Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 20, No. 14. September 26, 1957
But Still it Moves
But Still it Moves
During World War II, when Russia and the West were allied in the struggle against Hitler, an English clergyman wrote: "Both of us will learn and profit from the alliance. . . . we can profit from Rusia's experience. She is actuated, in the major operation of life, by a moral purpose which I could wish with all my heart was consciously our own. . . . And priceless lesions in toleration—in freedom of speech and expression, in freedom to organize in this group and that without police inspection and interference—can be learned in England as in no other civilized land."
The mutual profit and learning of lessons does not seem to have been very great in the 12 years since the War. Outwardly, the West has hardened in its capitalism at the expense of its once-boasted civil liberties, and Russia's totalitarianism has grown rigid at the expense of the humanist sprit that inspired her socialism.
But is the night so black?
Behind Hungary and Cyprus and little Rock, there lurk the glorious phantoms of imminent change.
British politics is not just its superficial aspect of Suez-style gunboat diplomacy and Rent-Act-style class legislation: it is also the reawakening of the Labour movement, its jettisoning of the capitulationist cold war foreign policies, "softly-softly" internal programme, anti support for colonial gangsterism. Untouchable hilly things like the public school system, the peerage, even the monarchy, have begun to attract broad fire. Repression in East and Central Africa is being gradually matched by enlightened abdication in West Africa New attitudes lie just beneath the surface, occasionally breaking through.
The American scene is not just the hypocrisy of Cabot Lodge (screaming about Suez and winking at Guatemala and Jordan): or the rapacious oil interests in the Middle East; or the resurrection of McCarthy's soul in the body of something called Morros. The Supreme Court has in a number of historic decisions, made a stand for freedom of movement, political association and opinion, and access of the defence of all Irrelevant material, which is putting new light into the Statue of Liberty's torch. And some recent contributions by certain Congressmen indicate that there is a deep and strong current of opposition to reactionary policies at home and abroad.
The Soviet bloc is harder to get clear. But there are significant signs: a play attacking the secret police has a record run: a novel satirizing the bureaucracy becomes a best-seller; Moscow students question their professor about Hungary; Mao Tse-Tung Calls for a new tolerance and latitude in a metaphor which could have been lifted from the "Arcopagitica": Poland breaks ranks and starts off on a road of its own: and a Russian reader writes to a Polish magazine: "Your magazine enjoys great popularity here . . its frank position frequently provokes heated discussions." Letters from New Zealanders at the Moscow Festival show that doubt and debate are far more widespread than "Pravda" or Moscow Radio let on. None of these developments can be accounted for in the silly newspaper terms of a power struggle in the Kremlin or an arbitrary switch of line. There are social forces in motion that are pressing for change.
No one who thought about the matter seriously ever supposed the world would remain for ever in the forms into which it was frozen by the cold war. But for over a decade certain historic streams seemed to cease flowing—English and American radicalism seemed to retreat in disorder, and the Russian revolutionary tradition to the barb-wired into Vorkuta. The lessons in planning and welfare we had to learn from the Russians, and the lessons in freedom they had to learn from us, remained conspicuously unlearned.
But the ice is thawing: and there are new shoots beneath it. Behind the short-sightedness and wrong-headedness of the Macmillans. Eisenhowers, and krushchovs, there are millions of human hearts yearning for change. And a glance at history suggests that from yearning springs the action that brings about change.