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Editorial – Pistol Point Peace

7 October 1939

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 07 October 1939

Pistol Point Peace

These are early days to be talking of war aims although we are already being entertained, in the correspondence of the columns of the Press, to academic discussions of the subject by dons and philosophers who have probably little else to do and no other contribution to make.

It seems to us that we had better secure the lion’s skin before we divide it. Our war aims have been clearly stated and re-stated by the Prime Minister, and the sooner we get down to the business of achieving them the better. Nevertheless, we were deeply impressed by the broadcast talk of the Archbishop of York, who got to the very heart of the matter when he laid it down that we could make no peace at all with Hitler, a man so utterly perjured that he has broken faith at last with himself and is at war with “Mein Kampf.”

Neither can we make peace with the criminals by whom he is surrounded. We can make peace only with a German Government of whose integrity and peaceful intentions there can be no doubt. Dr. Temple’s other great point was that the peace must be a Christian peace which shall neither hurt nor destroy, a peace wholly based on justice and not on revenge, however grievously we may suffer in the war. It must be a peace that takes no account of what a victorious enemy would impose on us. The harsher features of the Versailles Treaty have often been justified by comparison with the Treaty of Brest Litovsk and the pitiless exactions of the Germans from our temporarily defeated Allies in the last war.

“The villainy you teach me,” said Shylock, “I will execute, and it shall go hard, but I will better the example.” In no such spirit must peace again return to the world; in such a guise it would be no peace. We dare not, in the light of this heart-breaking experience, speak again of “a war to end war.” ‘Tis not in mortals to command perpetual peace, but if civilisation triumphs in this horrid conflict, it must deserve its survival by a humane and understanding re-arrangement and reconstruction of the shattered frame of society. It is in this mood and temper that we and our Allies must prosecute this war, at whatever cost, to the point at which the German people are ready to renounce Hitlerism and the reign of force.

If the words of the Archbishop of York could reach the German people and sink into their hearts, they would rouse themselves, while there is yet time, to throw off this monstrous tyranny and recover the liberty of a civilised people to resume its place in a civilised world.

We write this on the eve of a new ultimatum which Hitler is expected to deliver in the Reichstag. It is generally supposed that he will propose a peace which will justify and confirm him and his strange ally in the partition of Poland, and will commit Great Britain and France to acquiescence in all his crimes and in plans for “settlement” of outstanding questions entirely for the benefit of Germany, Russia, and Italy, and almost entirely at the expense of the British and French Empires. It will be a peace presented at the pistol point, fortunately against adversaries armed and resolved to defy threats and to meet force, however formidable, with overwhelming strength.

The Prime Minister, while reaffirming the determination of the French and British peoples to come to no accommodation with the intolerable regime which has established the present reign of terror in Europe, has declared that if peace proposals are made they will be examined. Any proposals proceeding from Hitler can be examined only to be rejected, and for this reason it is to be regretted that Mr. Chamberlain made even this slight and formal concession to the new Nazi manoeuvre. No tolerable peace is possible until the ‘ German people are ready to renounce Hitlerism and all his works, and to negotiate in an atmosphere of freedom, candour, confidence, and good faith. No alternative with which Hitler might menace this country and its friends can be more terrible than the prospect of terms made with Nazi-ism triumphant. Having set our hands to the plough we must not for an instant look back.