It was in Europe that the apparent division of a world growing out of war was most obviously evident. The speculation about the continent’s capacity to recover, evident in the latter part of the war, continued. Its condition seemed parlous and its erstwhile global eminence precarious at best. No state in 1945 could ‘speak for Europe’ at the new UN. Some supposed that a continent — perhaps it was a civilization — had finally destroyed itself. The second struggle for mastery in Europe had perhaps fatally undermined the supremacy, indirectly or directly, which the continent collectively had exercised in and over other continents. The Europe of 1945 seemed to the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, to be ‘a rubble heap, a charnel house, a breeding ground of pestilence and hate’. In wartime New York the exiled French Thomist philosopher Jacques Maritain had counselled against slick solutions. The world was too sick for its sickness to be easily cured. He wrote against the ‘anarchic individualism’ which he believed to have ruined the vital principle of democracy. The democracies had not only to triumph over Hitler but also over their own self-contradictions in the social and spiritual realms. It was a stance which he and others pursued in France, the Low Countries and in circles beyond the confines of ‘Catholic Europe’. Such anxieties seemed well founded. ‘Western democracy’ needed safeguarding.
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