in turn, means the hard, hard work necessary in order to prevent them, of the kind not put in by those responsible for doing so in 1914, or in 1939, or since 2001. It means not making promises that cannot be kept, most spectacularly to defend the Poland that, after six years of blood, toil, tears and sweat, we ended up signing over to Stalin as if he were any better than Hitler. It means accepting that an Originally Sinful humanity cannot be perfected either in this life alone or by human effort alone, so that schemes to spread “freedom and democracy” at the barrel of a gun are intrinsically doomed and must be utterly eschewed.
Wars, though perhaps unavoidable very occasionally, are unconservative in that they are colossally expensive, morally and socially disruptive, liable to embitter old enemies while creating new ones, good for decadent and globalist big business, and productive of baby booms that think they can start the world again by imposing their tastes in that vein for decades on end. The use, threatened use, and thus simple possession of nuclear, radiological, chemical or biological weapons is absolutely contrary to the just war tradition that is intrinsic to our heritage as the True West: Hebrew, Greek and Latin in Christ. We see from the above that any practically conceivable war at all may very well be ultimately incompatible with that heritage. It is precisely the avoidance of war that necessitates the individual and collective discipline and determination of which conservatives approve.
And no more brothers’ wars means no more fathers’ wars, not least since those sent to war tend to come from working-class backgrounds, where starting to have children often still happens earlier than has lately become the norm. Think of those very young men whom we see going off or coming home, hugging and kissing their tiny children. Our society urgently needs to re-emphasise the importance of fatherhood. A legal presumption of equal parenting. Restoration of the tax allowance for fathers for so long as Child Benefit is being paid to mothers. Restoration of the requirement that providers of fertility treatment take account of the child's need for a father. Repeal of the ludicrous provision for two women to be listed as the parents on a birth certificate, although even that is excelled by the provision for two men to be so listed. Paternity leave to be made available at any time until the child is 18 or leaves school.
That last, in particular, would reassert paternal authority, and thus require paternal responsibility, at key points in childhood and adolescence. That authority and responsibility require an economic basis such as only the State can ever guarantee, and such as only the State can very often deliver. And that basis is high-wage, high-skilled, high-status employment. All aspects of public policy must take account of this urgent social and cultural need. Not least, that includes energy policy: the energy sources to be preferred by the State are those providing the high-wage, high-skilled, high-status jobs that secure the economic basis of paternal authority in the family and in the wider community. So, nuclear power. And coal, not dole.
But that authority cannot be affirmed while fathers are torn away from their children and harvested in wars. You can believe in fatherhood, or you can support wars under certainly most and possibly all circumstances, the latter especially in practice today even if not necessarily in the past or in principle. You cannot do both. Which is the conservative position? Which makes present in the world the Fatherhood of God proclaimed by Jesus Christ?
Although I ferociously defend the place of Christianity in our national life, I do have misgivings about the role of the churches in Remembrance Sunday events, going back as those do to the War without which there would have been neither any Nazi Germany nor any Soviet Union, and encompassing as they do the War during which moral standards collapsed, after which came the Baby Boom, and the conclusion of which saw the handover of ancient Christian lands to a militantly atheistic tyranny.
During the First World War especially, the very considerable number of conscientious objectors was disproportionately motivated by Christianity of an unusual seriousness. The strong participation of the Free Churches, and perhaps above all of the Methodists, seems particularly odd, considering that no mention is ever, ever made of those who held fast to the Nonconformist pacifist tradition of Lloyd George himself during what was then the very recent Boer War, but who nevertheless did sterling, invaluable work as medical orderlies and other things.
Pope Benedict XV called for peace through a return to pre-1914 borders, which would have precluded both Hitler and Stalin. But Catholics never mention this, just as we never mention that there would have been no 1916 Rising, and thus no Irish Civil War. Ulster Protestants and their allies in Scotland, on the Conservative Evangelical wing of the Church of England, and elsewhere seem untroubled by the conflict that made possible the partition of Ireland, with its loss to the United Kingdom of much of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and Church of Ireland bourgeoisie, of a not inconsiderable section of Ulster Presbyterianism, and of the Protestant working class in Dublin and Cork. Anglo-Catholic Socialist opposition is forgotten, even though it tied in very well then, and ties in very well now, with the position of the Papacy from and to which overtures are being made. And so one could go on.
Quakerism, Primitive Methodism, and Anglo-Catholicism of both the “Western Use” (Tridentinising, yet often Communist) and “English Use” (Medieval reconstructionist, yet association with which was one of the reasons given by the Communist Party of Great Britain for the expulsion of the Trotskyists), were founded by and for people profoundly unsatisfied by the standard civic religion of the English, to which Catholics have not belonged since the Reformation. All four were notable among opponents of the First World War, the Quakers entirely so, and all to that extent in agreement with the Pope. And all but the Quakers, as a body rather than as individuals, were totally committed to the doctrinal and moral essentials of classical, historic, mainstream Christianity, and to the Augustinian patrimony of the West, making both the Marxist and, from the 1920s onwards, Fascist tendencies within Anglo-Catholicism all the more tragic.
Because, of course, that orthodoxy can never be reduced to, though it must certainly form the constantly corrective basis of, the civic religion of the English or of anyone else. It is the most radical force in Western civilisation – literally so, since it constantly calls back that civilisation to its roots in and as the Biblical-Classical synthesis in Christ and His Church. Indeed, it is the most radical force in the world. Or it is nothing. And it was certainly something during the First World War. Truly, a lesson for our own times.
Does anyone know of a monument to, for example, the Friends' [i.e., Quaker] Ambulance Brigade, or the Friends’ War Victims’ Relief Committee? There really ought to be one. Unveiled by the Queen. Perhaps in 2014? Or is that too long to wait?