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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 21, No. 2. March 27, 1958

Nash, Nehru and Neutralism

Nash, Nehru and Neutralism

Mr. Nash's unequivocal utterances at and en route to the Seato Conference at Manila are disappointing. At a time when leading spokesmen for Labour in Britain, and others much further right, are declaring in favour of spreading neutralism in Europe as a means of preventing conflict between Nato and Soviet power, Mr. Nash appears to be trying to talk the already entrenched neutrals of South-East Asia into enlisting in the armed "Western" alliance.

True, his reported remarks about the advantages of Seato membership for the Indians are partly softened by his tone of caution towards the open line-up of Seato with Nato and the Bagdad Pact. But his general attitude displays a too marked lack of sensitivity to the real issues confronting the Pacific and South-East Asia area with which New Zealand's future is integrated.

Mr. Nash effects admiration for Mr. Nehru. But he shows complete failure to comprehend Mr. Nehru's tremendous achievement in the world of power-politics. By linking nationalism, democratic liberties, and socialism with a tradition of non-violence and practical sanity, the Indian Premier has stretched a broad belt of uncommitted territory and humanity between the impassioned camps of "East" and "West" in South-East Asia.

George F. Kennan, one-time tub-thumping exponent of the U.S. policy of "containment", has concluded in his recent Reith Lectures that only the reproduction of this general pattern in Europe can rescue it from being the jittery powder-keg of the world. Air Marshal Sir John Slessor, in a series of articles recently reproduced in the "Dominion", has come to the same conclusion, and so have the last two British Labour Party conferences—their general view being best expressed in Denis Healey, M.P.'s, new Fabian tract, "A Neutral Belt for Europe?"

For the sentiment for neutralism in Europe is as great now as it is in Asia. Just as, one by one, Burma, Indonesia, Ceylon, Afghanistan, Laos have followed India, and substantial groups in Japan, Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines favour the same course, so on both sides of the curtain in Europe there are moves towards disengagement from the two great colossi and convergence towards the central position so solely occupied by Austria.

The Hungarian and Polish stories are well enough known. We tend to forget that there are a few uneasy allies on our own side, and perhaps have not heard of the strength of the neutralist component in the huge opposition alliance in Greece, the known pro-neutralist sympathies of prominent Italian statesmen such as President Gronchi, and the nearly neutralist platform of the Mendes-France group in the French Radical Party.

It is easy to overlook the fact that in the panic of the marshalling of opposing teams when the cold war got under way around 1948, choice of allegiance was sometimes made for queer historical reasons. British Labour M.P. Zilliacus records in his latest book ("A New Birth of Freedom?" p. 143) a conversation with Czech President Benes just after the war when his nation was walking the tight-rope between Socialist democracy and Soviet Communism. Said Benes: "Democracy can survive here only on condition that those who were allies in the war remain partners in the peace. . . . But if the rifts already beginning to show, widen, and the Powers fall apart and quarrel, our compromise cannot survive, and we shall have to choose between Russia and the West. In that case we will choose Russia . . . because the choice for us will not be between Russia on the one hand or France and Britain on the' other. For if France and Britain quarrel with the Soviet Union, they will start rearming Germany—and we do not want another Munich." The Czechs have reason to remember Munich. We forget that many East Europeans who compromised with Stalin and became absorbed into the ruling machinery of the one-party state, were themselves as devoted to Western Social Democratic traditions as Nash or Gaitskell. Polish Premier Cyrankiewicz is in just this category—and he told Zilliacus (ibid., p. 215) little over a year ago that "One day, as we put more democracy into our Socialism and you put more Socialism into your democracy, we shall meet halfway."

Nor was it only in the East that Socialists saw Moscow as a lesser evil. Victor Gollancz wrote during the war: "I do not want 'Stalinization,' but if I had to say which, as a fait accompli, I should think better, Russian bolshevism or a chaos of sovereign capitalist states: then deliberately and after full reflection I should give my vote to Stalin."

Capitalism, as the compost-heap on which fascism, imperialism, unemployment and war have spawned, has justly earned the hatred of men of goodwill to such an extent that they will fall headlong into the hideous error of a self-styled socialism which lacks democratic freedoms and decencies.

Similarly, the horror of labour camps and judicial murders have made men of goodwill recoil into the arms of politicians intent on advancing the banners of capitalism under the slogans of democracy.

European sentiment is consolidating in favour of a neutral position which combines the socialist ideal of the East with the democratic ideal of the West. It is a measure of the maturity and vision of such statesmen as Nehru and Sukarno that Asian opinion has been fairly thoroughly consolidated in this direction for a long time.

It would be fitting for a New Zealand Labour Government to approach it with sympathy and a little humility.