It is almost axiomatic that what Harold Laski writes is well worth reading, and his latest book is specifically addressed to the American college audience, as its sub-title "An Open Letter to American Youth" indicates. It is a small book, but it presents within a compass of 150 pages one of the most cogent and eloquent arguments for vital American concern with the war in Europe, and whole hearted support of the British war effort. Laski doesn't advocate an American expeditionary force, and he doesn't feel that such a force is at all necessary, but his plea is for full and continued material aid.
He claims no panacca value for a victory over Hitler, but he maintains that such a victory must be the basis for any steps towards a better world. "The defeat of Hitlerite Germany," he says, "... would be the signal for the release of renovating and revolutionary forces." But Laski also has a word for those who fear the impact of those "revolutionary forces" on the world which they are struggling to preserve. The key to his attitude is in his dictum that "the answer to revolution is reform." Unless we can replace Hitler's empire of oppression with democratic governments, we shall always be faced with the prospect of violence.
It is in this context that we must consider the influence of Russia in the post-war world. Laski advices that "the conservative American student who fears that the defeat of Hitler will open the floodgates to Bolshevism has the elementary duty to see that the masses. . . have something to conserve." Bolshevism is only a danger, according to Laski, if we cannot offer another and better alternative.
In a series of brief but comprehensive discussions, Laski deals with the various arguments against American interest in the war. He shows the tremendous difference between the temporary abrogation of civil rights, planned and agreed to by representatives of the people, in Parliament and in the trade unions, and life under Hitler. He demonstrates the complete impracticability, even for sincere socialists, of advocating "turning the war into a civil war" and creating a socialist government to carry on the struggle. We must win the war first, says Laski, because any great change would wreck the war machine, and without victory over the external enemy, both socialism and democracy would be lost. He answers those who are calling for a complete blueprint of British war aims by pointing out that with events so completely in flux, the most that the British can do is to define the criteria on which their specific aims will be based, and this they are doing.
Laski's arguments are convincing as they stand; but it is the spirit that animates them which leaves the greatest impression on the reader. It is an active belief that freedom is worth fighting for.