29 JANUARY 1972, Page 4


If men believe that the leaders of their country are determined upon a disastrous course then it is their public duty

in all ways open to them to make their leaders change their minds or otherwise to force the abandonment of that

disastrous course. Men will construe "in all ways open to them" differently, and

the methods they adopt will in any event be subject to the proper civil condition that the ways they act will

not be in themselves, or lead to, eventu

alities even more disastrous than those their actions are endeavouring to avoid.

It is never easy, and frequently very

difficult, to oppose a determined leadership: the leaders, by definition, have the

power; and if they know their minds and are determined men, then to deflect them from their purposes, whether through political means or by changing their minds, requires political resolution and skill, and intellectual constancy, of the highest order. Usually, in the end, the leaders will have their way and the disastrous course will be pursued until the disaster itself supervenes. This does not mean, however, that the opposition should not have been made or that it was entirely fruitless. The opposition may have caused the disaster to be less than complete; and its existence and quality may, after the disaster, enable a recovery, a return, or a new departure the better to be made.

Suppose a country under a particular political leadership to be bent on a war which, in the considered opinion of many men, cannot but end by weakening the country, putting at risk its political institutions, corrupting its culture, threatening the continued existence of its national identity, and placing in the hands of foreign men and foreign rules and foreign institutions the determination of its future. It is the clear and obvious public and political duty of men who hold such views about the leadership's policy to resist that policy as vigorously as possible, wherever and whenever and however possible. Such resistance, such opposition, must be sustained at all costs. If, despite the opposition, the war is declared, then but only then a different situation arises. The facts that the war is foolish, that the policy of those leading the country into it was mistaken, that far from there being any necessity to go to war the real need was to seek peace: all such considerations, in the event of war, become irrelevant. Those who most vigorously opposed the war because it was against the true interests of the country will now (because their love of their country is not less than the warmongers', and may well be greater) seek that that war be most vigorously prosecuted.

Men might well hesitate to oppose a leadership's road to war were it clearly the case that the leadership, in its war policies, enjoyed the clamorous support of the people. If feelings of nationalism were violently aroused, if patriotic love were deeply engaged, then in such a case opposition, however sincere and however reasonable, might best be uttered meekly or be mute, and buying time by biding time might well be the course of sensible political action and the expression of a well-understood public duty. In a case where the leaders of a country are determined upon a war which the people themselves, far from urgently desiring, either oppose or are reluctantly reconciled to, then public men who oppose their leaders have no cause for meekness, no excuse for remaining mute, and can find no possible public duty in biding their time.

It is very unlikely that the party political ideologies of a country's parties should conspire to produce doctrinal agreement such that those in favour of war all belong to one party and those against all belong to opposing parties. Thus opposition to the warpolicy within the governing party, and support for the war-policy within the opposing parties, ought to be seen and accepted, quite clearly and without recrimination and blame, as part of the baggage of politics. Just as it is desirable, when a war-policy is being energetically pursued by a nation's leaders, for parties opposed to that leadership to resist the war-policy in order to preserve the nation's options and respectability (supposing the policy to meet with disaster), so, on a smaller scale, is it desirable that a party's warpolicy be resisted within the party. Far from there being anything disloyal, or unpatriotic, in the sort of dissent that is indicated, there is that which is essential, loyal and patriotic not only in its utterance but also in its furthel Only when and if the opposition, and without the governing partY'if failed and the policy has beet', vocably carried out, do considenivo of necessity, of loyalty and of 133treld insist that dissent be replac energetic assent. A war planned one thing, fit to be opposed: 3 declared is another, demanding support. Mr Heath's signature at Brusse!s week marks a further stage 1.11af undeniably successful war-carn1:441',, bringing Britain into the E1.1,51' concert of nations as defined, tively, by the Treaty of Rome. Til?si, itself was of no great historica1,0 ficance, although in future years I I acquire a kind of mythic aura. very, much in the interests war, or Common Market, to boast that the Brussels perforolo mattered. Those who oppose Mr 114 European venture cannot but the verve with which he has purSu'd policy. Press, radio, television ano marketeers are contriving to Pe4 the public that what they are Pi( important (which it is), right (vilito is not) and inevitable (which it not).

When leaders of a countrY with determination and skill a rillod: policy, then is the time for all and true to be prepared to abari“,, aid of the party. Letters to neWS1r: and ostentatious abstentions 3,:;! enough, and it is a great pity t' seventeen Tory abstainers °Pei week's European vote do not sd realise this. If a policy is though'e both important and wrong, it ou; be resisted root and branch for as it is reversible. The GoverrliPi European policy remains reverSib'ri duty of those who oppose it iS tbet to resist it with all vigour and occasion. Should the Govero, policy eventually carry the (1°4', should Mr Heath lead us irrevocov:, the European entanglement whic",r, most ardent desire, then, but onbi will it become incumbent up0P, fight the war we have believe'ii mistaken. Until that day arrives it does, the obligation is quite clee policy must be resisted at all OD in every legitimate way.