§ Mr. HOLT
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the words,But regrets that, in accordance with the decision of the Supreme War Council at Versailles, the prosecution of military effort is to be the only immediate task of Your Majesty's Government.I move this Amendment for the purpose of elucidating and, if necessary, of challenging the policy of the Government on a definite point. That point arises in connection with a decision taken by the Supreme War Council at Versailles, and the particular decision we wish to discuss I will read to the House:In the circumstances, the Supreme War Council decided that the only immediate task before them lay in the prosecution with the utmost vigour and in the closest and most effective co-operation of the military effort of the Allies until such time as the pressure of that 149 effort shall have brought about in the enemy Governments and peoples a change of temper which would justify the hope of the conclusion of peace on terms which would not involve the abandonment in face of an aggressive and unrepentant militarism of all the principles of freedom, justice, and respect for the law of nations which the Allies are resolved to vindicate.We do not take any exception to that statement, except the word "only." It is the word "only," and the use of the word "only," which we desire to have cleared up. No one, I am sure, has the slightest doubt in assenting to the proposition that it is the immediate task of the Government to pursue with all vigour the military effort. We are all agreed— at least I think so—that until the day on which peace is actually signed the military effort must be prosecuted with all vigour, with all good judgment, and with all prudence. We may or we may not agree as to how far this or any other Government is acting up to that standard, but that is not a matter which we want to discuss in the course of the present Amendment. Do not let the House mistake the meaning of this policy. The meaning of this action is an outpouring of blood and treasure on a tremendous scale. It means great privation at home, and for many an endless, lifelong sorrow. It means the destruction of all that is best in the civilisation of Western Europe. It is no doubt true—I believe we shall all agree— that even those very terrible sacrifices are preferable to the triumph of Prussian militarism. I doubt if there is any person in the country who would dispute that proposition. But what we want to know is this: Is that the only task of the Government? Is that, indeed, the only alternative? Are the bearing of these frightful sacrifices and the triumph of Prussian militarism, in fact, the only two alternatives? Is there no other way? There is another question that I want to put to the House: Is this military effort by itself and alone a certain way of accomplishing our end or is it even by itself a way of accomplishing our end at all? I will deal first with the second of those questions. It appears to me that this Resolution of the Versailles Conference is, in fact, a reaffirmation of the knock-out blow policy. The other day the Prime Minister referred to the statement which he had made shortly after Christmas to some Labour deputation. He made a speech in this House just before Christmas, and no doubt all of us felt that both those speeches were by no means unsatisfactory. But it 150 appears to us that the Resolution or the Versailles Conference does not reaffirm the spirit of those speeches. The Prime Minister is very often able to point to a satisfactory, or more or less satisfactory, speech on this subject, but he is nearly always able to point to another speech made a day or two before or a day or two after it which has another implication altogether. This declaration reminds me of the statement that the object of the War was victory. That statement appears to be extraordinarily patriotic and noble when it is uttered by one of our own statesmen and so sinister when it is uttered by the Kaiser. Germany says,The victory of the German arms must first be recognised.Is no peace possible until the victory of arms on one side or the other, or on both, be recognised? On victory the best comment is to be found in President Wilson's speech the other day, in which he told us,Whatever affects peace affects mankind, and nothing settled by military force, if settled wrongly, is settled at all. It will presently have to be reopened.That is a wise and noble utterance. If that is true, then the doctrine that there is no duty before His Majesty's Government except that of military effort appears. to fall to the ground; it is not consistent with President Wilson's statement. What, after all, is the War about? We are to restore Belgium, we are to restore France, we are to restore Serbia. No doubt those are objects which can be attained by military force, and so long as your military force remains greater than that of your antagonist you can arrange such territorial redistributions as you think it. But the War has some very different objects. It was a war made for the destruction of Prussian militarism; it was a war for the restoration of public law in Europe; it was a war in order that regard should be had to the rights of small nations, and it was a war to establish a League of Nations. All those objects cannot be attained by force. They are ideas and ideals, and it is by spirit, and not by force, that you will accomplish that part of your object. We engaged in this War very largely with the hope that it would be the end of war and the end of the reign of force. You never can bring the reign of force to an end by the use of force alone. May we ask whether it is quite certain that all our aims are really in accord with our professions and in-accord with the policy of President Wilson? There have been revealed to us 151 through the columns of the "Manchester Guardian"—a newspaper to which for its conduct in this respect we owe a very deep debt of gratitude—certain treaties which have been made with Italy and with Roumania. These treaties with Italy and Roumania seem to me to be treaties many of the terms of which cannot be reconciled with our most sincere and our most earnest principles. What, indeed, is our position with regard to Alsace-Lorraine? Are we engaged to use force to remedy an act of force? If we are committed to take Alsace-Lorraine by force from Germany and transfer it to France, that is possibly undoing what I think was a great wrong, but we are, in fact, as far as Alsace-Lorraine is concerned, committed to the old policy of force, and not to the new policy. Or are we committed to the policy of self-determination, subject to the approval of an international court? It is very important that the aims both of ourselves and of our Allies should be made perfectly clear in this respect. We ought to know whether we do really mean to live up to President Wilson's policy or whether we have something quite different in view. Is this use of military force to the bitter end indeed the only way? If you read President Wilson's speech, I am sure that he does not think it is the only way. He tells us:So far as we can judge, these principles that we regard as fundamental are already everywhere accepted as imperative, except among the spokesmen of the military and annexationist party in Germany. If they have anywhere else been rejected the objectors have not been sufficiently numerous or influential to make their voices audible. The tragical circumstances is that this one party in Germany is apparently willing and able to send millions of men to their death to prevent what all the world now sees to be just.I do not think that many of us will be inclined to quarrel with that pronouncement of the American President. If that is true, is there no conceivable way but military force of getting the military party in Germany out of power? Is it not more than probable, if we make it quite plain not only to other persons in Germany, but to the people of Austria and Germany's other Allies, that our objects are really and truly in accord with the original aims for which we began the War and with the declarations of the American President, that we may do more to put out of power those sinister forces now ruling over Germany than anything we can do 152 by mere military effort? Have we not to make it plain to the people among our enemies that their rights and their place in the sun do not depend upon force, that force is not necessary to preserve them, and that force would not be used to take these things from them? Why, when we come to this report of the proceedings at Versailles, do we find that the estimate of Count Czernin's speech is so very different from that which President Wilson gives us? Let me quote President Wilson on this subject. He says:Count Czernin seems to see the fundamental elements of peace with clear eyes and does not seem to obscure them.That is President Wilson's statement in regard to Count Czernin. He evidently believes that if Count Czernin were alone it would not be difficult to treat, but that is not the view given to us by the Versailles Conference, which tells us:The Supreme War Council gave the most careful consideration to the recent utterances of the German Chancellor and of the Austro-Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs, but was unable to find in them any real approximation to the moderate conditions laid down by all the Allied Governments.Is that really a fair and true summary of the pronouncement of those two statesmen? Many of us would be prepared to agree that certainly as regards tone it was not unreasonable as applied to Count Hertling, but so far from it being a reasonable description of Count Czernin's statement, it is, on the contrary, quite plain that President Wilson, who, I venture to say, is by far the greatest figure among all the statesmen who control the Allied forces, evidently takes a totally different view of the merit and value of that declaration. Finally, I would like to say that it is a thousand pities that the Allied Conference at Versailles did not take a line such as the American President has taken, and should have issued the very negative and meagre declaration which is all they have been able to contribute to the solution of this great and tragical world problem. I want now, if I may, to ask the Government for specific answers to one or two questions. I find that President Wilson, in his last statement, announced the principles of peace, which he has reduced to four propositions. The first question I want to ask the Government is, Whether the Government of this country does, in fact, accept those four propositions as a just and fair basis of peace? Let me read them: 153First, that each part of the final settlement must be baaed upon the essential justice of that particular case, and upon such adjustments as are most likely to bring a peace that will be permanent;Second, that peoples and provinces are not to be bartered about from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were chattels and pawns in a game— even the great game, now for ever discredited, of the balance of power; but thatThird, every territorial settlement involved in this War must be made in the interest and for benefit of the population concerned, and not as a part of any mere adjustment or compromise of claims amongst rival States; andFourth, that all well-defined national aspirations shall be accorded the utmost satisfaction that can be accorded them, without introducing new or perpetuating the old elements of discord and antagonism that would be likely in time to break the peace of Europe, and consequently of the world.6.0 P.M
I wish to ask the Government specifically whether that is their policy? I wish to ask them specifically this question: Is that the policy of all our European Allies? I would like to suggest to them that if the answer to those two questions is in the affirmative, it is their duty to reassemble the Conference at Versailles, or somewhere else, and make a clear and specific announcement, jointly and severally, to that effect. I think that might go a very long way towards shortening the terrible trials which are in front of Europe. We all certainly require that until peace is signed the prosecution of the War shall be carried on with the utmost diligence, but to the military effort, for which no praise can be too high, there must be added the wise statesmanship of President Wilson. Without that statesmanship I am gravely afraid even the greatest sacrifices which our soldiers make will prove of no avail.
§ Colonel Lord HENRY CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
I beg to second the Amendment.
My object in taking part in this Debate is not to embarrass the Government or to urge an abatement of our military activities, but I take the opportunity which this Amendment gives me of urging upon His Majesty's Government, with all the sincerity and humility of which I am capable, a course of conduct which I think is vitally necessary for the effective and vigorous conduct of this campaign. There is a widespread feeling in this country that the Government of the day has not appreciated the very effective part which policy and diplomacy could have played in support of our military effort. I do not wish to go over old ground or to indulge in 154 recrimination, but I submit that this is emphatically a time when diplomacy and policy should not be relegated to the background. On the contrary, I submit that we have now arrived at a juncture in our affairs when the atmosphere is most favourable to political and diplomatic activities. We have been at war now for nearly four years. There is all over Europe a general war weariness and a desire for peace, and it is no exaggeration to say that moral forces are as strong as physical and political as military. Not only is there a general desire for peace, but out of the anguish and misery of this War a new spirit has been born into the world, which rises above all the old diplomatic, military, and political ambitions and activities, which sees a vision of a new and better international order, and of a world set free from Kaisers,. Crown Princes, Ludendorffs, and Hindenburgs; and also at home, though perhaps this is too much to hope for, a world set free from Beaver-brooks and Northcliffes. The Government should be representative of the people, and not of a small gang of people who happen to own Sunday newspapers. What is wanted now on the part of the-Allied Governments, in view of this new spirit that is being born into the world, is not a spirit of aloofness, but sufficient sympathy and understanding of these new aims to make the fullest use of the favourable atmosphere in order to isolate the military party in Germany, not only from the Moderates in Germany, but also from the Austrians, and to hearten and encourage the people at home by an assurance that the Government of the day is really honest in saying its war aims are disinterested.
It seems to me that the Conference at Versailles afforded really a great occasion for diplomacy to play an active part. For instance, it might have encouraged the Russians in their resistance to the demands of the Germans. It might have encouraged the German and Austrian democracy to throw off the yoke of the military autocracy, and it might also have assured the people at home that there is nothing inconsistent in their published declarations of war aims. Instead of that, it gave the world a somewhat unsatisfactory and disappointing declaration. It was satisfactory to hear that the Allied Governments are in complete unity and are resolved on a vigorous prosecution of the War, but they would hardly have been. 155 worthy of the trust we place in them if they had said or done anything less. What was unsatisfactory was that they apparently relegated to the background any possibility of political or diplomatic action. It spoke of the declaration of the Allied war aims. My recollection may be wrong, but so far as I remember we have had no joint declaration of war aims for over two years. It is true we had from the Prime Minister a really excellent declaration given to the Trade Union Congress, but since then we have had from my Noble Friend (Lord R. Cecil) an intimation that the agreement with the Italian Government still holds good. I cannot help thinking that the two statements are mutually destructive, because in view of the Italian agreement we are bound to go on fighting not only until the Trentino is restored to Italy, but also another area which is fairly German—Dalmatia—an area in which the Italians are in a very large minority, and another province where, as far as I know, the Italian population is absent altogether. It must not be surprising, therefore, if people in this country are still in a rather confused state of mind as to the war aims of the Government. The Prime Minister's declaration was satisfactory, but only a week or ten days afterwards we have a declaration from a member of his Government which makes nonsense of the Prime Minister's declaration.
I really feel very strongly that if the Government desires to reduce pacifism, unrest, and revolutionary feeling to a minimum it cannot possibly do better than have another conference with the Allied Governments and make it clear that the Allied Governments are pledged, without equivocation and without doubt, to the policy of no annexation and self-determination. I know my own Constituency well, and I believe it is typical of the whole country. I am sure the people of this country are solid for the essential purposes of this War. They are solid for the establishment of international rights and they are solid for the restoration of Belgium, because they recognise that until Germany has done obeisance to the sovereignty of international right there is no hope for humanity—no hope for a better order in the international world and no hope for a League of Nations. But although they are determined and resolute to fight for what are the essential purposes of this War they are equally reso- 156 lute not to go beyond the essential purposes of the War. They are willing to make sacrifices. They are willing to put aside all question of making a profit out of this War, and they are willing to put aside all question of making territorial gains out of the War, but they do not see why the Allied Governments should not be held down by the same bonds. They do not see why the Italians should be allowed to annex territory in which their people are in a minority, and if peoples are not to be bartered about from sovereignty to sovereignty like chattels or pawns in a game they do not understand, why the principle of self-determination should not be applied to the people of Alsace-Lorraine as well. It is all very well to talk of property, but Alsace-Lorraine is neither the property of France nor of Germany. It is the property of the people of Alsace-Lorraine itself', and they alone should have the right to determine their future.
Perhaps if a poll were taken to ascertain the ideal war aims of the people of this country 90 per cent. would say that if Germany were to evacuate Belgium, France, Serbia, and Roumania, they would be satisfied to leave; everything else to the international conference that is to assemble. It is time the Allied Governments put a categorical and united question to the Central Empire whether they would agree to that. That question, as far as I am aware, has never yet been put by the Allied Governments to the Central Powers. It may be objected that this is not the time for peace terms, when a German offensive is probably to be launched against our Western Front, but whether a German offensive is to be launched or not it does not absolve us from the obvious duties of assisting the military power in every possible way by political and diplomatic action. I am perfectly sure of this, that you will never get the people of this country united, and you will never reduce pacifism to insignificant proportions, as it is in your power to do, unless you make a firm and solid declaration which the people of this country can trust and believe, that we are going to be asked to fight for nothing else but the ultimate peace of the world and the future welfare of mankind.
§ Sir EDWARD PARROTT
From the point of view of one who is a passionate believer in the righteousness of our cause and who is profoundly convinced that 157 when Britain threw down the battle gage to Germany she rose to a height of moral grandeur rarely, if ever, attained in the whole of her history, I would like to speak a few words on this Amendment. Ever since the War began we have had from members of the Government and many others war aims stated and restated. An organisation has been set up for this purpose, and I believe subsidised by the Government, and the consequence has been a perfect Babel of voices and a medley of incompatible statements, which have reduced the average man to a state of bewilderment. The War Aims Committee having made confusion worse confounded, the Labour Party stepped. into the arena with a most elaborate declaration which covered the whole field, and in some respects rushed in where angels fear to tread. Out of this declaraton emerged the Prime Minister's statement, which certainly lacked nothing in definiteness and completeness. With the terms of that declaration I very cordially agree, but I have a suspicion that the very definiteness and completeness of it caused a cold chill to pass through the hearts of the many genuine seekers after peace who undoubtedly exist in the Central Empires. Nobody, I suppose, thinks that the very last word on the subject has been said in the Prime Minister's statement. No one assumes that, like the laws of the Medes and Persians, it cannot be altered. No one but knows that even if we were crowned with the completest of military victories we should be unable to reconstruct the map of Europe in precise conformity with his formulae.
No doubt, whatever happens, there will have to be negotiations, and the very first and cardinal aim surely should be to bring the enemy to the Council Chamber and to discover there by personal exchange of views if there is a basis for that negotiation which is bound to come, no matter how insistently you state your aims, no matter how long the War may go on, and no matter how it may end. I believe that this can be done without weakening our resolve, without jeopardising our military position in the slightest and without whittling away any of those fundamental principles for which we stand and must continue to stand. Who now doubts the wisdom of that proposed Stockholm Conference which was so ruthlessly banned by the Government? The sympathetic conversation of Russians and Britons of similar political complexion 158 at such a conference might have done a great deal to prevent that defection which has changed the whole course of the War and has thrown us back to the year 1914. Do we gain anything at all, we and the Central Powers, if we simply adopt the role of Homeric heroes hurling defiance at each other? Who supposes that the language used by such belligerents is ever interpreted literally, or that the inflated rhetoric which is common on such occasions represents the real sentiments which they cherish? No doubt very much of the bombast on both sides is actually the outcome of mutual distrust and fear. Is it not quite conceivable that Count Hertling's reply is of this particular character? As to the response of Count Czernin we have a conflict of opinion between the Prime Minister and President Wilson. The Prime Minister said yesterday that it wasExtraordinarily civil in tone and friendly, but when you come to the real substance of the demands put forward by the Allies it was adamant.Contrast that with the statement of President Wilson. Frankly, I prefer the Presidential view not only because I regard Mr. Wilson as the most inspired exponent of Allied aims, but also because I believe from his position he is able to regard the circumstances with a juster perspective. Then consider the distorting medium through which the speeches of the representatives of the Central Powers come to us. On Monday last an error in the transmission of Count Czernin's speech was rectified. The telegraphic version seemed to say that Austria was prepared to defend to the end the German possession of Belgium, and I suppose by implication the Bulgarian possession of Macedonia and the Dobrudja. It is now discovered that, according to the German version, what Austria was prepared to defend was the pre-war possessions of her Allies—a very different thing altogether.
Surely there are two outstanding war aims which are endorsed by the bulk of the Allied people. There is, first of all, the destruction of Prussian militarism, and then there is the elimination of war as the greatest tragedy of civilised life, or, in President Wilson's own version, "To make the world safe for democracy." I am not yet convinced that the majority of the War Cabinet have any particular concern with democracy, save to make certain that it does not assert itself against the interests which they par- 159 ticularly represent. It does require a great stretch of imagination to conceive either Lord Milner or Lord Curzon as the champion of democracy. I am convinced that much of the uneasiness which now obtains among working men is due to the subconsciousness that democratic aims can hardly be fostered by those who make no secret of their dislike for full popular rule. That is by the way. My particular point is that there must be, and that there demonstrably is, a large body of opinion amongst the people of the Central Powers who have already reached the conclusion that Prussian militarism is an unmitigated curse, and that it has plunged Germany into an abyss from which she can hardly emerge for half a century. Should not our policy be to foster this state of mind amongst such people there? Surely it is our bounden duty to strengthen the hands of those of enemy blood who are striving to bring about this great aim. Are we doing it when we assure the world that we are about to fight a duel to the death, and nothing else? Are we not defeating our own ends? Are we not inflaming the patriotism and steeling the determination of those who are already favourable to our cause by such a statement?
I will turn for a moment to the League of Nations, the, object of which is to regard war as treason against civilisation. It is to include our present foes. When we announce that military effort only is our immediate task, are we helping those in Germany and Austria who share our hopes, and who might help us to realise this splendid ideal? I wonder whether with regard to the League of Nations we actually are in real earnest. I know that the Prime Minister has blessed the proposal, but some recent utterances of the Attorney-General in America would seem to give colour to the idea that there is a section of the Government which regards the League of Nations as a mere chimerical dream. I wish to make my attitude perfectly clear on this question. Though I desire that we should continue the War with every fibre of the national being, I am not prepared to trust the future to a single weapon. While I urge that we should fight on with all our strength, I cannot see the advantage of banging, locking and bolting the door which, for all we know, may lead to the realisation of our aims by another route. While I can never dishonour our gallant dead by yielding on a single fundamental 160 question at issue, I cannot support those who despise and reject any drift of opinion which will dispel the foul miasma which is at present enshrouding the civilised world. At the conclusion of that very eloquent and earnest speech yesterday in which the hon. Member for Kilmarnock Burghs seconded the Address, he quoted the words of Arthur Clough,For not by Eastern windows only, When daylight comes, comes in the light.Assuredly there are other avenues by which the blessed light of morning can come into the darkened chamber of the world. It does not only pierce the gloom through the orifice which is designed for the purpose. A beam of promise may come from a crack in the roof, a chink in the wall, or a rift in the door which points to the sunset. Do not, I beseech you, while you are straining your eyes to the horizon and you see there the lurid flash of the bursting shells, which seem alone to promise illumination, stop up every other opening through which the light of deliverance may come. That victory for which we hope and pray cannot alone be won on the stricken field. Military defeat in itself is not a guarantee of continued peace in the future. Would it be so with us? Would it be so with them? Were it so, Austria, with her genius for defeat, would have had no part or lot in this War. I earnestly hope that while the Government adheres to the firm resolve to prosecute' the military operations with the utmost vigour, they will make it clear to the world that there is a door opened for honest and; sincere negotiation, and that if the end and the aim can thus be realised they will always be ready to sound the Last Post in this terrible War.
§ Colonel AUBREY HERBERT
When one has been out of practice and one has not spoken for some time, my experience is that one always runs the risk of forgetting the most important thing, and in order to avoid that risk I will come to it at once. Those who feel, like myself, most anxious for the clean peace of President Wilson, to which Count Czernin seems to be approaching, are very clear about one thing—that we are not going to mistake a Prussian peace for that. If, unfortunately, Prussia is able to control her Allies completely, then with that same unity and with that same resolution that we have had since the beginning of the War, we will fight until the victory is won. For one moment I think that I may take it upon 161 myself to speak for the Service Members of the House of Commons, and I can say that everyone of us now is as ready to endure, and more ready, for now we know what Germany has done, and as ready to lay down our lives for our own country and for the countries of our Allies—because we are all fighting for the same cause—just as we would have done two years ago. We would do that for a cause, but I do not myself want to do that for a query. I want to know what it is that we are going to be killed for. For instance, there have been preposterous arguments in our own Hun papers—in the Northcliffe Press—as to what we intend to do to all the Allies of Germany. There were leaders in the "Times," one of them suggesting making a fantastic mosaic of Austria. There may be some eccentrics who are ready to die for that leader in the "Times." As far as I am concerned, it can go and shed its own ink.
It is in these papers that you hear a continual outcry about the pacificism of this country. I have been away for a long time, and I have not been in touch with my own Constituency, but I think that I have been able to follow what is the opinion of the working man there, and I see no pacifism in this country at all. I say that our people are prepared to endure to the end, suffering less than the Germans are suffering, as we know, but prepared to endure to the end if we have still got the same ideals that we had at the beginning. What is called pacifism in this country is miscalled pacifism: it is merely a protest against the brutish Prussian attitude of our own Yellow Press, that Press — the Northcliffe Press—which is doing everything that it can to unite our enemies against us by saying to everyone of the allies of Germany, "There is not the slightest use in your trying to make terms or surrender, because you will have no mercy from us"—and that is the soldier's friend ! I do not know if this House wants a different Government, but I do know, at least I believe I know, that this House wants that Government different, and for this reason: When President Wilson puts forward his proposals he sees a vision of peace. He looks at a fixed star. When the Prime Minister puts forward his proposals they vary according to his needs and his necessities. He oscillates between something that is completely reasonable, and in agreement with President Wilson, and the knock-out blow. I think that this last declaration that has come from Ver- 162 sailles is an extremely unhappy example of what I have been speaking of. We have very recently had a most reasonable speech from the Prime Minister to the Labour unions here. Then again we go back to the knock-out blow at Versailles. Let me say that that declaration ignored the fact that Count Czernin had made a very definite advance towards peace, and that that declaration read as the declaration of one hostile Government anxious to continue the War to another hostile Government, and not as the declaration of a people anxious for an honourable peace to another people also anxious for peace.
Now until to-day there are many of us who have thought that unity was our highest asset, and that, therefore, we must in no circumstances and on no occasion criticise the Government. Those of us who criticise now do so because we have realised this, that in every war in the past you have fought with two weapons, with the sword in one hand and with terms in the other. Those two weapons are each the auxiliary of the other, and when we see a declaration like the Declaration of Versailles, which throws away one of our most important weapons, then at whatever cost we hold that it is our duty to criticise. All over the country there have been Labour resolutions asking the Government to declare its war aims. The answers of the Government have been various. They have often been very nebulous. I do not think that, with the last exception of the Prime Minister's speech to the Labour unions, they have given anything like satisfaction. I wish to try to develop a rather difficult point, and I do not wish to weary the House, but I will only dwell for a few moments on this point. We went to war in South Africa. We were a great nation, and in the end we won the war, and we gave liberty to the people whom we had beaten in the field. I think we are all agreed that that has paid us very well, that it was a good precedent. In this War we have taken the German Colonies in Africa, The Prime Minister has said that those Colonies must have a Government acceptable to the people. In this War we have gone up to Baghdad and taken Mesopotamia, and we have said that that country must be governed in accordance with the desires of the people. We have gone to Jerusalem, and we propose to set up a free Jewish State. The point that I want to put to the House is this: Are we not fighting for the same things in Europe 163 as we are fighting for in Asia and Africa? Why should it be only the people in Asia and Africa who are to have the Government that they want? It seems to me that in the main the body of Europe is pretty healthy, but there are some sore spots, and if you want health in the future you have got to heal them. If you go to a man in London, Paris, Berlin, or Rome, and ask him if he wants to be under another Government but his own, you are certain of an answer in the negative. But we know that there are large communities living under an alien yoke. We know that Trentino is mainly Italian, and that Alsace-Lorraine is French; but if you go, let us say, to Trieste or Strasburg, Sarajevo or Ipek, and ask the people what Government they want to be under you are not sure of your answer. If we are sincere in desiring the self-determination of the peoples, there is only one way in which it can be secured, and that is by asking the people what they want? If we are not afraid of our ideals we shall not run away from a referendum.
In recent times war has always come from one of two things—either cupidity of a Government seizing land that by right belongs to other countries, or by the insurrection of the people whose land has been seized. Now we have come to a parting of the ways. If we are going on in the same bad, vile, old way of Governments, looking only to their immediate advantage, of Governments behaving like the lowest form of animals, the octopus, that when you stab it to the heart, goes on grabbing, the sponge which you cut in half, but which goes on living—if you go on with Governments having no soul, no charity and no Christianity in them, except where their own people are concerned, but where outsiders are concerned they are troglodytes, then this is the future which we have got to look forward to—the general bankruptcy of the taxpayers and the general servitude of the men at arms. For myself, I believe, as an hon. Friend of mine has said to-night, that there is a new spirit abroad in the, world, that we have all made great sacrifices in this War, and I believe that there is not one of us who thinks that one life has been given in vain if we attain to this ideal, but let us be very sure that we do attain to this ideal. On the whole it seems to me that the terms put forward by the Labour party, though I am very far from 164 being in agreement with them all, are very much wiser, at all events, than the terms put forward by the Press — I will not say than the terms put forward by the Government. It has been my fortune to be upon many Fronts, very often at critical times, and I say from the point of view of fighting that this War might still go on for a long time. If fighting cannot stop it immediately, what can? The Governments have found it extremely difficult to stop. There have been little bridges offered to them which, rightly or wrongly, they have refused. I will only take one thing—Stockholm. Personally, I was sorry that the Government did not consider Stockholm, for two reasons. One, I believe that it would have kept the Russians in the War with us—though I am not competent to speak on that question; and two, for a more obvious reason: Who are fighting for freedom, we or the Germans? If we are fighting for freedom, what have we got to fear from Stockholm?
I would not like to sit down without saying one other thing, if I may, to the House, and it is this: During this War we have all been through very hard times, physically, mentally, and morally, and I think that there is one thing that has supported all of us all through, and that is a very great pride in our country. I am bound to say that at one moment I did not feel that pride, and that was when I saw the reception which was accorded to Lord Lansdowne's letter. Lord Lansdowne was the man who had provided us with our defence system. He was the man who had cither made, or prepared the path for the Japanese Alliance, the French Alliance, and the Russian Alliance. Without Lord Lansdowne, France, unallied to us, would probably have gone under, and then we should have had to wait our own day; and yet forty years of honourable service given to his country were not weighed for a moment by his countrymen in the balance against the hiccups of the "Daily Mail." I apologise for having occupied so much of the time of the House, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman when he answers will be able to give us an assurance that the Government is genuinely ready to listen to those Ministers among our enemies who wish to promote a consideration of the question of peace.
§ Mr. WHYTE
The speeches which have been delivered in this Debate have, so 165 far, struck the same note, though they come from different quarters of the House. This is no accident, for the feeling which they express is widespread in the country. What the country is asking is not so much a specific declaration of war aims, such as was made by the Prime Minister to the trade union deputation on 5th January, but that every voice in this country that speaks with its authority shall speak in the same terms and in the same tone. I am not sure that we should make any great progress by insisting that the Allied Governments should make a joint declaration. I believe that processes are at work behind the scenes, and yet not altogether behind the scenes, which will ultimately remove many of the blemishes from the Allies' record in diplomacy. I think probably the cause of peace will be best served if the Allied Governments would explicitly say that they accept the principles laid down in his recent address to Congress by President Wilson, and that they are prepared to carry them out at the table of the Peace Conference. Let me illustrate the difficulty of asking the Allies to deal with the question at this moment. One of the chief blemishes in regard to the Allied diplomacy during the War is the secret treaty with Italy against which some of us protested with all the power we possess before it was made, but all in vain. That treaty has gone through various stages, and is now alleged to be in the position in which the two parties most closely concerned, the Southern Slavs and Italy — one of whom was not a signatory to it, and was not aware of it until after it was made — now show a distinct tendency to come together, a tendency which we should all welcome and do everything in our power to promote. I am not sure that it would promote an increase of that tendency if we were to insist upon a general exposition of the Allied terms in the form of a general declaration arrived at round one table, but I think the purpose of public opinion in this country would be well served if the Government could so arrange that all the Allied Governments spoke in the same terms regarding the principles expounded by President Wilson. This Resolution asks for an open door for discussion; it asks that the door which seems to be closed, and which was at one time open, should once more be opened. and remain open. That, I think, is a very legitimate demand. It 166 does not ask that the Prime Minister this evening should make a new declaration of the terms of the Allies, but that he should recognise, what I think he sometimes forgets, that there are two weapons at all events in the conduct of war—one the moral weapon and the other the weapon of force.
The Prime Minister last night seemed to indicate that the recent speeches of statesmen of the Central Powers made it impossible for him to take any further step in a public discussion or a public approach towards peace aims. He spoke in somewhat harsh, and I do not think undeserved terms, of the speech of Count Hertling. I think, however, that he should examine that speech in the light of events that have occurred. The Prime Minister made a declaration of our war aims that were widely approved in this country and abroad on 5th January. President Wilson followed on 9th January with his address to Congress. The reply came from the Central Powers in the form of two speeches, one from the German Chancellor and the other from the Austro-Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether he thinks that Count Hertling was really replying either to the Prime Minister or to the President of the United States in the speech which he made? For there was an incident which occurred, before any of these four speeches were made, which largely governed the whole situation. Last Thursday the organ of the Social Democratic party in this country, "Justice," revealed the fact, well known to many in this House, and to many outside, that a very distinguished British statesman visited Switzerland during—I will not be too precise—the Christmas holidays, where he met the late Austro-Hungarian Ambassador in London. The purpose of that meeting was a separate peace with Austria. The idea behind such a meeting, from the point of view of the British Government, seems to me to be hard to find. How they expected to arrive at a separate peace with Austria, after the declaration of the terms which had been made before, it is very difficult to see. Further, if rumour is right as to the terms which were presented to Count Mensdorff, surely it was natural that the German Chancellor, if those terms were made known to him, should regard the British Government as either, on the one hand, growing fearful about the result of the War, or else. on 167 the other hand, as prepared to carry the matter on under the secret forms of the old diplomacy by bartering a slice of German territory in exchange for the defection of Austria from the Alliance of the Central Powers. I think when a Resolution is brought into this House asking that the door should remain open for discussion, we are entitled to ask the Government for an assurance that the forms of discussion upon which it embarks, besides those of public speech, shall not be those which permit this Government or any Allied Government so flagrantly to disregard the national rights of even an enemy belligerent, as in the terms which it would seem were proposed to Count Mensdorff. Those proposals are surely what were in the mind of Count Hertling when he spoke, and accounted for the arrogance of his speech. I do not think we are entitled to regard the speech of Count Hertling as a reply to our own Prime Minister's speech, and it is not perhaps altogether surprising that the addresses of those Central-European statesmen were made directly to President Wilson, and not either to the Government in Paris or to our own Government.
I have raised this question because, obviously, the approaches to peace, made partly in the form of public speech, will also be made in the form of private negotiations. As I have said, I think the House must insist on an assurance that negotiations which are conducted in future will be carried on in good faith, and as an exact expression of the general goodwill of the people of this country. I am not one of those who have ever attacked secret diplomacy as such. Secret diplomacy, I believe, is as necessary a part of negotiations between countries as it is between individuals engaged in business. But in making that declaration I must add that the policy which diplomacy is designed to serve must be open. The country must know for what it is asked to shed its blood. Secret treaties are a negation of democracy. What we do lay stress on, and we have a right to lay stress on, is that if diplomacy is to be secret we at least should have the assurance that the agents of that diplomacy have the confidence of this House, and that those who support it are candid and open supporters of the principles which are laid down as the public policy of this country. If we 168 offered one of the enemy belligerent Governments terms which should imply that it should break faith with one of its Allies, we have no right to complain if the German Government itself endeavours to play the same game. If the Government consult the opinion of this country, they will find that what public opinion desires is to see the diplomacy of the War carried on in as plain and straightforward a manner as possible, and that such methods and events as have occurred in the past shall not be repeated. I am aware that this is delicate ground, but there can be no complaint from the Government that I am making public information—because it has already been published—which can any way assist the enemy. We have already assisted the enemy by the Smuts mission, and I think it has led considerably to the revival of the Junker power in Germany during the last few weeks. Unless the Government in its future approaches towards peace bears that warning very closely in mind, I think we shall find that the German Government will not be more easy to deal with but more difficult. Further, if we are to make approaches through Vienna, those approaches must be made with such good faith as would permit the Government of Vienna to pass them on to Berlin. The offer that was made to Count Mensdorff could not be in any sense as a firm offer, because it was deliberately conceived, and I think foolishly conceived, with the idea of separating Austria from Germany.
Sir H. DALZIEL
And why should we not make terms with one of our enemies to help us to get the victory?
§ 7.0 P.M
§ Mr. WHYTE
I have never been a believer in the idea of a separate peace with one of the enemy Allies. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Germans?"] German methods are not our model; we are out for the triumph of certain principles clearly laid down at the beginning of the War, and from which the Government has not yet professed publicly to depart. I am perfectly certain of this: that the moment any Government of this country publicly professes to depart from those principles, that moment the Government will die. Public opinion will not support 169 any Government seeking a separate peace. The latest endeavour seems to prove that, and the terms offered seem to prove it. In any case, I believe that there is no ultimate gain to be had from attempting to get a separate peace by detaching Austria from Germany. Once. you embark on a series of separate peaces you will find you must necessarily violate, first of all, engagements with your Allies, and, secondly, you must violate the principles upon which you embarked in this War.
§ The SECRETARY Of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Balfour)
My hon. Friend who has just sat down parenthetically observed that he was confident he was giving no information in his speech which would be of value to the enemy. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Nothing which was said in his speech would be of the slightest value to the enemy. He has attempted to give, on what information I know not, an account of certain events about which without doubt the enemy know the true version, and which version is utterly at variance with everything that fell from my hon. Friend. He has entirely mistaken the whole character and scope of them, and though I do not mean for obvious reasons—[An Hon. Member: "What are they?"]—to deal in this House or to deal in public with this matter, I can assure my hon. Friend that he has not understood the policy of the Government. Let me add one more observation. He seemed to lay down the principle, which in his view was an inevitable deduction from the higher political morality, that no effort should ever be made to detach a single enemy from the coalition with whom you were at war. I entirely refuse to subscribe to that doctrine. I am at a loss to understand upon what principle of morality it is founded, and if it were possible to break up the coalition nobody would rejoice more than myself. Leaving what has fallen from my hon. Friend upon that subject, and turning to the general course of the previous Debate, it seems to me that the course of that Debate is entirely founded upon a misunderstanding of what happened at Versailles and a misunderstanding of what was stated in the King's Speech.
Let me take the Versailles case, as I understand it. It is assumed that the object of the Versailles meeting was a general survey of the political conditions of Europe and of the general circumstances and general diplomatic relations subsisting 170 between the nations concerned in the War and not with the immediate problems before the Allies. That is an error. The Supreme War Council met at Versailles to deal primarily with the great military problems with which we are faced, which is its main business. That it did. It is perfectly true it made a statement, the exact purport of which I will come to in a moment, upon the conclusions to be drawn from the speeches of the German Chancellor and the Austrian Foreign Secretary. It did do that, but it did not attempt either to survey the war aims of which hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have spoken nor was it in fact fitted to deal in a full or exhaustive manner with those war aims. As the House is aware the Council consists, besides the military advisers, of the Prime Minister from each of the countries concerned with another Minister —that is, as far as Europe is concerned. America is represented at it only by a military adviser. America therefore, it is quite obvious, could not and did not deal with this question at Versailles in the sense in which hon. Gentlemen appear to think it was and ought to have been dealt with. Neither was this country equipped at Versailles to deal with this class of question. If peace terms or questions connected with diplomacy had been the subject of the Conference, necessarily and obviously the Foreign Secretary of each country would have had to be present. I was not there, nor was any member of my office, and the reason was quite obvious. That was not the business for which the Council met. Those were not the problems discussed, and the great issues involved, and the Resolutions come to, had no direct reference to those diplomatic questions. It is perfectly true that, as was most natural, the Council considered the two speeches to which I have referred, and came to the conclusion that out of those speeches there was no glimmer of the light of peace dawning above the horizon, and therefore the military measures which they were there to consider were obviously more important than ever.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
They considered the two speeches, and came to the conclusion that they were unable to find in them any real approximation to the moderate conditions laid down by the Allied Gov- 171 ernments. I am bound to say, as far as I can see, that conclusion was a very correct conclusion. We have had four or five speeches to-night, and there were speeches yesterday, which I had not the advantage of hearing, upon this subject, and there has been endless debate in the newspapers. Has anybody been able to extract from what is regarded as the most pacifist of those two speeches anything which can be described as the satisfaction of the declared war aims of President Wilson or of the Prime Minister, or of any of the Allies
§ Mr. BALFOUR
Has anybody been able to do it? Has President Wilson made any proposition that satisfaction could be extracted from Count Czernin's speech?
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I think not, and that nobody else has been able to find it either, and they have not been able to find it. because it does not exist. It is perfectly true that President Wilson referred to Count Czernin's speech, and, as is most natural, Count Czernin referred to President Wilson; and it is also true that President Wilson saw, as most readers, I think, will agree, that he was right in seeing, a tenderer note, a softer atmosphere, in the statement made by Count Czernin. It is also true that Count Czernin made certain statements which did not appear in the parallel and apparently agreed speech of Count Hertling. That is quite true, and President Wilson was amply justified in dwelling on that difference of tone. But when you leave tone and come to definite and formulated propositions or propositions which can be made definite, you will not find them in Count Czernin's statement, and, so far as I am aware, President Wilson did not profess to find them. Is it not rather unreasonable to make this the basis of any sort of charge, either against the Council at Versailles or against His Majesty's Government? The Council at Versailles were faced with these two agreed and simultaneous utterances of the Central statesmen, and they were right in refusing to see in them anything which could be described as an effective approach to the position of the Entente Powers. Remember, that the Entente 172 Powers, or, at all events, America and this country, had made abundantly clear what are the war aims for which we are striving. The President had made those great pronouncements which have, I think, been the admiration, not only of the English-speaking world, but of all the world. The Prime Minister made a statement to the Trade Union Congress which, I think, received the approbation of almost every speaker, of every speaker, who has addressed the House to-night. I, speaking on behalf of the Foreign Office, made, on the 10th of January, I think, a speech on war aims which followed closely in tone and in temper those two great pronouncements. Those were three definite speeches made by authoritative sources early in this year. The Central authorities had those speeches before them when they replied. They did not reply, as my hon. Friend below the Gangway supposed, to the imaginary story, the imaginative account, of the transaction to which he refers. They had before them the authoritative public pronouncements of America and of England, and they could have replied. Count Czernin, as we all know, made some effort. I do not know exactly of what character, to get his speech into the hands of President Wilson. Therefore he was thinking of President Wilson and makes an appeal to President Wilson. He had before him President Wilson's precise statement of terms, he had every opportunity of saying what he thought about those terms, but though he referred to President Wilson he never referred to President Wilson's terms. [An HON. MEMBER: "He did!"] I think the interruption is well founded and that I stated it inaccurately, and I apologise to the House. Let me put it this way: What is quite evident in Count Czernin's speech is that he was not prepared to accept any of President Wilson's important war aims.
§ Mr. MASON rose— [HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"]
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I am afraid I must remain in darkness as to the precise meaning of my hon. Friend, but, at all events 173 —I may be wrong—I understand the interruption as signifying that Count Czernin made some announcement of acceptance of President Wilson's war aims. If that is so there is no doubt that the Versailles Council were profoundly wrong, and there is no doubt this Government at this moment is also profoundly wrong. We were not able to read into Count Czernin's speech any such statement, I am not aware that any newspaper, not even any newspaper representing the views of hon. Members below the Gangway who are cheering, tells us in what respect the Austrian terms resemble President Wilson's terms, and that being so, it seems to me utterly absurd either to criticise the King's Speech or the Council at Versailles for having said that the immediate duty before us was the duty of fighting. A great deal has been made of one word in the King's Speech. I think it was really the pivot on which the speech of the Mover of the Amendment almost entirely turned. I am afraid I did not take it down as I ought to have done when the hon. Member who moved this Amendment spoke, but he dwelt upon the word "only," I think, which he declared indicated that His Majesty's Government actually were of opinion that we had nothing whatever to think of but war; that our only effort must be war. Diplomacy was ruled out, all the great moral objects on which we have dwelt at other times were ruled out —all were to be ignored, and war, and war alone was to be our object. [The right hon. Gentleman referred to a copy of the King's Speech.] I understand that the word "only," on winch the hon. Member's whole speech turned, was his own invention.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
Is not this dwelling upon the word "only" one of the most unreasonable perversions of a public document? You say the task before us is war. Does that mean that the task of reconstruction is not also before us? Of course that is before us. Of course 174 the tasks before us are not only concerned with war: they are concerned with diplomacy, with reconstruction after the War, with all the vast problems which the world will have to attempt to solve, and which, I think, will prove themselves almost as difficult of solution as the problems presented by the War itself. The word "only," so far as it is my business to deal with this sentence of the Versailles Conference, is not capable of bearing the weight the hon. Gentleman puts upon it. He goes the length of suggesting that because the word "only" appears in the Versailles Resolution, therefore diplomacy has nothing more to do with the situation—no efforts shall be made by any of the beliigerent countries to come to terms. That is not the view of the Government. The view of the Government is that at present the attitude of the Central Governments shows that diplomacy at the present moment is entirely out of court so far as they are concerned. It is they who have banged the door; it is they who have shut it; it is they who have laid down clearly by the mouth of their Chancellor, and, if that be more authoritative, by the mouth of their Kaiser, that they are as far removed as they were three years ago from accepting those ideals to which President Wilson has given classic expression, but which represent the common view of America, of England, and the Allies by whose side America and England are fighting.
If that is true, what is the use of criticising the Government for not using the methods of diplomacy? The methods of diplomacy are only of use when you deal with people who are prepared to come to terms. The Central Powers have openly shown that they do not mean to come to terms. At all events, Germany has shown this. The difference of tone, not of substance, between Count Hertling's speech and Count Czernin's may show that Austria is more nearly in a reasonable frame of mind than her all powerful ally, but to suggest that even Count Czernin's speech indicates that Germany is prepared to come to terms appears to me to be extravagant in the highest degree. After all. this War is not coming to an end until Germany and the Allies are prepared to go into Council together over the terms of peace. Has Germany, who knows our terms, shown the slightest desire at any moment to make that approach which would render 175 a council of the nations of value? There are some Gentlemen who talk—I do not know whether they think in the same way —as if the mere summoning of people round a table were a method of arriving at peace. It is only a method of arriving at peace if before they meet round the table there is a certain community of ideas and aims which enable discussion between them to settle the outstanding details. But if they meet round that table with differences fundamental and irreconcilable, then the meeting round the table only makes matters worse, and not better. It accentuates differences; it does not emphasise agreements, and peace, and the interests bound up with peace, are further off than ever.
When some of my hon. Friends criticised in a kindly spirit, but who criticised the Government this evening for their diplomatic procedure, they took occasion to emphasise their view that one of the objects of this War was the destruction of militarism. That is a phrase with which we are all very familiar, and it has been used to-night, I think, by my hon. Friend who spoke earlier in the evening, and I think by others. Is there anything in Count Hertling's speech which suggests that the end of militarism is near in Germany? The most microscopic examination, the friendliest investigation has not shown any symptoms of that character. On the contrary, their successes—I will not call them their military successes; fighting had very little to do with it—but their successes on the Eastern Front have at once shown what has been throughout the true German military spirit— "Add to our territory; secure our commercial expansion by acquiring a controlling influence over this or that great area; make our borders secure by getting this or that alien population under our control." That was German policy three years ago. That is the German policy, so far as I understand the Kaiser and Count Hertling, at the hour at which I speak. How much that policy has behind it the true spirit of the German nation I cannot say, but, so far as outward marks go, so far as the declarations of responsible statesmen go, I see not a hair's-breadth of variation from their old ambition of getting what they call a German peace, and all of us know that a German peace has one meaning, and one meaning alone: it is a peace which will make every other nation subservient to Germany.
I fully appreciate the difficulties under which the right hon. Gentleman has just spoken, and I feel sure, from the attention he has given to the Debate since it started this afternoon, he has realised that most, if not all, of those who have taken part in the discussion have spoken with an equal sense of responsibility. They do not, of course. share with him all the difficulties of foreign policy, but they share with him to the full the anxiety which is possessed by practically all the people of this country to see this War end, not with a German peace, but with a world-wide peace. The difficulty under which we labour here in this House, and under which the people of this country and of all Europe labour, is that the tone of the various speeches made by responsible statesmen vary so much from time to time even in the same country. If there had been one clear indication for months or for years past in this country, exactly in the terms of the speech delivered and in the tone adopted by the Prime Minister when he addressed the trade unionists, I have no doubt that abroad in Europe, and probably in America, there would have been a clearer understanding of what are the fundamental aims which actuate the people of this country. Our Press, undoubtedly, or some portions of our Press, are to blame for this. But while I do not wish to cast any censure on anybody in particular, I would say that we and the world lose a great deal by the varying tones adopted sometimes by the same Minister, when dealing with the war aims of the Allies or the attitude we are to adopt towards our enemies. One thing undoubtedly remains the same in this country, and need receive no encouragement from any Minister, and that is the complete and unwavering determination of our people to fight this through to a satisfactory end, whilst there may be a difference of view as to the end which will be satisfactory.
It is unfortunate when discussions have taken place here, with great moderation, and when statements have been made by the Prime Minister, also with great moderation, that they should have been followed by the official announcement which came from Versailles. My right hon. Friend seemed to me to be justified in drawing attention to that at the earliest possible moment. The statement made by the Prime Minister may have created some effect in Germany amongst those who are not in power there, but who 177 make a large contribution to the silent German opinion which we shall have to fall back upon in the long run before this War is over, if we are to obtain anything like a satisfactory peace. The Versailles Conference, the right hon. Gentleman said, was not equipped for dealing with the subject. I think his word was "unequipped.'' If it was unequipped the impression is most unfortunate which has been created by the statement issued after the Versailles Conference, and may have undone whatever good was done by the statement of the Prime Minister in his speech to the trade unionists. I have never taken the view that the Prime Minister, in making his speech to the trade unionists, adopted the terms or the tone characterising that speech merely with the object of pleasing the trade unionists. He speaks on a platform much wider than theirs, to an audience much larger than theirs. He was talking to the world as a whole. We might at least have hoped, before the Allies said anything further about war aims, that an attempt would have been made to co-ordinate, in tone and substance, what was said by our own Prime Minister. For that reason, if for no other, I think we have reason to deplore the fact that the Versailles statement should have born made in its unequivocal form. At Versailles undoubtedly those who were present were face to face with awkward material facts. The information given to the House yesterday by the Prime Minister was enough to make the House and the country realise that our position at the present moment is not free from anxiety. The facts stated by him as to the strength of the Allied forces on the Western Front, and the increased number of divisions Germany is now bringing as he told us, from the East to the West, are quite enough to make one feel that at the present moment a delicate handling of the diplomatic situation is of the first importance. It is easy enough to conduct your diplomacy behind a victorious army. It is extremely difficult to conduct it in a situation which, from a military pont of view, is, at least, critical.
I do not envy the position of the Foreign Secretary at the present time. It is difficult for him to say anything that does not appear to be either weakening his case or increasing the forces on the West, or appear to be stiffening his terms against the general desire in both countries, for all we know, to see an end to the War.
178 These material facts, however, are not alone concerned with the Western front. Every one of the great belligerents is becoming more and more exhausted. We in this country will probably stand the strain better than any other of the European belligerents. Still, the fact remains that even here the strain is becoming heavier and heavier. We are concerned not only with our own supplies not only with the diminution of our material wealth, but with the increasing loss, or, perhaps, varying loss, I should say, of our tonnage—which is the very key of the situation. If the curves, to which the First Lord of the Admiralty refers from time to time, do not become more satisfactory our position becomes naturally more and more difficult. Difficult as it is, we have still the satisfaction of knowing that the difficulties of Germany, and still more of Austria, are even greater. That, however, is only comparative. What is happening in this country is happening with increasing tension, strain, pain, and disappointment in the Central Empire and must be producing an unseen effect, which their Governments take good care shall not be communicated to the outside world I think it is apparent, when one looks at the material facts, that we can easily account for the tone adopted by Count Hertling, but, if one may try to guess what is in his mind, that thought is that he might as well try another military throw. One knows that the German manner has never been as pleasant as that of Austria. That in itself may account for the difference in tone in the speeches of Count Hertling and Count Czernin. But the fact remains that the speech of Count Czernin was in effect a speech so satisfactory on one or two points out of the fourteen referred to by President Wilson, that President Wilson himself in his own speech makes special and sympathetic reference to the advance made. My right hon. Friend no doubt overlooked the way in which Count Czernin dealt with the fourteen points of President Wilson. Count Czernin seems to have made replies which, on the whole, could not be regarded as being unsatisfactory, when we consider how slowly belligerents are likely to come together after a prolonged war. If the House will permit me, I should like to read what President Wilson said on this subject:Count Czernin seems to see the fundamental elements of peace with clear eyes and does not seek to obscure them. He sees that 179 an independent Poland made up of all the indisputably Polish peoples who lie contiguous to one another is a matter of European concern, and must of course be conceded; that Belgium must be evacuated and restored no matter what sacrifices and concessions that may involve, and that national aspirations must be satisfied even within his own Empire in the common interests of Europe and mankind.I think it much safer that I should make no further comment on Count Czernin's speech, except to say that President Wilson's opinion is good enough for me. Again, President Wilson—perhaps I had better add this from his speech:Seeing and conceding as he (Count Czernin) does the essential principles involved and the necessity of candidly applying them, he naturally feels that Austria can respond for the purpose of peace as expressed by the United States with less embarrassment than could Germany.That is perfectly true, hut let us take note of the fact. This may not be the psychological moment for opening formal negotiations with Count Czernin. I offer no opinion on that. There was a statement by my hon. Friend the Member for Perth as to what appeared on this point in a newspaper which occasionally publishes sensational statements, and which has been copied to-day in one of our evening newspapers. It is, therefore, a matter of common talk. Whether there is any truth in that I do not know. I do not seek to ask. But I do suggest that if we are going to take a less hopeful view of Count Czernin's speech than President Wilson we are not likely to help the cause of peace. This might not be, in the view of the Government, one of the psychological moments of which advantage can be taken. No one knows when the next psychological moment may occur. Meanwhile. no harm can be done by such discussions as we have had here to-day. It is important, if we are to maintain our present strength in this country as well as in the field, that the opinion in this country should be united. I am sure no one who has been much in the provinces of late will be dealing frankly with the House if he does not say-how he realises that there is a, great deal of disquiet even amongst those strongly in favour of our war aims of August, 1914. A variety of interpretations have been given to them since then. There is now an amount of feeling in some labour circles which is leading to unrest. From time to time in certain districts this has led to sporadic strikes. Some of them are perfectly futile; all of them arc harmful. If anything can be done by discussion or 180 statement here which will make all sections of our people—trade unionists, statesmen, publicists, merchants, as well as those who are actually our soldiers— feel that we still have the same high, elevated sentiments which inspired us in 1914, that there has been no change in the way of aggressive designs to what we had then, that we are not prepared to embark on wars of Imperialism -as they are called —that we do not wish to help those who have aggressive designs on the Continent, any more than we wish to express aggressive designs ourselves, and can show that in good faith, then, I believe, it will be possible to reunite public opinion here in a way which, I fear, has not been our experience in the last few months. When I say good faith, I mean that is really a matter for the first necessity.
There are some people whom one hears now speaking about the policy of "no annexations, and no indemnities." They seem to think that the mere use of these phrases is sufficient to pacify Europe. I do not hold that view I believe that any policy of annexation, to put it in the opposite sense, would be detrimental to our cause; but to say perfectly definitely that this country stands for no annexations and no indemnities is scarcely an honest statement to be made by the Government, unless they are prepared to qualify it by an absolutely definite statement as to the way in which they intend to deal with the captured German Colonies, with that great tract of country of Mesopotamia, and Palestine. Unless we are prepared to say that, it is impossible for the Government to expect anyone abroad to believe that we are honest in talking of a policy of "no annexations." Naturally, I look for light on this subject. One of the fullest statements which have been made on our war aims is that issued by the official Labour party. As I have looked through that I find that there is a certain amount, if I may say so, of lip-service to the doctrine of "no annexations." When you come to deal with Mesopotamia, or any other territory which once belonged to Turkey, the policy of "no annexations" breaks down. Another principle is applied, namely, that of self-determination. If my hon. Friend (Mr. Snowden) will, for instance, look at the paragraph which covers the case of Italy, and the peoples now outside the Italian boundaries, if he will take the case of Mesopotamia, or of Palestine, he will find that the pure 181 doctrine of no annexation cannot be applied. If this policy of no annexations is not the policy of the Labour party, then by all means let it be made quite clear there is no difference of view between those of us who refer to the policy of "no annexations" as impossible and those who accept the Labour war aims. For my own part, it is one of the most satisfactory statements which has been drawn up, though it is perfectly clear that you cannot go in for a high and dry policy, without qualification, of "no annexations." It is not the first time in this country that high principle has broken down over the Turkish Empire. If we are to persuade the peoples of the world, the people of America as well as of Europe, it is quite clear we must not merely take as our formula "No annexations." We must deal with the whole future along lines which will command sincere belief in our policy, sincere belief on the part of the German, Austrian, French, Italian, and Belgian peoples as well as of those on the other side of the Atlantic who are apt to state their views in more general and less precise terms than we are in the habit of doing.
I do not believe that this country would be prepared at this moment to say that it stood for a policy of penal indemnities. What is to be done with regard to indemnities must depend on the end of the War, and no sensible man, looking at the situation as we find it to-day, is likely to regard penal indemnities as an item of our war aims. We could get rid of indemnities provided we adhered to reparation as an essential element of our policy. When one deals with reparation there are more ways of acting than by merely humiliating your opponent. You can call whatever penalty you impose upon him reparation and not indemnity. There have been many suggestions made with regard to the reparation of Belgium in the discussions which have taken place, and they cannot be brushed aside as the merely sentimental schemes of those who have no idea of responsibility. The damage which has been done in Belgium must be repaired by those who have done it, but that is quite another thing to imposing indemnities as the word has been defined in the past. We may have to deal with the German Colonies on a basis not altogether satisfactory to those who hold extreme views in this country. It has been suggested in Germany that the two 182 Could be linked up together. I should not be prepared to accept that. But proposals have been made which do not shut the door to some kind of adjustment. It has been suggested that Mesopotamia and Palestine should be put on an international basis, controlled by some form of international government. But there has been no example in the history of the world of satisfactory international government up to the present. There have, however, been small experiments which have proved more or less satisfactory. In China it has been attempted in one or two of the great ports, and it has not failed. The Danube under international control has proved one of the best administrative rivers in the world. What has been done in the case of the Danube might, I should think, be done with the Tigris and the Euphrates.
If we are going to impress public opinion in this country as well as abroad we must make it perfectly clear that our formulae are honest formulae, and that we do not believe, when we talk of our aims being unselfish and disinterested, that they are only unselfish as far as regards the wish to annex more territories. We must make sure whatever phraseology we use that it is not open either to dialectical reply or to suspicion from the very class of people in Germany whose good feeling will be necessary when the end of this War comes. I wish it were possible at the moment to claim that good feeling in Germany and get it to show an united front with us here. Organised labour in many parts of this country is discussing our foreign policy quite as astutely as is done in this House, and sometimes the discussion is as well informed. Our foreign policy is discussed by the people with a great deal of natural feeling and good sense, tempered largely by the experience of their sons and brothers abroad. I think I can assure those of my hon. Friends who represent Labour here that they can make no better contribution to our discussion than to faithfully represent here the views that they themselves gather in the country in order that the House and the Government may realise what is passing through the people's minds. I am sure our trade unions are not out for any aggressive aims, and if an attempt is made to interpret their opinion on such, lines more harm will be done than good. My right hon. Friend the Foreign 183 Minister indicated that he disliked the idea of going to a round table conference until at least we had some common ground. I believe towards the end of this War, whenever that may be, there will only be one common ground, and that will be the desire for peace, without any definite notion what that peace may mean. If there is any idea that we can get complete agreement with regard to Alsace-Lorraine before we start to talk round a table, I say quite frankly that in my opinion such talk will be long delayed. I would give almost anything to get the statesmen of the various belligerent countries talking—no harm could be done by it, and though I hesitate to differ from anyone with such long diplomatic experience as the Foreign Secretary, I would say that the greatest contribution which would be made to the peace of the world at the present time would be for those who represent opinion in their respective countries to have some chance of drawing closer together and exchanging views, however antagonistic they may be—because by discussion they may be brought more nearly to understand their position. For that reason I deplored the decision of the Government which prevented the holding of the Stockholm Conference. If a repetition of that experiment in Stockholm is not possible, I would appeal to the Government not to shut the door to a similar discussion elsewhere. If open discussion or closed discussion cannot usefully be conducted between statesmen, let it be allowed between representatives of social democracy from the various countries. No harm could be done, and much good might come of it. I believe that no harm could be done for this reason, that wherever the transaction may take place, at Stockholm, Berne, Madrid or elsewhere, the people of this country are not likely to waver one hairs-breadth from the real objects they had when they entered on the War. The Government need not be suspicious about the weakening of the national view. One of the most terrible things one realises when wandering about the country is to find how virile is the feeling where bereavement has been suffered most. The British people have always been slow to enter on war, but once they have entered their pugnacity is not easily exhausted, and it is difficult to create in this country a feeling in favour of peace even when 184 that peace comes. The danger will not be that the people are too easily weakened in their object by such discussion as we hope may take place. The difficulty will be in the future to persuade them that the time has come to make peace except on terms which on other grounds would be accepted as reasonable.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I am sorry the Foreign Secretary is leaving the House. I was anxious to take up the challenge he threw down, a challenge which was addressed to these benches in particular, but I suppose I have to address my remarks to the House in his absence.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, threw out a challenge which appeared to be addressed particularly to these benches in regard to the character of the speeches of the German Chancellor and the Austrian Foreign Minister. I think it very unfortunate that the right hon. Gentleman had not the advantage this afternoon of having heard a speech made by an extreme pacifist Member before he himself addressed the House, because then he would have been able to follow what occurred on a former occasion, when the subject-matter of the Debate was really ignored, and he might have given an effective reply on the points raised. There must have been very few Members in this House who listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who did not feel a very considerable amount of sympathy and pity for him in the position in which he found himself. We are having a discussion upon a matter upon which only the Prime Minister is entitled to speak. The right hon. Gentleman occupies what, I think, I may correctly describe as a subordinate position in the Government. He is nominally responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, but the real conduct of those affairs is not in his hands, but in the hands either of the War Cabinet or of particular members of the War Cabinet.
The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon showed that he had not the knowledge which is possessed by all newspaper readers of the matters which are now under discussion. He did not even know the terms of the official declaration which had been issued in regard to the decisions 185 of the Versailles Conference, and when he come to give the speeches of the German Chancellor and the Austrian Foreign Minister his ignorance was appalling. There used to be a popular impression in this country that the right hon. Gentleman never read the newspapers, and I am inclined to think, after the exhibition he has made this evening, there must be some foundation for that belief, because it was perfectly clear the right hon. Gentleman never read the speeches of the two Ministers to whom I have referred. He said, for instance, that Count Hertling never referred to the fourteen points put forward by President Wilson. If the right hon. Gentleman reads newspapers at all, I should think he reads the "Times." The "Times" gave a report of Count Hertling's speech. It printed in italics the fourteen points put forward by President Wilson, and it gave Count Hertling's reply to each of those fourteen points; yet the right non. Gentleman this evening tells the House that Count Hertling never made any reference at all to the proposals put forward by President Wilson !
Then, again, the right hon. Gentleman challenged any Member of this House to state where there has been any approach at all to the peace terms formulated by President Wilson. I will take up that challenge, and my authority shall be, not one of those pacifist organs which the right hon. Gentleman says have never been able to detect the slightest approach to President Wilson's formulated points, but I will take again the "Times" newspaper, which, on the day that it published the report of the speeches of Count Hertling and Count Czernin, actually arranged in parallel columns President Wilson's fourteen points and the answers given by Count Hertling and Count Czernin to each of those fourteen points. I am not going to deal with them as a whole. The substance of the reply of Count Czernin has been touched upon by the last speaker (Mr. Runciman), and I will confine myself, therefore, to Count Hertling's speech. The right hon. Gentleman said, in the first place, that Count Hertling never referred to President Wilson, and then he corrected himself, and said he had never made any approach at all to agreement with any of President Wilson's points. But I find in the tabulated comparisons published by the "Times" newspaper that Count Hertling either definitely or with very slight qualifi- 186 cations accepted no fewer than five of President Wilson's fourteen points. We have a right hon. Gentleman nominally in the position of being responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs in this country so ignorant of a document of such tremendous importance, that he comes down to this House and tells us, first of all, that the German Chancellor never referred to President Wilson, and then he goes on to say that he rejected every one of the fourteen points put forward by President Wilson. Let us go a little more into detail. President Wilson's first point was one with which the right m. hon. Gentleman himself did not agree; it was the abolition of secret diplomacy. Upon that point at least there is no agreement between those who are either nominally or really responsible for the conduct of the foreign diplomacy of the Allies. Count Hertling says in reply:We were the first to be able to declare ourselves in agreement with the most expansive publicity of diplomatic agreements.President Wilson's second point is what has been called the freedom of the seas. Count Hertling unreservedly accepts that. President Wilson's third point was the removal as far as possible of all economic barriers. Count Hertling unreservedly accepts that. Yet the Foreign Secretary says he did not upon a single point approximate to agreement with President Wilson. Let us proceed. President Wilson's fourth point was adequate guarantees for the reduction of national armaments. Count Hertling's reply is that this is a matter quite suitable for discussion, and that the financial position of affairs after the War should further its solution. President Wilson's fifth point is an impartial readjustment of Colonial claims. With that again Count Hertling agrees, and so I might go on through the whole list. With these five he agrees unreservedly; with many of the others he agrees with reservations and qualifications. President Wilson's seventh point was complete restoration of Belgium. The Prime Minister said yesterday in this House that Count Hertling had never given anything but an equivocal reply in regard to the restoration of Belgium. That statement is not correct, and it was contradicted by the Prime Minister himself in the earlier part of the same speech where he said that Count Hertling places Mesopotamia and other parts of the Near East in regard to restitution in the same 187 position as Belgium. What is Count Hertling's reply with regard to Belgium? It is that the forcible annexation of Belgium is no part of the German programme. Last of all President Wilson's points is a League of Nations. With the first of President Wilson's points the right hon. Gentleman disagrees.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
In regard to secret diplomacy? I am glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman has changed his views upon that question since he last spoke from that box.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman will agree with President Wilson's proposal of a League of Nations. With that Count Hertling also agrees. I have dealt with two points which arc raised by the right hon. Gentleman out of the Resolution or decision at the Versailles Conference which states that they are not able to find in the speeches of either of the Foreign Ministers any real approximation to the moderate demands of all the Allies. I want to ask the special attention of Members of this House to three points in that short sentence. First of all, "No real approximation." With that I have already dealt, and if I had dealt with Count Czernin I could have shown that there was a great deal more approximation to the peace terms of President Wilson than was to be found in the speech of Count Hertling. Of course, as the right hon. Gentleman has said himself this evening, Count Czernin might be dismissed as a tool of Germany. If that be so, his statements are all the more authoritative, because if he is the tool of Germany it must be assumed that he is speaking the mind of Germany. The first part of the statement I have already dealt with, and I have proved that not only in Count Czernin's speech but in the speech of Count Hertling there is a real approximation to the fourteen points formulated by President Wilson.
The second point in that short sentence is, "The moderate demands of all the Allies." What are the moderate demands of all the Allies? Are the demands of the Allies to be found in the speech delivered by the Prime Minister to the Trade Union conference, or does the Allied Note of twelve months ago still represent the 188 demands of all the Allies—the moderate demands of all the Allies? Where are we to find this statement of the moderate demands of all the Allies? The simple fact of the matter is that there is no statement of Allied war aims except the Allied reply to President Wilson twelve months ago, and that reply has been rendered obsolets by two important events which have happened during the year, namely, the entrance of America into the War, and the Russian Revolution. We have, therefore, no statement of Allied war aims either moderate or immoderate. We have had plenty of statements by the spokesmen of the different countries, and every speech made is a contradiction either of other speeches of the same Minister or the speeches of Ministers of the other Allied Powers. Let me give a few instances. I referred just now to the question of the League of Nations. There is no agreement upon that. The right hon. Gentleman favours it. Other members of the Government never miss an opportunity to pour scorn and ridicule on it, and it is very certain that the Prime Minister has never in any public declaration or speech given an enthusiastic welcome to the idea of a League of Nations. I defy the right hon. Gentleman, who seems to question that statement by his looks, to find anywhere in any speech of the Prime Minister any cordial reference to the idea of a League of Nations. I know of what I speak. We have Clemenceau saying that he would be no party to a League of Nations if Germany is to be included in that League. How can you have a League of Nations which is to exclude the Central Powers? There is no agreement upon that very fundamental condition of peace.
There can be no peace in Europe, there can be no peace in the world unless as the outcome of this War there is the establishment of an international form of government in which every one of the great, and, if possible, all the smaller nations, of the world are included. Take another very fundamental condition of peace—the question of economic warfare. Is there agreement upon this? President Wilson makes that one of the most important of the fourteen points in his Declaration, but our own Government are not united on that. Many references have been made in the course of this Debate this afternoon to the speech the Prime Minister delivered to the Trade Union Congress. There we have a statement of war aims. Not one word of reference was made to this most important and 189 vital matter. The Prime Minister said that his war aims were in line with the war aims of the Labour party. They are not. On nearly every point there is a difference between the programme of war aims as set out by the Prime Minister upon that occasion and the war aims of the Labour party. That is one, the question of economic warfare. There is a difference as to the causes of war, the cause of this War. The Labour party's war aims state that this War is the result of capitalist and' Imperialist ambitions. Labour's war aims and the Prime Minister's war aims differ on the question of Alsace-Lorraine. There again, what is the policy of the Allies upon that? What is their moderate demand in regard to Alsace-Lorraine? Are they all agreed?
Why, the Prime Minister does not even agree with himself. Every time he speaks he gives us a variation of the Government policy in regard to Alsace-Lorraine. Speaking to a deputation upon a Ministry of Health about October last, he went out of his way to refer to the question of Alsace-Lorraine, though it had not the slightest connection with the subject-matter of the deputation. There he said that this country would go with France to the death for the restoration of Alsace-Lorraine. Then when addressing the Labour party he modified his position. Then it was not a question of (standing to the death until these provinces were restored to France, but a question of the reconsideration of the matter. We take no exception to that. We all want the reconsideration of this question, and we believe that if, as a result of its reconsideration, it cannot amicably be settled, it will continue to be a festering sore in the body of Europe. Again, there is no unity in the speeches of the French Ministers even upon this question. A little time ago, during the premiership of Ribot, he accepted that statement made by the Prime Minister at the deputation I have just referred to as being the pledged policy of the British Government on the question of Alsace-Lorraine. What I ask is, What are the moderate aims in the War upon which all the Allies are agreed? The simple fact of the matter is that there is no general statement of Allied war aims, because they cannot make such a common statement of war aims. They are bound by secret treaties, and that is all the result of a policy with which the right hon. Gentleman is now in agreement.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
The hon. Member is quite mistaken. I spoke about that matter the other day, and to those views] adhere.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
When this question was raised the only indignation the right hon. Gentleman showed was against the fact that they had been made public, and he had not a word of condemnation in regard to them or in reference to the fact that these treaties had been made secretly, and were quite inconsistent with the publicly declared aims of the Allies. Reference has been made to these treaties in the course of the Debate this evening. Let us assume that the moderate aims of all the Allies are those which were set forth by the Prime Minister in his speech to the Trade Union Conference the other week. That is a public statement of war aims, and how does it agree with what we know of the commitments which have been made by this Government to many of our Allies? I shall have something to say later about a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman to which I had no opportunity of replying. The hon. Member for Stirling Burghs (Mr. Ponsonby) mentioned the Russian secret treaty and the memorandum of agreement made between the French Government and the Russian Government in reference to Alsace-Lorraine, and the right hon. Gentleman professed his entire ignorance of that document. He said that he knew nothing about it; that the British War Cabinet knew nothing about it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. R. Macdonald) last night mentioned the fact that in a publication for which Lord Northcliffe is responsible, and therefore its authority is unimpeachable, and which has been published in the last two or three days, there is a statement that when Lord Milner was in Petrograd, just before the outbreak of the Revolution, that secret agreement between Russia and France in regard to the appropriation of German territory right away to the bank of the Rhine was then considered and confirmed. What does that mean? The right hon. Gentleman on the occasion to which I referred said that although we might have agreed to allow Russia to have Constantinople and other large tracts of Turkish territory, that that did not convict the British Government of Imperialistic aims. It will, however, convict them of aiding and abetting other Imperialistic Governments in the gratification of their own Imperialistic aims. But that agree- 191 ment went further. The British Government in an agreement, dated the 5th March, 1915, has given its complete assent in writing to the annexations by Russia of the Straits and Constantinople, and only demanded security for its economic interests, and a similar benevolent attitude on Russia's part towards the political aspirations of England in other parts. The benevolent attitude between these two Powers was the embarking upon a huge conspiracy for stealing territory in the possession of other Powers, and yet the right hon. Gentleman denies that the British Government have had during this War any Imperialistic aims whatever. The right hon. Gentleman asked, "What are England's Imperialist aspirations in this matter?" They were disclosed two days later, and they were that Russia confirmed its assent to the inclusion of Persia's neutral zone in the British sphere of influence. That means that the last remaining shred of the independence of that ancient Empire is to be taken away as a quid pro quo for our consent to abandon our fifty years' policy in regard to Constantinople and the Straits. I have already referred to the Memorandum in regard to Alsace-Lorraine, and that is of very recent date, and that was during the tenure of office of the right hon. Gentleman in his present position. It was dated the 13th January, 1917, and there was a quid pro quo.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
That only shows how little the right hon. Gentleman knows about what he ought to know. This dispatch began by saying, "Copy, London." Supposing the right hon. Gentleman knew nothing about it, and suppose this document was never communicated to him; what does that show? It shows an appalling state of things. We were in alliance with Russia and with France, and this agreement shows, assuming that the right hon. Gentleman knew nothing about it, that behind the back of this country and without the knowledge of the British Foreign Secretary these two Allies came to an agreement upon a matter which could have no other result than an indefinite prolongation of the War. It is an amazing thing.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The right hon. Gentleman says, "We were not bound by it," but the Prime Minister says we are. He says that we are bound to stand by France to-the death on the question of Alsace-Lorraine. I do not know that it is worth while pursuing this matter very much, further, except as an illustration of the kind of secret intriguing which has been going on without the knowledge of the people of this country, and without the knowledge of the people of Europe, while our statesmen were mouthing pious platitudes about the high and lofty motives by which they were inspired. When knowledge of facts like these come to light it exposes all those professions as being: nothing but the basest hypocrisy. It seems to me like the position of a man who took part in a conversation the other day in a railway carriage, and he said, "We went into this War with most unselfish motives, and it will be a blooming shame if we do not get something out of it." That is precisely the policy pursued by the Government.
Let us come to what is going to be done in the Turkish Empire in Asia. An agreement was made between ourselves and Russia and France, and, with the exception of the treaty with Italy, it is perhaps the most outrageous of the secret treaties the knowledge of which has come to light. May I point out that we only know of the existence of a few of these agreements, and how many there are locked up still in the secret archives of the Foreign Office we do not know, but we are justified in assuming that there are a great deal more of the same kind of agreements? Take this treaty. It is dated March, 1917, although it appears to have reference to an agreement practically settled in 1916. The right hon. Gentleman said that we had no Imperialistic aims. By this treaty made with Russia, Russia is to get enormous territory, Franco a considerable portion of Syria, and Great Britain the southern part of Mesopotamia with Bagdad, and we insisted upon two Syrian ports. The House remembers the high-faluting manifesto issued by the British commander when he entered Bagdad, assuring the Arabs that we were coming there as their friends and that we were going to relieve them from the intolerable tyranny by which they had been ground down by Turkey. Yet, at the same time, we were bound to a secret treaty with Russia and with France, and, as our quid pro quo for satisfying the Imperialistic ambitions 193 of Russia and of France, we were to appropriate the southern part of Mesopotamia with Bagdad.
Then there is Roumania. This is perhaps the blackest and the vilest page in the whole story of secret diplomacy during the last three or four years. We know now how Roumania was driven into the War and at the same time bribed to come into the War. We know that she was offered the whole of Transylvania, part of the territory of Bulgaria, and certain other parts of Bukovina. Roumania soon became a negligible military factor in the War. Russia welcomed the military collapse of Roumania, and in the most callous way said that it was not a misfortune, because it would strengthen the ties by which Roumania was compulsorily bound to Russia. There is a phrase in that Versailles statement about the Allies being united in heart and in will. Here we have an illustration of how Russia and Roumania were united in heart and in will. Now I come to the treaty which a moment ago I described as the worst of them all. Under this Italy was to get her share of the spoils of the Turkish Empire in Asia. In Africa,if France and England extend their Colonial possessions at the expense of Germany, Italy is to be allowed to extend her possessions.That will only mean that the last remaining independent State in Africa, Abyssinia, in violation of the principle and the professions of no annexation, will become the spoil of Italy in order that the colonial aspirations of the other Powers may be realised. Italy was to keep the Greek Islands, and in Europe she was to get the Southern Tyrol and Dalmatia, where the Italian population is certainly not more than 4 or 5 per cent. In the face of this treaty, what becomes of the professions of the Government about their desire to have such a territorial settlement of this War as would remove for ever from European problems those questions of nationality, of race, and of geographical boundaries not being coterminous? I have to refer to Albania. The violation of the treaty by Germany in regard to Belgium naturally excited universal disapprobation and condemnation. The treatment of the Allies of Albania is scarcely less ruthless and criminal. We have, along with our Allies, undertaken to respect the neutrality and independence of Albania, and yet in this treaty it is said that Italy is not to resist the possible desire of 194 France, Great Britain, and Russia to distribute among Montenegro, Serbia, and Greece the northern and southern districts of Albania. Then it goes on to say thatthe coast territory as far as the River Drin will be included by the Powers of the Quadruple Entente in Crotia, Serbia, and Montenegro,and Albania's capital is to be cut off from the sea. In 1913 the Great Powers created Albania an independent State. They declared it neutral, and they placed it under their protection. Yet here in this treaty our Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Secretaries of Russia, France, and Italy, in secret, without the knowledge of Albania, sign a treaty, and in violation of their solemn pledges to maintain the neutrality and independence of Albania agree, in the event of having the power to do it, to deprive her of her independence and to hand her territory and her people to other rulers. So much for these treaties and for the moderate demands of all the Allies. I have dealt with those three points arising out of that statement upon which the refusal to keep the door open for peace negotiations was made. I have shown that there was real approximation in the least satisfactory speech. There was a good deal of approximation in the speech of Count Czernin, President Wilson recognised that. I have shown that there are no moderate demands, and there are no demands which have been put forward by all the Allies and upon which all the Allies are agreed. I do not know what will be the fate of this Amendment in the Division Lobby this evening, but we shall support it in the assurance and knowledge that whatever may be its fate in the House of Commons it represents an enormous and a daily growing volume of public opinion in the country. I totally disagree with the concluding observations of the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from this Front Bench. He said that the people of this country would never agree to a peace unless it was a peace which realised all that they had been led to expect from this War.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I was referring to the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench. I know something of the state of public opinion in this country, probably more than the right hon. Gentleman. I have addressed a great many meetings in the country, and I have 195 come into personal contact with hundreds and thousands of people. I know something of the state of feeling in the country. There is no enthusiasm for the War. There is an almost universal desire for peace. In a certain town in this country not long ago a rumour spread that peace had been declared. The population went wild for two or three hours, and then the rumour was found to be untrue. It occurred to somebody afterwards that never during that time of jubilation had a single person asked upon what terms the War had been settled. The people want peace; the soldiers want peace. One cannot travel in a railway train without knowing that. I listen to the conversations of soldiers, although I never take part in them. I was going down to South Wales about a fortnight ago, and in the compartment were an Australian soldier, a Canadian soldier, and two British soldiers. They talked freely. They were all, to use a very common expression, "fed up." I do not know if the Government know the state of feeling amongst the soldiers. It is not confined to the soldiers of our own Army. We know it is the same in Germany; indeed it is in all the Armies. It must be so. What has partly contributed to this is that they do not know what they are fighting for. I have before stated in public, and I repeat it here, as bearing upon this point, that about three weeks or a month ago a soldier called to see me one evening. He had just returned from the front and he said he had been sent by his comrades to ask me how Alsace-Lorraine had come into the War. He said they had volunteered to fight for the liberation of Belgium and not to try and redress the result of a fifty-year-old quarrel. I warn the Government, as the late President of the Board of Trade warned them, of this change in public opinion. The chairman of the Labour party said that there was real danger of a revolution. There may be; there will be if the Government do not realise the state of feeling in the country and take steps to prevent it.
This Amendment asks that the Government shall not rely merely upon the military weapon, that they should keep open the door of diplomacy, and that they should encourage instead of throwing cold water upon every promising chance of promoting peace. We are told there is to be a new offensive. The prospect of that is striking coldness into the hearts of 196 millions of people in this country and in other countries. And with what prospect of a military success? I spoke in this House just two years ago in the first formal Debate upon peace we had during the War. Perhaps the House will forgive me if I refer to two or three points which I endeavoured to make on that occasion. My main point was that the military situation then showed that there was no prospect of either the enemy or the Allies securing a decisive military result, and I put this question to the Government: If at the end of twelve months, or even at the end of two years, the military situation is what it is to-day, what are you going to say then; are you still going on; are you still going to continue to fool the people with the vain hope of a military decision? Just twelve months ago the Commander-in-Chief, in a boastful interview, said that the German lines were going to be broken at many points during last summer, and that Germany would be, if not admittedly, quite clearly defeated during last year. What is the position to-day? The military situation to-day is no more hopeful than it was twelve months ago. If we go on another twelve months it will be less hopeful than it is to-day. The Government could have made better peace terms six months ago, twelve months ago, two years ago than they can make to-day. The longer the War continues, the less prospect there is that they will be able to enforce their unreasonable-terms. During the last twelve months, for no military advantage whatever, we have sacrificed in killed and wounded. according to the returns of the War Office. 1,000,000 men.
When I came down to the House this afternoon the train was filled with men with one leg, with broken legs, without arms, and in other ways crippled. What are you going to do by continuing the War? What are you going to do by carrying on this criminal policy announced by the Versailles Conference? You are going to add hundreds of thousands more to the list of men who are cripples; you are going to render desolate hundreds of thousands of homes in this country; you are going to make the voice of Rachel crying for her children heard still more loudly throughout the land. And for what purpose? For no military advantage whatever. Are you waiting for the advent of America? Is America going to redress the military situation? That is a vain and a delusive hope. America cannot 197 become an effective factor in the War this year. The Minister of Munitions looks forward to 1920 as being the first year when the military power of America will be effective. Does the Government think that the people of this country will stand another two years of war? They will not stand another two years of war. Long before the end of the two years, if this War continues, the revolution feared by the chairman of the Labour party will become an actual fact in this country. The Prime Minister is always talking about democracy, about this being a democratic country, and about wanting a democratic settlement of this War. There are no democrats in any belligerent country among the governors of that country. There is infinitely more sympathy between the militarist governors of Germany and the governors of the Allied countries, or rather I will say there is, on the one hand, sympathy between the ideals and the aims of the governing classes of all countries, and there is, on the other hand, the completest sympathy between the feelings, aims and aspirations of the democracies of all countries. that is to say, militarism is not an evil system which is confined to one country alone. It is not confined by geographical boundaries. You have it in every country. Where you have capitalism there you have militarism. The line is not a geographical one. The line is between the classes. The workers of the world have been taught this lesson by the War, that they have common interests; that they have common misfortunes to endure, and that their common enemies are capitalism and militarism. I despair of the present governors of this or any other country bringing a satisfactory end to this War. I do not believe they can. I am not appealing to the Government. I have ceased to appeal to the Government. The Government, in its conduct of this War, has shown a stupendous ignorance. It is incapable either of making war or of making peace, and the country is every day coming more and more to the conclusion that the first essential to peace is that the present Government should be turned out of office. You might say there is no Government to succeed it, but at any rate we shall have this satisfaction, that we could not possibly get a worse Government. I am looking for the conclusion of this War by a union of the democracies of all the belligerent nations. They have learned that lesson in their 198 common interest, and although one can hardly say that any good which may result from this War would be anything of a compensation for the stupendous evil which it has created, still it would be something if, as the result of this War, we had for ever a sweeping away of the power of those who have misused their powers in the past and have used them, not for the good of the people, but in order to satisfy their own Imperialist and selfish aims.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I deeply regret that the Foreign Secretary has not found it possible to remain a little longer, because I wanted to ask him whether we can have correctly heard one observation which fell from his lips which, it seemed to me, cannot possibly have expressed the thought which was in his mind when he said that the methods of diplomacy are only of use when the enemy is prepared to come to terms. Is it possible that he really means that? Does he draw no distinction at all between the influence which may be exercised on the Governments of the enemy Powers and the people of the enemy Powers? His statement on the face of it means that there is nothing to do at all till the Governments of the enemy States are ready to come to reasonable terms. Does he then entirely differ from President Wilson's plan of appealing over the heads of the Government ostensibly and avowedly to the German people? If the Foreign Secretary's formula is correct, how is democratisation on the enemy side ever to come about? I trust that the Minister of Blockade will be able to explain that extraordinary statement in a different way. The Amendment seems to me to be supported by the feeling of practically the whole House, and the Foreign Secretary himself hardly differs, I gather, from the ten our of it. All agree, as I imagine the Foreign Secretary himself also agrees, that diplomacy has had an immense part to play, not only now, but during the months, and even the years, which are past. If we were not of that opinion we should at all events be entirely at variance with the very interesting maxim laid down by Sir William Robertson not very long ago, to the effect that fighting itself did not form even the majority of the factors which prevail in war. He gave the other factors as considerably more than 50 per cent., and among them he placed diplomacy at one of the highest figures. The revisions 199 of statements of war aims are, at all events, by evidence that has been offered in the House to-day, necessary for maintaining the unity of public feeling. There is, we must admit, a most regrettable cleavage in public opinion now. It is not united, as it was, in support of what it believes to be the war aims of this country and of the Allies. Fatigue, and possibly hunger, are having a disintegrating effect upon public feeling, and reason is also assuming a larger share of influence on the public mind. It is very regrettable if ideas of war aims are modified by any other influence than reason. If hunger is to influence war aims, there is a much sounder reason why we should attend diligently to the question of war aims. It is that we must discover the basis of future stability, and if it is not thoroughly thought out and examined we shall not obtain the right basis which alone will give security in future. We have come to a moment, which we had not come to a year or two ago, when it is agreed that we have two aims before us—security and the liberation of oppressed nationalities, which may, in other language, be called justice. It is true that the Prime Minister has said on at least one occasion, that, given guarantees, that is security, the War ought not to continue another day. He gave in that case security as the only aim. But we must admit that the Prime Minister has said a good many different things about the aims that we have in view.
May I take for a moment this matter of security and urge again, as some of us have urged before, that there is much more close scrutiny due to this question of security by the change of mind which we trust will take place in the German people? President Wilson, whom we cannot ignore, even if we wanted to, sets before us democratisation as the best security for future stability, and he implies that diplomacy should aim at producing democratisation. He is the great exponent of diplomacy at this day. He practically reproves the Allies for what he considers their want of diplomacy in regard to Russia, and in the last few days in regard to Count Czernin's speech. It appears to me that he studies much more carefully than we do, or than our Ministers have shown that they do, the question how to divide the masses of the German people from their Government. That may be 200 regarded as the fundamental question of all—the kind of psychological situation in Germany which will be produced by one kind of settlement or another. It is the only main security that we can have for stability in the future. It is the essence of democratisation. I should like to urge, as I have done before, that the Foreign Office might do more than it has done to institute investigation on this subject. No doubt the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) is familiar with the writings of a man who is certainly the most eminent authority on German opinion and institutions in this country, Mr. Harbutt Dawson, and I think more might be done than can be done inside the Foreign Office, by turning the minds of great authorities like that on to this question of German psychology, as it will be produced by one kind of settlement or another. The point I want to urge in regard to the German mind, and the security that we could get from democratisation, I should like to express by quoting a man of the very highest authority on the subject, a neutral diplomat who has been in the closest touch with events in Germany. I cannot quote him by name, but his words are so much to the point that I think I can make a valuable contribution to the subject by quoting them. He says:What would the German militarist say if the German frontier were merely preserved?. Tirpitz's statement that the status quo ante means a German defeat undoubtedly represents what they feel. They believe it would mean their own death knell. The cleverest of the militarists would prefer a humiliating defeat to a status quo ante settlement because they know that only a smashing victory or a humiliating defeat would furnish them with the right material for the continuance of their power. Unless Germany is so weak that 'The Fatherland is in danger' can still be the catchword. the spirit of the trenches will furnish the Socialists with sufficient backing to bring about democratisation.I cannot help thinking that that is a valuable expression of the true facts. The Foreign Secretary, in his speech to-day, alluded to the speech at Edinburgh, in January, when he argued very strongly that the aim that we ought to have in view was "the liberation of nationalities aim," and he gave some account of what would be the trouble if Alsace-Lorraine was not disannexed, as some choose to use the phrase. At all events, whether he was right or wrong on the question of Alsace-Lorraine, the suggestion involved in the liberation of peoples, whether in the Trentino or elsewhere, who desire to be attached to one of the Allies, is a perfectly legitimate aim, and I must confess 201 myself an ardent advocate of self-determinations. They are not to be called annexations, but are perfectly justified, if they can be brought about, in regard to the Italian parts of the Trentino, some parts of Alsace-Lorraine, and some parts of the Turkish Empire. But self-determination as advanced by us is self-determination wholly on one side, and is entirely at the expense of Germany or her allies. If we believe in a peace of restitution, not a peace humiliating to the enemy, as my diplomatic correspondent argues, then self-determination at the expense of one side must obviously be balanced by some quid pro quo. Whether they mean acquisitions for us or not, they mean on the German side defeat, loss, and humiliation, unless there is some form of compensation. Humiliation is a mistake, as I think most of us would now agree.
I strongly agree with my right hon. Friend the late President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Runciman) that the formal term "no annexations" is most inadequate, and something else must be found. I would like to make a suggestion which seems to me has not been sufficiently discussed, and that is that the proper quid pro quo to be considered in connection with these liberations in Europe which mean loss to one side, is to be found in the tropics, in regard to the colonial sphere of the enemy. That opens up a very big question, and one must not take up too much time over it; but it does seem to me that the ideals eloquently put forward by General Smuts do not cover the ground. In pointing out the terrible prospect of a purely military German Empire in Africa he drew a distinction between that probable future and the future that would arise from a democratised Germany, and hinted that the whole case might be different if democratisation came about. In regard to this African matter, we are not assuming a settlement at all, unless a democratised Germany has made peace with us. Therefore, we must assume a settlement in which a colonial sphere for Germany is not an intolerable idea. It is strictly practicable, and the sphere is a reasonable one to contemplate when the settlement has been brought about. That opens an African question which I do not see how we can avoid in discussing the general nature of the settlement and war aims. Experts about Africa have now come very much to a common view, and it is briefly this: that while 202 international administration is not a system that has been successfully tried on a large scale, there is a modified form of international control in which equitorial Africa might be made a very different sphere to what it has been in the past. The proposal briefly is on the political side to leave the national administrations untouched, but to extend the area of neutralisation so as to include the whole of tropical Africa, that is all Africa except the Mediterranean countries, South-West Africa, the Union, and Rhodesia, and to extend the provisions of the Berlin Act of 1885. Neutralisation under an extended Act of that kind would be compulsory, and authority would be vested in the concert, call it a League of Nations if you like, so that it would be valid so long as the regulations of the concert were kept. A Special Commission would be appointed to supervise this arrangement and to investigate complaints made by any one nation. On the economic side it is proposed to make the Free Trade clause more explicitly practical by substituting equal economic opportunities for absolute Free Trade. It is very doubtful whether the French would be prepared to pass at a bound from high preferential duties to Free Trade. But even France may consent to levy the same tariff on all commerce, whether nationals or foreigners. The arrangement again would be made obligatory, that rights and opportunities of capitalistic exploitation and development should not be differentially treated, and there would be security for that under the ægis of some International Commission. Again, you would have an International Commission to deal with the matter of raw materials. The administering Powers would further adopt a general charter of native rights, securing the rights of ownership previously prevailing, in the soil and its products. to develop against European and native exploiters. General Smuts did not preclude some sort of international control as distinct from administration of that kind under which the admission by Germany to a share of the rights of administration or modified sovereignty would be perfectly acceptable. It is true that he quoted Zimmerman as illustrating the sort of wrong-headed colonial view that does prevail in some quarters. But it would be just as legitimate to quote the Minister Solf, who represents, after all, a later ministerial utterance than Zimmerman. Solf the other day made an announce- 203 ment about German powers which may be put down as mere bluff, but probably represents to a considerable extent a newer school of German ideas and which agrees largely with the conclusions that British Colonial experts have come to. He said that there should be a redistribution of Africa corresponding more nearly to the size and capacity of the European colonising powers. Proposals for completes internationalisation were not to be thought satisfactory. There he agrees with English thought. He said that joint administration postulates a sense of European solidarity which it must be the aim of the governing powers to promote, but which has still to be developed and safeguarded in international practice in Europe before joint administration of tropical colonies is feasible. He said:There is a germ of truth in the demand for native self-determination. The natives have a right to be an end in themselves. It is in Germany's interest to admit this, though the idea will involve a hard fight after the War with short-sighted egotism in Germany as elsewhere. Europe's need for tropical produce will provide a great temptation to certain interested groups to carry on a predatory system of exploitation. But this would be suicidal, since the natives are essential for the development of the country and must be protectedHe went on to say that in the peace treaty, apart from territorial redistribution, there ought to be a mitigation of the one-sidedness of merely territorial delimitation of sovereignty by agreement as to joint work by all the protecting Powers on certain great problems.The Congo Convention is a step in the right direction and should be extended. There should be co-operation on the question of traffic routes, the fighting of tropical diseases, and, in the long run, such a system of treaties as would tend to make the owners of the various territories guardians of the joint organisation. Africa would gradually take on the complexion of a common colony of the European States where the possessors of the different districts would become trustees of the common organisation.The Minister of Blockade may suggest that my remarks might more reasonably be addressed to the Minister for the Colonies, but he will agree with me that this matter is essential to the problem of the settlement; and if we come to some conclusion like this, then does it not bring us to the sphere which is really the solution of the dilemma that we are in, in regard to bringing about self-determination without demanding a peace humiliating to the enemy? It seems to me that it does offer such a solution. It is not in conflict with justice to contemplate 204 compensation by an adequate sphere for German effort in Africa. In a sense it is necessary to justice, because there was before the War, in the minds of the sort of Germans who used to promote intercourse by means of mutual visits between this country and Germany, a sense of injustice regarding the exclusion of Germany from a proportional sphere of the tropical world. We know that, of course, it would so work on our own minds, and certainly I know from personal experience that the German Junkers made great use of the sense of colonial injustice to work up a warlike feeling. You could see in Berlin in the shop windows in 1911, after the Agadir incident, maps of the world on Mercator's projection which made the German sphere appear fantastically minute compared with that of Powers of much smaller population and much less colonising capacity. Therefore, if a German African sphere is not ruled out, it is certainly desirable for the sake of future peace that we should if possible remove that sense of injustice which belongs to particular exclusion and take away from the pan-Germans that excellent material with which it has provided them. "Restoration with mutual adjustments" seems to me to be a better formula than "no annexations or indemnities."
If we come round to such a view of war aims, the question remains whether they are attainable, and some may say that it is idle to talk about peace of any kind; but I would like just again to quote the same diplomat whom I have quoted before and who has very peculiar knowledge of German conditions. The other day he said:Germany would be ready to make a peace on the no annexations and no indemnities basis, and the question of damage to France and Belgium might even be arranged. And I still think that if the Allies would accept these moderate terms, all they have got to do is to say so and then wait for the plain people in Germany to do the rest.That, of course, is a method which we have not attempted. The writer proceeds:It cannot be over-estimated what, a part the self-defence theory has had in keeping Germany together, and if it is once removed, the pressure from beneath would be too strong for any Government. If you want to divide the German people from the German Government it is only necessary to furnish a very fundamental issue on which the two disagree absolutely. As long as the German Government can pretend to base its claim for support on the theory of self defence it will receive such support."Until the claim that they are fighting for self-defence is removed we must admit that diplomacy has not fulfilled its task.
§ Colonel GODFREY COLLINS
The hon. Member who has just sat down will excuse me if I do not follow him in the latter part of his speech. To-day we have witnessed hon. Members rising in all quarters of the House to impress upon the Government that in the conduct of the War diplomacy should take a larger part than it has recently done. I have had an opportunity of realising in certain places the value of the active interest of the House of Commons in the successful prosecution of the War, and I have little doubt that the growing interest of this House in diplomacy will have a direct bearing on the future prosecution of the War. I rise to support the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham, and in doing so I desire to draw the attention of the Government to certain points in which I think diplomatic action might be taken. As recent discussions in the country show, there are two definite policies in connection with the War. First, the policy of victory through military pressure, and, secondly, the policy of victory through diplomacy. Let me deal with those two questions. To achieve victory through military pressure alone will, according to competent judges, take at least two years to achieve. [An HON. MEMBER "Far more!"] My hon. Friend says far more. I am tempted to ask this question: If we are so anxious to ruin Germany, are we willing to jeopardise Great Britain and our Allies? The great expenditure of treasure is of little or no consequence where questions of principle and freedom are concerned. The loss of life and the social effects of the War are matters of grave urgency, and it may be that even when peace is obtained as the result of military pressure alone it will be an inferior peace to that obtained by a fusion of diplomacy and military pressure.
That leads me to refer to the alternative policy before the country, and that is the policy of victory through diplomacy. All are agreed that the War must continue until certain fundamental points are achieved, such fundamental points as the vindication of public rights and the establishment of international security. In the Debate yesterday both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition referred to the change of tone 206 in the recent utterance of the Austrian Foreign Secretary. The House of Commons this afternoon was much surprised when they understood that the Foreign Secretary was not conversant with that speech and the reply to President Wilson. The point I put to the House is this: Is it inconceivable that Germany is willing to negotiate through Austria? I would ask the House of Commons to consider the reply of the Austrian Chancellor to certain points of President Wilson's speech of 6th January, and to consider if a settlement could not be reached, or might it not be made closer at hand, if the Allies could agree on those terms? As the House knows, on 6th January President Wilson announced fourteen points. Let me refer only to the first four. The first one dealt with secret treaties. On that point I think there is little disagreement. The second point referred to the freedom of the seas. That is a very sensitive subject in this country. But while, on the one hand, we urge that a League of Nations should be established, and thereby suggest or endeavour to induce Continental nations to restrict their armaments, the adoption of the policy of the League of Nations could not, at the same time, be decided upon without accepting the doctrine of the freedom of the seas. Is it logical to support a policy which will induce Continental nations to reduce the size of their armaments unless at the same time we are bound to consider the question of our naval strength and our naval position in the future? So far as I can gather, the Government have made no reply to President Wilson's point on that subject. The third point in President Wilson's speech referred to the elimination of economic restrictions after the War. The question I would like to put to the Government is this: Is that policy, the policy of commercial boycott, the policy of His Majesty's Government? People who in this country before the War almost created civil strife in this country have in more recent times, both here and in America, created doubt as to whether the policy of President Wilson coincided with the policy of His Majesty's Government. The fear of commercial boycott after the War has been in the past and no doubt still is a potent weapon in the hands of the military party in Germany. I can understand the heat and passion which has been engendered through this War, but I hope, before the Debate closes to-night, that we may hear 207 the policy of the Government on the third point of President Wilson's speech on 6th January.
The fourth point in his speech referred to the limitation of the armaments of the Allies, and without that Germany and our Allies might be insolvent in the future, and the House of Commons will agree that it is of no advantage to Britain to have Continental nations which are not solvent in the future. Fear of Russia in Germany must have been present to the minds of men in Germany in the past, and also present to the minds of men in this country in bygone days. It has now been removed; it is a factor which has disappeared. The point I am anxious to put to the Government is this: I have mentioned these first four points in President Wilson's speech. On some of these points our policy appears to differ from the policy of President Wilson. The Austrian Chancellor accepts these four points. Would not the acceptance by Germany of these four points tend to give Britain security in the future? If Austria accepts these four points, is it improbable that Germany would also accept those four points? The demands which this country has put forward are first of all security in the future, and the freedom of small nationalities; and, so far as we can gather from public utterances, and the statement issued after Versailles, the leading statesmen there did not explore sufficiently the various war aims of the belligerents. At this Conference America was in military alliance with this country. Is America to-day in political alliance with this country, and do our aims in this War coincide with the policy of President Wilson? I am also tempted to ask the Government, Did the Government at Versailles explore the road to peace with the same degree of intensity as they did when addressing the Labour Conference in November? Whether they brought the same keenness to bear on that subject in Versailles as they did in addressing the Labour party at Nottingham and elsewhere is very much open to question. We have had this afternoon speeches from various Members of the House, and I hope that we shall have some more definite assurance that the Government are going to rely on diplomacy to bring this War to a satisfactory conclusion in the near future.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I wish to support the Amendment which suggests that 208 the prosecution of military effort should not be the only immediate task of His Majesty's Government. The military prosecution of the War has not been so successful in many directions that we can afford to neglect any of the supplementary efforts. The one thing that does stand out clearly in this War is the courage of the common soldier, and if the intelligence of our rulers had been equal to the courage of our soldiers, this War would have been over long before this time. We know in regard to the Government that people more and more are beginning to weigh the Government in the balance. They feel that the Government has had many opportunities, and they are now beginning to ask whether those performances, for which the Government was formed, are likely to be realised. We have been discussing the question of the Versailles Conference. That Conference enlarged its functions in many ways, and apparently it is going to combine military strategy and diplomatic effort, if we are to accept the statements made in regard to it. The only statement in regard to diplomatic effort is this, that they have given some kind of more or less cursory examination to the European situation, only to brush it aside, and to declare that nothing is any good except the one question of the military prosecution of the War itself. I believe that is a great mistake from every point of view. I believe that soldiers, along with others, look forward to getting some end to the War and to seeing their way through to some end of the War, and it is the duty of our rulers by statesmanship to back up the effort of the soldiers.
There can be no real end to the War if there is going to be nothing except the mere battering of each other to pieces on the part of the soldiers, and if there is to be nothing finer and nothing better than that. I say that all through the diplomacy of our own country and the diplomacy of the Allied Governments in many ways has been deplorable. I do not back up in the slightest degree the diplomacy of Germany, and I am glad that there are Socialists there who have gone to prison for standing up to their Government. What I am concerned with is that we should not in this country supplement the mistakes of Germany, and that we should try and place them in the clearest possible light, and that by our diplomacy we should try and drive a wedge between the German workers and 209 the German Junkers. That would not be playing the game of Germany, but affecting not only the future of this country but the whole of the future of humanity. The diplomacy in our own country seems to vacillate between moderation in tone and words and the wildest form of knock-out blows. That is not a wise form of diplomacy. What are we really doing to approach the democratic forces in Germany? I do not believe there can be any real end to this War or any real guarantee against future wars apart from the advance of democracy right throughout Europe. Again and again it has been shown that the rulers of Europe and of all the countries are more and more having their doom written in letters of fire and blood. Democracy is essential to a true peace. When we are told that what is wanted is a clean peace, to that we all readily agree and subscribe. We want to know, when the Minister of Blockade comes to answer, whether our own hands or the hands of our diplomats and rulers are clean, or whether they are tied by secret treaties and agreements. Those treaties have been published in our newspapers. Are we still bound by them? Why is it that we are not told the real terms of those treaties? Surely it is time that those secret documents were now published as a Blue Book. Are those treaties, in defence of which men are shedding their blood, only a matter for diplomats and militarists and rulers? I say that diplomacy of that old school is broken for ever and has been burst for ever, and whatever you may say about the Bolsheviks of Russia, they have contributed to bringing diplomacy into the light of day. I believe, however long they may remain or whether they go, they have rendered a great service to the future in breaking up the old secret diplomacy which was conducted behind doors and behind the backs of the peoples.
We want to know this: Are those secret treaties still in operation and operative? Is it the intention that they shall continue operative? If it is, I say that those treaties are a bar to peace, a real bar to peace and a danger and a menace to any sort of democratic peace. We want to know what is the attitude of the Government in this matter. The people must and have a right to know this. In the past armies were made up of small numbers and were professional armies, but to-day the 210 whole nation is largely the Army, and when the fight is taking place along those lines the other methods will not do. The treaty with Italy, for example, which has been published in some of our English newspapers is a document that does bring: in the element of militarism and the element of possible annexation, the very things we are supposed to be fighting against. We want to know, further, whether the Government is still committed to the idea of an economic war after the War. I believe that that idea of an economic war after the War will also do much to prevent anything in the nature of a democratic peace being obtained. I do-say this: that big forces are drawing to a head in this country. Some of them are revolutionary forces, and there is no doubt that those will get bigger and will get more unmanageable as things drag on. What will strengthen them more than anything else will be shuffling and huckstering on the part of our rulers. There is not the least doubt about that. Therefore, we want to see our way through clearly. We want to be told that certain definite principles are going to be realised, and nothing more than that and nothing less. All that is a matter of the utmost importance, and I hope that the Government will be able to tell us to-night that they are going to place no further obstacles in the way of the democracies of the organised workers of the various lands getting into touch with each other if they so desire in order to discuss the questions of war and peace aims.
We are anxious to set free in Germany a force which, in our opinion, will do more than anything else to destroy Kaiserism in Germany, and I hope Kaiserism in other countries as well. We are anxious to see a force set loose in Germany that is going to make for true democracy, with which is built up the real hope of a lasting peace. Some of the speeches which have been made by our own rulers —for example, the Prime Minister's "knock-out blow" speeches—have consolidated the German workers, in place of driving in a kind of wedge between them. It is time that kind of folly was put an end to, and there is no doubt of this, that unless the rulers can see our way through this, more and more the people will take affairs into their own hands, will brush the present rulers aside certainly, and will see that they get new rulers who are determined to carry out 211 in a far more democratic way the principles on which they are standing, and establish the world on a better footing.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
Since the commencement of the War I have consistently, both in this House and outside, done all I could to help the country. I have felt that nothing would be so fatal to the future of democracy, and to the best interests of this country, than at a time when we were waging a war such as that in which we are now engaged to have anything like industrial unrest taking place in different parts of the country. Therefore, I enter the Debate this evening because even in this House we have reached a stage where we can discuss things in a different atmosphere from that which existed twelve months or even two years ago. I say frankly that whilst I can understand and appreciate those who have consistently opposed the War, and who are prepared to say, "We are ready to make sacrifices for our conscience and our opinion," I have nothing but contempt for those who are prepared to say, "Get on with the War, so long as someone else does the fighting, but stop it immediately I am called upon to take my part." But, I think, we ought carefully to examine the situation to-day as compared with 1914. I frankly recognise that if the Foreign Secretary was replying this evening to a Debate where he was able to say we are going to start afresh, free from all the entanglements of three years, his task would be much easier than it is. But I do submit that we are justified in asking the Government to keep clearly in mind what the great mass of the people of this country feel they are fighting for. Stripped of all technicalities, I have no hesitation in saying that the 5,000,000 lads who have volunteered, and who voluntarily offered their lives, did not do it for any Imperialist aims. They did not set out to add one yard of territory to this country or any other, but they felt that they were called upon to defend the principles of right and justice, and any departure from those principles is not only contrary to the spirit of those who have sacrificed so much for us, but, I venture to say, is contrary to the opinion of the great mass of the people of this country.
But I can conceive of no greater danger to this country, and, indeed, to the Government. than being compelled to 212 negotiate a peace from pressure at home. If any Government, no matter who it is, is compelled to enter into negotiations, not because it wants to negotiate, not because it feels it ought to negotiate, but because of internal differences at home, then its bargaining power is certainly not so effective as I want it to be. Therefore, I approach the question not only from the standpoint of obtaining peace— because I do not think any section of this House can claim any monopoly in that desire—but I approach it absolutely from the standpoint of enabling the country to make the best possible peace, and a peace that would be most acceptable to the people, and, I hope, most durable to mankind. In that connection we cannot blind ourselves to the forces that are at work to-day. There are many causes for the industrial unrest. There may be legitimate differences of opinion in this House, but I have no hesitation in saying that one of the causes is Conscription. I am not going to argue it now, but, from my experience of having 125,000 of my members at the front, as well as an organisation of 400,000 in all parts of the country, the overwhelming evidence that I have proves conclusively that, whilst there were thousands of men grumbling because the railway companies would not release them, and the War Office would not agree to their being released, from the day Conscription was passed every one of those men put in an appeal and protested against being called up.
The result has been that at home industrially you have broken the morale and the spirit of your men. Industrially you have got disaffection, and you have put into the Army men who were not actuated by the same spirit as those who volunteered. In addition to that, it is obvious that after three and a half years of war there must be a war weariness. I think the country and all of us would be better for a fortnight's rest, and if that applies to us it equally applies to the working-classes who have all been working at high pressure. That is an impossible proposition, of course, but I am only showing that all these things contribute to the feeling of unrest, and make men more irritable to-day than they are in normal times. But, over and above that, there is to-day in all parts of the country an unrest that has not existed for three and a half years. There is glib talk about revolution, and there are a large number of people 213 who are advocating revolution. There are a largo number of people in our own ranks who are openly talking of what is called the Bolshevik policy. I say, "God save us from that policy !" I say further, why I would fear more than anything else a revolution in this country, or even the germs of it, apart from the effect on society, is because—it is not generally understood—any industrial uprising, we, being dependent, as we are, for our food supplies from foreign countries, would so shake the stability of the Government that we would be starving in a very few weeks. I am not unmindful of these things. That is why I want to save the country from it That is why I want the Government not blindly to assume there is the same spirit to-day as existed in 1914. If they believe that they are making a profound mistake. It is the duty of every Member of this House, not merely to express his own desires and sentiments, but to take notice exactly of what is happening in the country. For that reason I believe that the Labour movement of this country can do much to help the country out of her present difficulties. President Wilson has clearly differentiated between the German Government and the German people. Some of our statesmen have taken the same line. Curiously enough, however, whilst President Wilson has directed his efforts to a democratic peace, a peace made with the democracy of Germany, we proceed, or many people of this country proceed, at once to say that, so far as we are concerned, the Germans must be absolutely exterminated. If there is one thing more than another that will rally the Germans to their present Government it is that kind of statement. I submit that the Labour party, in their anxiety to meet the German working classes, had no desire to let the country down. They have had no desire to go to the German working men and to say that we were beaten. We had a genuine desire to meet the German working classes face to face, so that we could put before them the English point of view. We believe if we could state our case it would be well, because the German working classes did not know our case.
I know it was said, as one of the excuses, that there was just the possibility, and even the possibility now, of the German Minority Socialists not being allowed to meet us. My answer to that 214 is that that would be the best indication to the working classes of this country of what they were up against. The responsibility of that would be with the German Government. Nothing is more futile than that our Government should make that an excuse. I say, therefore, that the Labour party of this country is determined—let there be no mistake about it!—that an international conference shall be held. Some of us go to Paris to-morrow to make the necessary arrangements. Any Government, whether it be this or any other, which again attempts deliberately to stop the working classes meeting will be undertaking a responsibility which, in my judgment, will be fatal both to their own interests and to the best interests of the country. I want them to understand the feeling of the country. I do not want the American President to express the sentiments of the British people. I want our Government to do that. It is the duty of our Government to do it.
It is because I want that done that I want the Government clearly to understand the opinion that exists today. This Resolution merely asks that the military machine shall be supplemented by other methods. It asks the Government to recognise that there is a diplomatic machine as well as a military machine. In order to bring the War to a successful conclusion, to bring about a peace that will be a lasting and a permanent peace, the responsibility of supplementing the military machine must be used by them at every opportunity. I hope the Resolution will be met in that spirit by the right hon. Gentleman. I hope he will realise the position in the country. Whilst I at least am not going to apologise for my support of the War—yet I say without hesitation that I want the Government to be in the position that, when they are bargaining with the Central Powers they will feel that they have the confidence of the great mass of the British people. This confidence will strengthen their hands in the negotiations.
§ Sir WILLOUGHBY DICKINSON
The Debate to which we have listened this afternoon has been one which, I venture to say, has been of a very high level. At the same time, the moderation of the speeches has been conspicuous. The only regret I have is that the Prime Minister himself has not been present. I cannot help thinking it would be better for him, and for the nation, if on these occasions— 215 rare though they are—he was present to hear the statements made by hon. Members. These statements are made with every moderation. They represent the feeling outside this House. But outside those feelings are being expressed without moderation. I believe it is a very serious danger to this country for the Prime Minister not to realise that the feelings of the country are represented in this House. There have been some very pertinent questions asked this afternoon of the Government. I hope, nay, I feel sure, that there will be a reply, and I only rise to ask one other question. The other day the Prime Minister, when speaking to the representatives of the trade unions, stated that our War aims were three in number. He put them very definitely. He said, firstly, that sanctity of treaties must be established. Secondly, a territorial settlement must be secured based on the right of self-determination, and on the consent of the Government. Lastly, he said we must seek, by the creation of some international organisation, to limit the burden of armaments and diminish the probability of war.
I would like to ask the Government what steps they are taking to ensure that we are proceeding to that third aim, the creation of some international organisation for the purpose of limiting the burden of armaments and the possibility of war? What steps are we taking to acquaint the German Government and the German people of what we mean by that particular war aim? It may be said that we know what is the German Government's view on this question. We do to a very great extent. I remember before the War mentioning this very subject to Dr. Bethmann-Hollweg, and I became aware of the fact that the view of the German Government, or the view of governmental circles in Germany, at that time was distinctly hostile to any kind of international arrangement of the sort that we were then contemplating. I have no reason to think that the German Government have changed their view at all; on the contrary, it is perfectly clear that the one war aim which the German Government has abstained from mentioning has been the establishment of an international organisation which would secure the world against war in the future.
It is all-important that we should bring this problem directly not only to the German Government but to the notice of the German public, and as clearly as we can 216 explain to the whole world what we mean by this very vague phrase of some organisation to achieve these results. Unless we do this, unless we can convince the German nation of the necessity of something of this kind resulting from the War, we have not attained the principal of our war aims. We cannot, indeed, end our fighting unless we attain this war aim, and we can only attain it by the German Government and the German nation recognising that something like this must come after the War, if anything like a permanent peace is to be assured. It is difficult I know, but even if it is impossible to bring a more definite proposal to the notice of the German Government and people I would like to ask what steps we are taking to define this project in the minds of our Allies. Are we doing anything which will result in an agreement or any kind of understanding between the Allies on this subject? The time will come when we must come to an agreement. It is quite impossible we should end this War finding ourselves at sixes and sevens as to the claims which we are to put forward. What will the people of this country say if, having sacrificed all our blood and treasure, we find we cannot achieve this important aim simply because we are not agreed? There could be nothing more disastrous than that we should find ourselves trying to make peace without knowing upon what lines we are going to do it in regard to this very important branch of the subject. It is quite possible the answer may be that we cannot yet take this step, that we are not far enough advanced with the War, that we do not know what to-morrow may bring forth. That is no reason why we should not try, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman in his reply this evening will be able to tell us that an attempt is being made and that we are trying to come together upon some definite scheme to settle this difficult problem. Further, I would like to ask what are we doing ourselves to solve this problem Have our Government got any definite ideas; have they any scheme or project? It seems to me that the whole future of the world depends upon this. When hostilities cease, the very first thing that the present belligerents will have to do will be to sit round a table and discover means whereby they can prevent war in the future, and if nobody is prepared with a scheme it seems perfectly hopeless to expect any kind of peace, 217 permanent or otherwise. We have established in this country, I believe, some eighty or ninety Committees to consider the question of Reconstruction after the War, and the first reconstruction that must take place is the establishment of this international organisation. Without it you can do nothing; you cannot disband your Army, you cannot re-establish your men in industry until it has taken place. You are perfectly helpless until you have come to some agreement whereby the nations of the world will be able to feel themselves secure against war. You cannot even disarm until some scheme for a League of Nations is established. I venture to say no nation will reduce a single regiment until it feels perfectly certain of security, and that can only be assured by some system of international co-operation. I venture again earnestly to ask the Government whether they are preparing themselves for that eventuality? It can be done without any interference with the War. No one wants to put this in the place of carrying on the War; we are bound up to a certain point to go on fighting, and, personally, I see no chance of stopping that fighting immediately. But the opportunity may arise at any moment: it may come like a thief in the night, and at any hour we may find ourselves faced with a totally new position in which peace is possible. Then the first question will be that of international relations. That is why I want to ask whether the Government have considered this question. Will they investigate it for themselves, or appoint some Committee to do so, in order to see how far it may be possible to come to some sort of understanding with their Allies; and, further, whether it be not possible to represent to the German people what this international organisation will mean for them? If we can do that, I believe we will have gone a long way not only towards ending this War, but towards arriving at a situation in which we can look forward to permanent peace.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
I think that those who have listened to the whole of this Debate will have been struck by one very remarkable fact, and that is that there has not yet been a single speech made in opposition to the Resolution except that of the Foreign Minister. It is no wonder that it should be so. What is the situation? A fortnight ago a great part of the world believed that we were on the road— although it might be a very long road 218 still—to peace. In the words of the memorandum of the message of Labour some time ago to President Wilson, negotiations had begun. But then suddenly, by the announcement of the decision at the Versailles Conference, which this Resolution challenges, the door was closed. I want, in the first place, to ask one question. Who is it that made that declaration at Versailles? What was the body that did it? That supreme junta is largely military in its composition—it was military in its objects.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
The Prime Minister told us that generals and civilians sat together, and that the generals agreed with the decisions, which were unanimous. Here is a case in which a public act is performed by this Assembly, as apart from the secret acts of the Assembly which we discussed yesterday. Here is a political act which is made public. It is an Assembly in which, in spite of the fact that the Prime Minister and others were there, for all we know the generals and even the foreign generals had an important voice where Parliaments and where Labour were unrepresented, and it is that junta that declares that Europe shall fight on another year and that no further attempt shall be made to obtain peace.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to make a statement on such an important question as this which is not quite correct. I was not there, and I am only speaking from my own knowledge of what must have taken place when I say that the Ministers alone were responsible. The soldiers may have been, and no doubt were, consulted on military matters, but not on political matters.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
That is gratifying to hear, but if it really is the fact it is a pity that the Prime Minister gave exactly the opposite impression, and, as I thought, in terms, yesterday. I accept what the Minister of Blockade says, but I say I am justified in making this statement, because large numbers in the House were strongly of the impression 219 that the whole of the Resolutions of the Conference were done by military as well as civilian representatives.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
I now accept what the Minister of Blockade says. In any case there must be a change of attitude on the part of the Government, because there; is disappointment and surprise on the part of great masses of the people. I want to ask to-night what is the real policy which this House ought to want of the Government? I am certain that the country was expecting a fresh statement of war aims from the whole of the Allies. Failure to make a general statement to-day is more serious than it has ever been at any time before, for you may be as angry as you please with the Bolshevik Government in Russia for making public secret treaties, but the fact is that those secret treaties are now public property and the public property of enemies and of neutrals alike. Those treaties, us anyone who listened to the details of them from my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn to-night must have felt are incompatible with the professions which our Government have been making and still are making. Their existence and their continued existence is the more striking and serious because the Russian Government, which was the first and chief party in the making of them, has repudiated them and we do not. They are a series of agreements in which the Allies make their arrangements for slicing up Turkey, for handing up to Italy non-Italian districts on the Adriatic, in the Ægean, in Turkey, and in Africa—a whole scheme of annexation, which if taken together could not have been criticised for modesty by Napoleon or Bismarck.
What is the effect of the continued existence of those treaties? I asked the right hon. Gentleman who is going to reply the other day whether our Government would denounce the Italian treaty exactly as the Russians have denounced, for their part, the treaties to which they are partners? He was angry with me. He said, "The British denounce a treaty which was made with our Allies!" The disgrace would not be in denouncing the treaty; the disgrace is that the treaty was ever made. And you have got to choose between the alternatives. How is the world going to believe in the purity 220 of our motives when perhaps a reasonable statement of our aims is made by the Prime Minister of Great Britain—aims which are incompatible with treaties still existing? How is the world to believe in our motives if that treaty still exists undenounced which would give to Italy a great deal more than is suggested by the Prime Minister? You have to choose which it is you mean. Do you mean that there shall not be annexations of alien populations to your Allies or to yourselves, or do you not? Because if you do not mean that there shall be annexations, in some way or other those treaties have got to be buried. The question is, how are you going to do it? There is one way of escape without perhaps denouncing the treaties. If we have not the pluck to denounce them as evil things and to admit that we were wrong—perhaps a nation finds it difficult to say it was wrong—let us do the other thing, and let us get all the Allies together to state their collective aims, and if those collective aims are incompatible with these treaties, then in fact these treaties will have been denounced.
As long as Italy does not make a statement of aims giving up her Imperialistic aspirations, those Imperialistic aspirations stand in spite of anything our Prime Minister or President Wilson may say. The pity of it is that it is not ourselves only whom we have to convince of our own righteousness, but our enemies are suspicious of us, and the neutrals doubt us. If we are to have a peace, therefore, we have to put ourselves straight in the first instance by making it quite clear, not merely by isolated statements of war aims by President Wilson and the Premier of England, but by a common declaration of war aims as to what all the Allies think. There is another step which it is very important the Government should take, with regard to a question which is probably the most difficult of all the points at issue, and which it is no use shirking. That is the question of Alsace-Lorraine. The Prime Minister has used a very vague phrase in regard to that. He has said we are prepared for the reconsideration of the question of Alsace-Lorraine. That, of course, may mean anything. Reconsideration may mean anything from the simple demand that Alsace-Lorraine should be given straight back to the French without question to a plebiscite in which the people of Alsace-Lorraine shall decide their own fate. What is the real policy of the 221 Government? The Government really in this matter are in a very difficult and awkward position, because the other day one member of the Government went down to Glasgow, where he was catechised by the working men. He was asked what the solution of the Alsace-Lorraine question was? This was the reply given by the Minister for National Service:The British Government, through the mouth of the Prime Minister in stating its war aims said we wish a reconsideration of the position with regard to Alsace-Lorraine. These provinces have been a steady cause of trouble in Europe for generations; part of them are French in population and part of them are German, and what the British Government wants is France and Germany, when it comes to negotiations, to decide how these things are to be dealt with. We are not pledged to fight to the end for Alsace-Lorraine; but we must get the proper peace in Europe that is essential if we are going to have security. Therefore we are not fighting for Alsace-Lorraine, but we are fighting for peace.That is what the right hon. Gentleman says when he is driven to talk plain English by an audience that will not stand any nonsense. Why cannot we have a policy with regard to Alsace-Lorraine? It is no use saying that the Germans will not have a deal in this question. There certainly will not be any surrender of Alsace-Lorraine until it becomes apparent that if there is to be any sort of surrender the natural German claims of the German population will have to be considered as well as the French claims of the French population. In these provinces both Germany and France have historical claims, and there is going to be no settlement except on some just democratic principle such as the French Socialists have already adopted. It, would be well, therefore, that our Government should make up its mind on these points when it is dealing with this question, which is one of the worst which is standing in the way of peace. I am certain that moderate opinion is beginning to realise that from this Government we are not going to get any re-statement of the war aims of the Allies, and I believe that the great mass of our population are looking round for some sort of statesman who believes in clearing our own record by re-stating the war aims of this country and of our Allies, and in taking a peace offensive steadily month by month as well as waging war continuously.
My own belief is that a Lansdowne Government would respond to the real will of the moderate British people, be- 222 cause the country needs at the head of the Government a man who believes so much in the need for peace that he will take the necessary political step as well as military steps. I am afraid that from what we have seen for the past few months that the present Prime Minister is pledged to the knock-out blow, but I feel that the House is beginning to realise that there must be some political change. Beneath all the writings in the war-mongering papers, and the War speeches, there is an almost universal craving for peace, and I think the House ought to remember that although this country is not very easily aroused to revolutionary protests public opinion has very rapidly changed, and sometimes in the past it has overthrown Governments most unexpectedly. Take the time of the American revolutionary war. The Royal Government of that day, with its obedient Parliament, seemed as if it was irresistible. The King was determined to carry on the war without remission. There seemed to be in the country a will for war that would never be broken. Then the British people realised that a decisive victory was impossible, and in a few months the whole of that majority melted away, and the King had to make an unwilling peace. It is very likely much the same here to-day. Opinion is changing very rapidly. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas), who has spoken recently. I think the Members of this House ought to realise how rapidly opinion is changing. My view is supposed to be unpopular. All politicians are unpopular at the present time. I honestly do not think that my views are most unpopular now. Wherever I go, I can say exactly what I like. Not only is there no insult, but hardly any objection. What is even more remarkable is that the more soldiers there are in the railway carriage, or wherever it may be, the more anxious they are for peace. What do the soldiers say? Not "peace at any price," any more than any of us here. What they are saying is, "We have done our duty; why on earth are not the politicians doing theirs?" It is a situation which may at any time become dangerous. There was a great meeting held at the Albert Hall the other day. Ten thousand working men came together, summoned simply by word of mouth. They came together, and they listened to some twelve speeches. What 223 were they interested in? It is true that they were indignant about the man-power proposals of the Government. But what was it that they really cared about? Their demand was for "peace," "peace," "peace," and there was not a dissentient note. [An Hon. Member: "Conscientious objectors!"] Conscientious objectors? Not a bit of it! Ten thousand of the best working men in London and 5,000 more shut out. All conscientious objectors? Not a bit of it! What they were after was a better policy. What they were cheering was, "Why do not our Government imitate the policy of the Russian Government? Why do not they stand up for principle as Trotsky stands up for principle? Why do not they proclaim democratic principles to the world, and why do not they act on them?"
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
They do not desert their friends. It is we who have deserted Russia. It is we who, when Russia was making the very efforts which we ought to have been making and proclaiming the very ideals which we ought to have been proclaiming, left Russia in the lurch. Russia was unable to defend herself any longer. She could only defend herself by principles, and she did her best. You may laugh at the Russians, you may jeer at the Bolsheviks—[An HON. MEMBER: "We are laughing at you!"]—but be sure of this, that there are masses of working men outside this House who do not approve of the violence of the Bolsheviks, but who approve of the principles which they have been trying internationally to assert. Be sure of this, that the approval of Russian principles will go on and on, and unless the Government are going to try to make peace to show that they are genuine in its desire, you will get a revolutionary feeling arising which you will not be able to repress easily. Then you may get the other side of Bolshevikism. We should all regret it here. It is the business of this House to look ahead and to see that the policy of this country does not continue this War an hour after it need be continued.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member who has just sat down in his incursion into the political wisdom or otherwise of the Bolsheviks in 224 Russia. I would only point out to him that so far it cannot be said that the policy of cringing before the German people has been marked with conspicuous success. The Amendment with which we are dealing is, as the House is perfectly well aware, an Amendment to the Address, and, of course, if it were carried it would involve the resignation of the Government. The actual terms of the Amendment do not appear to me to matter very much, because the Debate has proceeded on very different lines, or largely on very different lines from the Amendment. As I understand it, the main contention, which has been emphasised by a large number of the speakers, is that military means are not the only means that should be employed to finish the War. I shall have something to say about that later on, but let me say immediately that the Government of course accept that doctrine. After all, though they are a Government, they are not absolute lunatics, nor are they the kind of monsters in human form which the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) apparently considers not only the Government, but everyone who differs from him to be. Of course, the Government recognise it is their duty to use every means to put an end to this War. I cannot imagine the state of mind of a man who wishes that a war, any war, however small, should go on an hour longer than is absolutely necessary. As for the state of mind of a man who wishes that this War, this gigantic catastrophe and perpetual slaughter of the best and brightest of our fellow men, should last for even a second longer than is necessary, I cannot imagine that any man who holds that opinion exists outside a criminal lunatic asylum. I deeply regret that I was absolutely prevented from being here during the earlier part of the Debate, but so far as I have heard it, it has been conducted with all the gravity and sense of responsibility of a serious discussion on a very great occasion. The only exception—and I am bound to make that exception—was the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Snowden). I do not propose to occupy the House with a lengthy criticism of that speech, but I am forced to say I cannot imagine a speech less calculated to achieve the avowed end which the speaker had in view. It appeared to me that the hon. Member was far more concerned to attack and belittle his own fellow countrymen and the Allies than to 225 promote the cause of peace in Europe. Indeed, I believe he would have been seriously annoyed if he had found any utterance of a member of the Government which, in his judgment. really made for the conclusion of peace,
He made a great attack, among other people, upon my right hon. Friend (Mr. Balfour), and accused him of ignorance and of inaccuracy. These charges are easily made, but I am not quite sure, if close examination is made of the hon. Member's speech, whether he will be able to avoid similar charges. He told us that Lord Milner, when he was in Russia, confirmed and approved the agreement said to have been entered into between the Russian and French Governments with regard to the left bank of the Rhine. I believe that statement to be entirely without foundation. I have not had an opportunity of communicating with my Noble Friend since the speech was made, but I can say with absolute confidence that the British Government never con firmed and never approved such an agreement. That they did not know of the agreement when it was made is perfectly true, and though I am speaking from recollection, I believe the spokesmen of the French Government have repudiated that agreement, and declared that it is no part of the policy which they are pursuing. Then the hon. Member referred to a part of some secret treaty in which he said the British Government had claimed that their sphere of influence in Persia should include the neutral part, and he described this as a final blow against the integrity and independence of Persia. I should have thought it was not necessary to remind even the hon. Member that the only point of the Persian agreement in 1907 was a bargain as between Russia and England to provide that they should not compete against one another in certain spheres in Persia, and there was nothing else in it. No attack was made on the sovereignty of Persia. It was an agreement which I am not bound politically to defend here. It was entered into by Lord Grey, and I am quite certain I have heard him defend that treaty on exactly that ground, and I am quite certain there is no man in this country who is less likely to do anything which would be unjust or unfair to one of the smaller nations of the world. [HON. MEMBERS: "What did Lord Curzon say?"] I I do not think he said anything different from what I have said.
§ Lord R. CECIL
The hon. Member's recollection is frequently in error. I advise him to refer to the speech before he interrupts me. There was one observation which the hon. Member made which was serious. He said with a great deal of emphasis, and he challenged denial, that the Prime Minister had never cordially approved of the League of Nations. I expressed surprise, so he told me, by my countenance, whereupon he repeated it with still greater emphasis, and said he knew what he was talking about. This is what my right hon. Friend said in the speech which he delivered to the trade unions when he said that the speech had been carefully considered by the Government before it was delivered, and had the approval, I think he said, of the right hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) and Lord Grey:For those and other similar reasons we are confident that a great attempt must be made to establish by some international organisation an alternative to war as a means of settling international disputes. After all, war is a relic of barbarism, and just as law has succeeded violence as a means of settling disputes between individuals so we believe that it is destined ultimately to take the place of war in the settlement of controversies between nations.When he came to sum up our aims he said:We must seek by the creation of some international organisation to limit the burden of armaments and diminish the probability of war.Except for the fact that he did not actually mention the words "League of Nations," I can imagine no more cordial approval of the policy which has been put forward by the advocates of a League of Nations. I pass over other things which the hon. Member said with as little regard for accuracy as those to which I have referred. I do not think that the time of the House is very usefully occupied either by my criticism of the hon. Member or by his criticism of my right hon. Friend. The purpose of these Debates is to see and to consider among ourselves, with an earnest desire to arrive at a result, what there is that can be done by the Government of this country and by this House to further and re-establish peace. There is no other object in a Debate of this kind. I am going to try to meet the criticism that the Government have not carried out that duty to the fullest extent. It is said that we assented to the Versailles declaration. That declaration says that the Council 227have most carefully considered the recent utterances of the German Chancellor and the Austro-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and are unable to find in them any real approximation to the moderate aims and conditions laid down by the Allied Governments.The hon. Member for Blackburn says that is a very unjust statement and that both the speeches referred to approximated closely to the moderate aims which—and I do not quarrel with him—he took from President Wilson's speech. He read out a number of things on which he said there was agreement. I do not think that there were any of them on the vital matters that brought about this War.
There is the question of secret diplomacy. We certainly did not go to war about secret diplomacy. I am equally certain that the Central Powers did not go to war about it. An abandonment of secret diplomacy to-morrow would not put an end to the War an hour sooner than it would otherwise end. But, as a matter of historical accuracy. Count Hertling's acceptance of the objection to secret diplomacy was of a most ambiguous kind, and it really requires the colossal want of sense of humour of German statesmen to declare, as he did, that Germany had always been opposed to secret diplomacy, and that they were the first to declare themselves in agreement with the most extensive publicity for all diplomatic agreements. There is no Power in Europe which, either in history or at the present day, has ever been guilty of so much secret diplomacy. They have indulged in every kind of secret treaty. They have made secret treaties first with one Power and then behind their back they have made another treaty with another Power which they have called a treaty of reassurance. They carried on correspondence, which has recently been revealed, between the German Emperor and the Emperor of Russia which was a model not only of secrecy but of deception—and these are the people who have the effrontery to say that they were the first people to disapprove of secret diplomacy, and these are the people whom the hon. Member for Blackburn holds up for the imitation of this country.
Then there was the freedom of the seas. There again it is said that there is no difference of opinion, but they object very strongly to the limitation made by President Wilson, "except as the seas may be closed by international action." 228 So the agreement with President Wilson does not go far. Then, as regards economic barriers, they agree with that. That was the only point on which they really agree. But when you come to the really vital points—the occupied territories, Russia, France, Poland, the disagreement is patent, obvious and deep-seated. I will take only one example. The statement of President Wilson on this point is only a repetition of which every British statesman has consistently said—the complete restoration of Belgium in full and freesovereignty—and this is the so-called acceptation:The forcible annexation of Belgium is no part of the German programme. So long as the Allies refuse to accept the integrity of the territory of Germany and her allies as the only possible foundation of peace negotiations, discussion of the Belgian question must be declined.It must be obvious, even to the hon. Member, and all other advocates of Germany in this country, that under that statement everything short of the incorporation of Belgium in the German Empire, absolutely and entirely, would be open to the German politician. The same is true of other essential things, and which are even more obvious. I come to the League of Nations. What, after all, is the League of Nations? There is a formal acceptance of it, but I think when you read it you will see that comes far short of President Wilson's demand for its acceptance in his speech the other day. The Member for St. Pancras made an appeal to which I listened with the greatest possible sympathy, that we should define and make precise our ideas as to the League of Nations. To leave it till after peace was concluded I do not think would be the proper course for the British Government to pursue. I do not like to speak of myself, and I am not sure that I am not committing an indiscretion in doing it, but I certainly have given a great deal of personal attention to this subject, and I would even go so far as to say, though I trust I shall never be asked questions about it, that I have prepared a schema of my own, and though I do not pretend it is satisfactory —that is for others to judge—yet, I think, it shows that this is a matter which, it is no mere phrase to say, is receiving the closest possible attention. We are taking all the ordinary means for investigating the question, and I can assure my right hon. Friend that it is a matter on which we recognise that we must have 229 clear ideas. I do not think I should be asked to go further than that. I venture to quote—and it seems to me really to describe in one sentence the attitude of the German Chancellor—the words of President Wilson in his last speech,The method of the German Chancellor is the method of the Congress of Vienna.And the Prime Minister previously pointed out that the Congress of Vienna was absolutely dead and done. I must not spend too much time on the second great subject alluded to to-night, the question of the secret treaties. It is evident that I am in a great difficulty. We are bound by the treaties which we make not to divulge them. The Government represents the nation.
§ Lord R. CECIL
The undertakings of the Government are the undertakings of the nation. [Hon. Members: "No, no!"] The late Government made those treaties, and we accept them as I hope every British Government will accept international obligations. It is obvious that from our point of view—indeed, from the point of view of everybody—that there is a great advantage in publication, as enabling us to show fully to our fellow countrymen exactly what we conceived the meaning of these treaties to be and the reasons why we entered into them. That line of defence is necessarily taken from me, and I can only say in very general language that I believe those treaties were thoroughly justifiable, though this Government was not responsible for any of them. [An HON. MEMBER: "All of them!"] I think not. The Italian treaty was not entered into by the late Government; it was entered into by a purely Liberal Government, and I do not think there was a word of criticism. Taking all the circumstances of the case, that Government was perfectly right in making them. But this I say: When there is a ease made out for the view that these things ought to be reconsidered, and when hon. Members accuse us of being reluctant, it is perfectly notorious that before the Kerensky Government fell we made an offer to reconsider these matters, and it was only because of the difficulty of finding a Russian Minister sufficiently permanent in his post to discuss them that they never were discussed. In any case, as long as those treaties exist, I say to the hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Trevelyan), 230 absolutely as long as those treaties exist, we are bound by them. When they ask us to repudiate treaties, it seems to me that these pacifists do not understand the elements of their creed. How are we ever to make any progress in international affairs unless we regard international obligations as sacred? It is the very essence of any reasonable system of international relations. What of your League of Nations itself? Really I am amazed that anybody speaking with any sense of responsibility should ask us to do such a thing!
§ Lord R. CECIL
You say so. It is obvious that I cannot discuss the matter; the hon. Member knows that I cannot discuss it, and he makes that statement. I am entitled to say that nothing seems to me more improbable than that Lord Grey should have made a treaty in 1913, and being such a man should have entered into a treaty in 1915 which would have been the absolute destruction of that treaty. It is incredible that he should have done so. It is not only that we are bound by these treaties, but those treaties were entered into for certain definite objects and reasons—
§ Lord R. CECIL
We obtained certain definite advantages. We obtained the assistance of Allies in our battle with our German enemy, and now we are asked, having obtained all we entered into treaties for, by those hon. Gentlemen—those honourable Gentlemen—to repudiate and discard those treaties. I know quite well how much these treaties lend themselves to misrepresentation and abuse in the country. I know they are not popular. I deeply regret it, but I do not deny it. I say that a Government which, rather than incur unpopularity, would do the thing which those hon. Members want us to do is utterly unthinkable.
231 I pass very rapidly to the end of what I wish to say. My right hon. Friend was much criticised because of some observation he made about diplomacy. I was not here when he spoke, but he was said to have said that diplomacy cannot come in until agreement is reached.
§ Lord R. CECIL
Until a basis of agreement has been reached I am quite sure that the sense of the phrase was, and must have been, that it is no use entering upon a peace conference until a basis of agreement is reached.
§ Lord R. CECIL
And, as my right hon. Friend says, self-evident. Of course, the duties of diplomacy are not entirely confined to attending a peace conference. We recognise that we have to do whatever we can by diplomacy to bring this War to an honourable end. We recognise that, and I can assure you we do not forget that; but when we are asked for a peace conference or negotiation of that kind, then I think we should ask what is the real frame of mind of our enemies. It is no use going in or talking about such things unless they mean peace as we mean peace. I venture to quote very briefly from a report before me of the Kaiser's speech:We desire to live in friendship with neighbouring peoples, but the victory of the German arms must first be recognised.
§ That is the foundation of the German claim. So long as that is the foundation it is. no use for us to talk to them about peace, and when they talk about it they are dishonest as far as any reasonable meaning can be attached to their words in this connection. When the hon. Member for Blackburn makes a great peroration about the horrors of war and the demands for peace which exist in this country, he tells us a story of a town which rejoiced greatly when it heard that peace was made. Does he suppose that the Government, or the members of the Government, disagree with any of those feelings? Does he suppose there is any member of this Government who does not regard peace as the greatest possible blessing that could accrue to this country? Does he imagine that they are the only people in this country who have not suffered in this War even personally? Does he suppose that they are really the monsters in human form which his kind of suggestion would indicate? I believe members of the Government, like everyone else in this country, like every reasonable man, want peace, and that is the only thing they are fighting for. That is the only thing they would consent to fight for. If they do not go and clamour or crawl before our enemies, and suggest that they will make peace on any terms and in any way, it is because they are convinced that not only would that peace be repudiated by the people of this country, but that it would form no lasting settlement for the nations of Europe.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 28; Noes, 159.233
|Division No. 1.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Anderson, W. C.||Lamb, Sir Ernest Henry||Roch, Walter F.|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)|
|Bliss, Joseph||Macdonald. J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Snowden, Philip|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||M'Kean, John||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James Henry (Derby)|
|Buxton, Noel||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Morrell, Philip||Whitehouse. John Howard|
|Collins, Godfrey p. (Greenock)||Outhwaite, R. L.|
|John, Edward Thomas||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Jowett, Frederick William||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Mr. Holt and Mr. Hogge.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N.||Bellairs, Commander C. W.|
|Astor, Major Hon. Waldorf||Barnett, Capt. R. W.||Benn. Arthur Shirley (Plymouth||
|Baird. John Lawrence||Barnston, Major Harry||Bigland, Alfred|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Barrie, H. T.||Bird Alfred|
|Balfour. Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond)||Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc. E.)||Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Beale. Sir William Phipson||Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Barlow, Sir Montague (Salford, South)||Beck, Arthur Cecil||Boyton, Sir James|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Herman-Hedge, Sir R. T.||Pease.Rt.Hon.Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Philipps, Sir Owen (Chester)|
|Brookes, Warwick||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray|
|Brunner, John F. L||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||Pratt, J. W.|
|Burdett-Coutts, William||Higham, John Sharp||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest George|
|Cator, John||Hills, Major John Waller||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Hinds, John||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Robt.(Herts, Hitchin)||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvon, Arton)|
|Clynes, John R.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. George H. (Norwich)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Colvin, Col. Richard Beale||Hope, Lieut.-Col. J. A. (Midlothian)||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecciesall)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)||Robinson, Sidney|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Rothschild, Major Lionel de|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)||Hunter Maj.-Gen. Sir Charles Rodk.||Royds, Major Edmund|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||IIllngworth, Rt. Hon. Albert H.||Samuels, Arthur W.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Henry Page||Jones, Henry Haydn, Merioneth)||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Joyce, Michael||Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur|
|Davies, David (Montgemary Co.)||Kellaway, Frederick George||Shaw, Hon. A.|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Shortt, Edward|
|Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H.||Lane-Fox, Major G. R.||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)|
|Dixon, C. H.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Sykes, Col. Sir A. J. (Ches., Knutsfd.)|
|Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Eo.vard||Levy, Sir Maurice||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Tickler, T. G.|
|Finney, Samuel||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Tootill, Robert|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes (Fulham)||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Lowe, Sir F. W (Birm., Edgbaston)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Forster, Rt. Hon. Henry William||Lonsdale, James R.||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Geddes, Sir A. C. (Hants, N.)||McCalmont, Brig.-Gen. Robert C. A.||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Gelder, Sir W. A.||Macmaster, Donald||Wardle, George J.|
|Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's||Waring, Major Walter|
|Gilbert, J. D.||Macpherson, James Ian||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||Maden, Sir John Henry||Watson, John B. (Stockton)|
|Gretton, John||Malcolm, Ian||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|Hall. D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Whiteley, Sir H. J.|
|Hall, Lt.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich)||Meux, Adml. Hon. Sir Hedworth||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Meysey-Thompson, Colonel E. C.||Williams. Thomas J. (Swansea)|
|Hamersley, Lt.-Col Alfred St. George||Mills, Lieut. Hon. Arthur R.||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Money, Sir L. G. Chiozza||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Hanson, Charles Augustin||Morgan, George Hay||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Morton, Sir Alpheus Cleophas||Werthington Evans, Major Sir L.|
|Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Newman, Major John R. P.||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Haslam, Lewis||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Younger, Sir George|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Norman, Rt. Hon. Major Sir H.|
|Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Parker, James (Halifax)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.-Lord|
|Hemmerde. Edward George||Parkes, Sir Edward E.||Edmund Talbot and Capt. Guest.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ It being after Eleven of the clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.