28 August 2017

World War II

The English novelist and Catholic convert Evelyn Waugh (he went to school in the college I taught at for three decades and then to my College at Oxford) began the Second World War enthusiastically in favour of a Crusade against the Russian-German Alliance. Now, spendidly, everything had become clear. The enemy at last was plain in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off. It was the Modern Age in arms.

When this conflict turned into a war in which Britain was in alliance with Stalinist Atheism, he felt it had become a sweaty tug of war between two indistinguishable teams of louts. Only the chill bonds of law and duty and custom kept him to his obligations as an army Officer.

I wonder how Catholic historians in a hundred years time will analyse the role of the Second World War in the decline of what I believe some ghastly neocon once called old Europe: the Catholic and Orthodox Europe.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

The ghastly neocon in question was Donald Rumsfeld, who was contrasting the contemporary foreign policy stances taken by the countries who had recently escaped the yoke of communism (Poland, Hungary, Ukraine & company) with those of the historically dominant voices of continental Europe, France & Germany.

Knowing that, would you still maintain that the governments of modern France & Germany are "Catholic and Orthodox" in comparison to Poland, Hungary, Ukraine & company?

John Vasc said...

I hope it's not redundant to give more background for those who haven't read the book: Waugh (through his hero, Guy Crouchback) sees in the Sword of Stalingrad a symbol of the betrayal of the original 1939 anti-tyrannical cause against both Hitler and Stalin. That bejewelled, gold and silver-mounted sword (no expense spared there in an age of real austerity) was commissioned in 1943 at the command of King George VI and inscribed in Russian and English : 'TO THE STEEL-HEARTED CITIZENS OF STALINGRAD • THE GIFT OF KING GEORGE VI • IN TOKEN OF THE HOMAGE OF THE BRITISH PEOPLE'.
Not 'respect',or 'gratitude', or 'recognition', mark you, but 'the homage of the British people'.
Before being handed over personally by Churchill to Stalin at Yalta, the Sword was displayed around the UK. Crouchback witnesses the long queues of people outside Westminster Abbey "suffused with gratitude to their remote allies" and come "to worship it". Guy is repelled by their "piety", mentally contrasting that "atheistic" symbol with the sword that rests on the church tomb of his crusading ancestors.

Waugh's novel has many deft touches of social satire pointing out the upper-class stalinism that infested the civil service (plus ca change), the growing backstairs influence of the homintern (ditto), and the general bossiness and subtle, permanent debasement that happened in wartime Britain, and affected its society and foreign policy 'irreversibly' - a word we hear a lot just now..for some reason...:-)

(Waugh: Chap. I of 'Unconditional Surrender' - 'Sword of Honour' trilogy, Vol.III)

Bert Louth said...

Pure coincidence no doubt, but Waugh was a pretty miserable academic.

Patrick O'Flynn said...

I recall seeing a Newsreel, many years ago, in which W. Churchill, stated that he would ally with the Devil, if it would help him to defeat the Nazis. Well, it seems that he did.

The war effort became filled with evil actions; both deliberate and the turning of a blind eye to the evil of others. The fire bombing of whole cities, the "Take no prisoners" orders given by many commanders, and the many excesses in the Secret War.

I have long contended that America lost its soul in World War II, but I now see that it was Western Civilization that lost its soul and as a result is dying.

Edward Ahlsen-Girard said...

Probably with some criticism. But there are times when one fights the more urgent fight. Pity that FDR thought he could 'manage' Stalin, but as long as Hitler was both the immediately lethal threat AND grinding away at the Commies, it probably wasn't necessary to insist on fighting both at once.

And speaking from 27 years of naval service, it would have been very awkward operationally. I don't care for an amphibious landing near Murmansk to enable inland operations at all.

And anyone who proposed anything in the Baltic at that time should be sent to place of no influence.