On Human Unity; E. E. Hirschmann; Gollancz 25s.

‘Half a century ago, there existed in the Socialist International a living movement growing freely in the political centres of the world, oriented towards the ideal of a classless united humanity. Today there is no such movement. Whatever may remain of this ideal in post-Stalin Communism or in what is left of Social Democracy, neither is likely ever to have such a claim again as the Socialist International once had to stand for the unification of mankind in justice and brotherhood. The one has too much violated the values it was intended to serve, the other has allowed the aim to recede too far behind its short-term preoccupations . . . This failure might seem to demonstrate the rejection by the human spirit of this ideal. But it may instead be the case that so great an aim requires a greater spiritual preparation . . .’

Mr. Hirschmann’s work is intended as a contribution towards such ‘greater spiritual preparation’, and even those with a constitutional or dogmatic objection against Mr. Hirschmann’s style will find this not overly-well written and loosely constructed book to possess considerable interest.

The author begins by establishing a considerable degree of consensus among the religions and ideologies of mankind as to the desirability of the brotherhood of all men and even (particularly among the religions of India) of the brotherhood of all living beings. The Jain must use continual caution not to harm even microscopic life. ‘The contents of what is thought good may differ, but the principle is held in common that men should seek the good for all men or all living beings in the same way that they seek it for themselves or for those they love . . . It is not for lack of knowledge of the general principle at least that men fail to put it into practice . . .’

However, the most notable feature of human history is men’s failure at most times and places to put such common ideals into practice. This is the fundamental problem of the idealist. ‘They are violated in a manner so extreme that to speak of folly gives us little aid to understanding, so naked that we cannot even speak of hypocrisy’. Does this reduce us to the ‘necessity’ of believing that there are some men whose declared goals have no connection with their actions and the ends they actually pursue?