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Hilltop: A Literary Paper. Volume 1 Number 2



The Editor and Committee of Hilltop, having considered the urgent problem which now faces all people in this country, and with the firm conviction that such a statement is at the moment the best means in their power of affecting the July referendum and through that referendum the peace of this country and of the world, here wish to present to their readers this joint editorial.

This magazine is a vehicle for people whose chief concern is with literature and the uncompromising evaluation of life activated by literature. We are not interested in party polities for their own sake, and if we now write an apparently political editorial, it is because we believe that the deepest human problem has become political. The human imagination has been caught by an idée fixe which drives it onwards: warfare, earlier in this century the outcome of a concrete conflict which could at least be sloganised by politicians, has become an addiction. There is no Utopia, the end is not even the preservation of the present world; war has become, to use an administrative commonplace, a matter of machinery. We are caught in the machine! We simply execute our orders; as in an ancient tragedy, simply following out the fate with which we are burdened, knowing only that we are driven. We might, quite unintentionally, enter the state of universal destruction.

We are faced with the horror of a new conflict being almost inevitably prepared. But as novelists and poets we are not altogether blind victims of fate. We are conscious and we are involved, but involvement does not mean that in the coming battles we are committed to any one of the conflicting parties. The fighting has become a disease, and we are pained by the symptoms of that disease manifesting themselves more and more frequently as time goes on.

A Prime Minister calls out, "We must be ready to defend our country. I want my answer!" And a Governor-General, proposing a toast, warns vaguely but darkly against leftists, foreigners, and any elements open to suspicion—this at a time when there is a state of terror abroad. "We know that in this country there are people who would like to see the British Empire fall to pieces." And a new definition of our way of life is thought out by newspapers adapted to the new state of mind—"cohesion and discipline, in a modern State, are matters which should be above party politics."

The most tragic example is found in the recent deliberations of the Labour Party. As reported in the "Southern Cross," the party's attitude to the international situation was as follows:—"In the five days [of the Conference] the conscription issue took very little time, as it was disposed of in a few minutes after the resumption after lunch. Delegates were even more interested in the progress which had been made in the past twelve months."

The next sentence, in fat lettering, reads:—"The highlight of this Conference was in the announcement that 17,522 new houses had been erected in the past year and that the five-year plan to build 60,000 new houses for New Zealanders had achieved two-thirds of its total number in under three years."

There is still the basic belief in building, while at the same time the imminence of war receives no consideration. For why should it? We are too busy, perhaps, and busy as we are with honest hard work, we build our extermination.

These statements must be placed against their correct background. On the national field they merge with the R.S.A.'s frequently expressed desire to have conscription imposed, and their tendency to have leftists excluded from their own number, with the National party's acceptance of conscription and page 4 the restriction of civil liberties for Communists as main points of their election policy, with the Government's slow but certain conversion from pacifism to militarism, and finally with the easily predictable inertia of most Christian and trade union bodies in the country. Internationally, the background includes the growing conviction of western politicians that only the existence of the Soviet Union stands in the way of world peace, the unofficial but insistent demands that the atomic bomb be used before it is too late, and the wrecking of England's industrial recovery by a frantic armament policy. Nationally and internationally, there has been a retreat from reason, an acceptance of hysteria. And here, at this very moment, the most influential people in the land are not even content to watch Rome burning; they must add fuel to the flames.

In this situation we are concerned with values which do not appear to be held in esteem by any of the likely contestants of a world war. Our involvement in the present chaos compels us to present the case of health against disease, the case of life against the machinery in which it is caught. The knowledge that such a position is favoured only by isolated groups of intellectuals should not lead to a temporarily comfortable acceptance of public hysteria and apathy, but to a heightened sense of the responsibility, which consciousness confers. We must not be frightened into inertia, or brow-beaten by politicians and general staff to accept a position which can only make war of the inevitability of war must be combated—the attitude of mind which might at the same time see the conscription referendum answered in the affirmative, and bring war perceptibly closer. For this reason, if for none other, we should not now vote in favour of conscription. War may be avoidable according to the weight of human effort seeking either outcome. To vote for conscription is to accept the inevitability of war; that is, to throw one's effort behind the forces making for war. Peace is a fugitive hope; but a hope still fitfully alive. While it still lives with us, we must endeavour to give it strength; conscription would make it an outcast.

New Subscription Rates.

After this issue the subscriber's price for Hilltop will be 2/6 a single copy. 10/- a year, This is because we are printing a larger paper than at first seemed possible. We hope our present subscribers will continue reading us at the new rates.