Have Political Messiahs Brought Peace?
FORMER U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was one of the leaders of the peace negotiations after World War I. He was seen by some as “the selfless champion of a new world order based on justice and a right regard for the aspirations of all people.” His answer to the problems of world peace was the League of Nations. He had high hopes for his pet project.
One account states: “At one point he amazed [British Prime Minister] Lloyd George and [French Premier] Clemenceau by explaining how the league would establish a brotherhood of man where Christianity had not been able to do so.” Why had Christ Jesus not “succeeded”? Wilson answered: “He taught the ideal without devising any practical means of attaining it. That is the reason why I am proposing a practical scheme to carry out His aims.”
Wilson was proclaimed by the French press as the “High Priest of the Ideal, Leaguer of the Nations, Benefactor of Humanity, Shepherd of Victory and Legislator of Peace.” Once again the people were being led to put all their hope and trust in politicians and their schemes for bringing about a “new world order.” Did the League of Nations bring lasting peace? Or did it contribute to an era of chaos?
Soon after the inauguration of the League more political messiahs rose up and caused suffering for millions. In 1922 Benito Mussolini, an avid reader of Machiavelli, came to power in Italy. His fascism was acclaimed as “the true religion.” Yet it brought in an era of “violence, and of fraud and chicanery in elections” states historian Palmer. Professor Gentile, a prominent Italian philosopher of fascism, “praised the use of violence, even the blackjack violence of the Fascists, when employed in the interest of the state.” He stated that such violence is “willed by God, and by all men who believe in God, . . . and in the law which God certainly wills for the world.”
Was this a manifestation of Christ’s code of conduct or of Machiavelli’s maxims? Which of them said, “It is much safer to be feared than loved”? Certainly not Jesus Christ! In contrast he taught: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:35.
In 1935, with the blessing of the Catholic Church, Fascist Italy attacked and defeated Ethiopia. What did Wilson’s messianic League do about that? “The League of Nations again failed . . . to provide machinery for disciplinary action against a wayward Great Power.”—A History of the Modern World, by R. R. Palmer.
An Era of Terror
By 1933 Adolf Hitler, a formerly obscure Austrian Catholic, had become the chancellor of Germany. He did not wait long to express his scorn for the League of Nations and the Treaty of Versailles, the terms of which he felt had so humiliated Germany in 1919. He withdrew Germany from the League, renounced the restrictions of the treaty, and began to rebuild the German armed forces.
In his political manifesto, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), Hitler explained why he later resorted to spiritual terror based on lies and slander: “This is a tactic based on precise calculation of all human weakness, and its result will lead to success with almost mathematical certainty . . . I achieved an equal understanding of the importance of physical terror toward the individual and the masses.”
Hitler established the Gestapo which, along with the SS, became an agency of terror. By ruthlessly persecuting minorities, he achieved the respectful fear of the majority without provoking their hatred. This not-so-silent majority hailed Hitler as their führer. Regardless of their religious background, most condoned or complied. Machiavelli’s maxims again became a political reality.
From 1936 onward Hitler followed a policy of annexation and invasion that led to the occupation of the Rhineland, Danzig, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. All of this was the prelude to a much greater chaos to come.
“They Must Be Killed Like Swine!”
In 1936 Fascist General Franco spearheaded a rebellion against the leftist republican government in Madrid. The uprising in Spain was blessed by the Catholic Church as if it were a holy crusade. In time, according to writer C. L. Sulzberger, Hitler and Mussolini sent 85,000 troops to support Franco’s army. German planes bombed Spanish cities.
Antonio Bahamonde, a top aide to one of Franco’s generals, commenting on the bloodshed and mass killing of prisoners, said that Franco’s generals “knew very well that only by the force of terror . . . would they be able to dominate the people . . . It is terror in the guise of order, and the order is the order of the cemetery.” Another general put it bluntly: “The common people are swine. They must be killed like swine!” (Miracle of November, Madrid’s Epic Stand 1936, by Dan Kurzman) These men were officers of a conquering army that was largely Catholic. In the name of political expediency, they approved murder.
As in all wars, atrocities were committed by both sides. Once again the fruitage of hate-inspiring politics, backed by religion, came to the surface. The people paid the price. The Spanish Civil War, which lasted for three years, resulted in the death of more than a half million people. Spain’s war became a curtain raiser for a much greater tragedy—World War II.
World War II and More Cataclysms
Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 triggered the declarations of war by Britain and France against Germany. Humankind found itself in yet another convulsion of mass destruction and misery. Politics, backed by big business, had once again betrayed the common man.
Why was big business involved? In politics money means power and big business has the money. Without it Hitler might never have become chancellor of Germany. William Shirer wrote in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: “As the Twenties neared their end, money started to flow into the Nazi Party from a few of the big Bavarian and Rhineland industrialists who were attracted by Hitler’s opposition to the Marxists and the trade unions.”
The second world war produced yet another ghastly harvest of man’s inhumanity to man. How many died in the six years of politically motivated slaughter? Some estimates say 55 million people. More millions were “left crippled, blind, mutilated, homeless, orphaned, and impoverished.” (The People’s Chronology, by James Trager) The political “wild beast” had struck again!
To establish permanent peace on earth, the politicians of the leading world powers in 1945 came up with a revamped League, the United Nations organization. Yet, since that date, there have been at least 62 wars, civil wars, revolutions, and purges around the world that have resulted in millions of deaths and casualties—all in the name of political ideological differences.
Professor Palmer aptly wrote: “The human world has been in the grip of . . . a cataclysm since 1914. The First World War, the post-war troubles, the Russian, Chinese, Turkish, and other revolutions, the great depression, the parade of the dictators, the Second World War, the second crop of revolutionary changes and post-war troubles, are all part of the same process of readjustment, . . . which is not yet over, and for which ‘cataclysm’ is not too strong a word.”
Now, in 1985, the world appears to be divided mainly into two great opposing political camps. Within those alignments, there is still a great variety of political and social systems, ranging from military dictatorships to democratic regimes. Clashing ideologies threaten to provoke a world nuclear holocaust, a cataclysm that the majority of mankind does not want.
Even though there may be sincere politicians who work for the good of mankind, yet it has to be admitted that divisive politics has brought us to this brink of extinction. Is there any way out? Is there any government or form of rulership that can really unite the human family in genuine peace and mutual respect?
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President Wilson proposed the League of Nations as “a practical scheme to carry out [Christ’s] aims”
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Benito Mussolini’s fascism employed violence in the interests of the State
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Adolf Hitler used terror to maintain his power
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Generalissimo Franco accepted support from Hitler and Mussolini