§ Mr. CLEMENT EDWARDS
I beg to moveThat this House do now adjourn.The House will appreciate what I am going to say when I state that it has been with the utmost reluctance that I and those associated with me have taken the step of moving the Adjournment of the House to call attention to something which is alleged to be taking place at the Peace Conference. We recognise the tremendous difficulty that lies before our representatives in the great and delicate negotiations of the Peace Conference, and we should not have thought of saying anything during the discussions which are taking place there if we had not been more than alarmed by messages that have come to us. Last week when we saw in the Press a statement to the effect that certain emissaries from the Bolshevik Government of Russia had arrived in Paris, that they had interviewed certain British and American representatives, and that the American representatives, and it was believed some of the British representatives were sympathetic, I am perfectly sure that the mental attitude of Members of this House and the mental attitude almost universany throughout the country was one of utter incredulity. When the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House made a reassuring statement last Wednesday or Thursday, we were considerably relieved, but it is now perfectly clear, from information which has not only appeared in the Press but which has come to some of us, that the statement that was then made whilst it was believed to have been, without a shadow of doubt, a perfectly true statement as to the knowledge then possessed by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, did not in 2142 fact approximate to the substantive state of facts as we now know them to have been in Paris.
What is the position? The position as we know it, without doubt, without fear of contradiction, is this, that there has been two American citizens in Mr. Steffins and a Mr. Bullit who have been permitted to go through Bolshevik Russia, who have held long and extended conferences with Lenin and the Bolshevik leaders there, and who have come to Paris on the passport of the Bolshevik leader with a written document signed by Lenin himself, in which there are certain terms proposed for the recognition of the Bolshevik Government. The entire terms of that document we do not know. The entire terms of that document have not even been hinted at either by the American Press representatives or by the Press representatives of this country. But there are one or two terms that we do know of to a certainty, and one of the terms is this, that the whole of the Russian people are to be recognised as subjects of the Bolshevik regime. To give recognition on that basis would mean that the whole of loyalist Russia, the whole of those Russians who on the actual or the implied guarantee of the Allies have been putting up a fight against this appalling Red pestilence are to be handed over body and soul to the Lenin regime. It is impossible, I say, for a self-respecting country to contemplate recognition in that way. Above and beyond all, when we know what the Lenin regime has meant, it is impossible for this country, who unselfishly and self-sacrificingly went into the War, to contemplate recognition on that basis, and I go further and venture the expression of this opinion, that if for any reasons—I do not care for the moment what they are—if for any reasons the plenipotentiaries from this country saw fit to grant recognition in that way, the vast majority of the House of Commons would repudiate it. I am perfectly certain it is impossible to the minds of some of us, it is impossible that there should be serious consideration for a single moment of granting recognition to the Bolshevik regime. What is it? We have heard stories told in the Press. But let Members, if they have any doubt about what it means, let them just study the White Book which was issued by the Government two days ago, and they will find there that to recognise the Lenin regime is to give recognition to anarchy, to mad 2143 anarchy, to wicked cruelty beyond any possible conception of any British mind at least. I know there are people in this country who have taken the view that the stories which have appeared from time to time in the Press, containing horrors of the rule or lack of rule, who have found those horrors so appalling that they believe that they must be the invention of some wicked German.
If they have any doubt at all about it let them read the officially verified statement which the Government of this country has deemed it expedient to publish in this White Book. Let me take, if I may, at haphazard one or two extracts from this book. Take the case of the report of Sir Charles Elliott to Earl Curzon, received on 23rd February. He gives the cases, a large number of cases, of Russians who have been murdered. He gives cases Numbers 19 and 20, two of twelve labourers arrested for refusing to support the Bolshevik Government on 12th July. These men were cast alive into a hole in which were hot slag deposits from works at Verhisetski, near Ekaterinburg. The bodies were identified by their fellow labourers. In the same report he gives two cases, Numbers 69 and 71, killed at Kaslingski works, near Kishtim, on the 4th June, together with twenty-seven other civilians. No. 70 had his head smashed in, exposing his brains. Seventy-one had his head smashed in, his arms and legs broken, and two bayonet wounds.
Take the report from Odessa—a report by the British chaplain, where he says that for three days before the Austrians marched into Odessa the Bolsheviks had divers at work from the Imperial yacht "Almas" and the cruiser "Sinope," dragging the harbour for the weighted bodies of the murdered officers, of whom about 400 had been done to death, the majority after torture with boiling steam followed by exposure to currents of freezing air. Others were burnt alive bound on planks which were slowly pushed into the furnaces a few inches at a time. In this way perished General Chournokof. The bodies recovered from the water were destroyed in ships' furnaces, so that no evidence might remain to be brought before the Austro-Germans. Later, a member of the Austrian staff told me they had been supplied with a list of names of over 400 officers from the Odessa district. The true loyalist Russians were protecting Odessa from the Bolshevik 2144 Army. They were being overwhelmed and overtures for surrender were made. The terms as agreed to were that every life should be saved in Odessa. As soon as the Bolshevik army arrived in two days all the officers of the Russian army were arrested. They were then taken down on to one of the battleships in command of the Bolsheviks. They were without exception stripped of their clothes. Steam jets from the boiler-room were turned on to their naked bodies. They were scalded all over. They were then exposed to something like twenty-seven degrees of frost for two hours. After this stones were tied to their feet and they were dropped overboard into the harbour of Odessa. There was a desire on the part of the family of one of the officers to recover the body for burial in the old village churchyard. A diver was sent down. The diver returned horror stricken. He reported that the whole of these four hundred officers to whose feet stones were attached were in consequence of that standing upright at the bottom of the water, like half a battalion of men, just swaying backwards and forwards. He refused to go on with the work. That is the incident to which the OFFICIAL REPORT refers and here is a case where there was an actual undertaking given by the emissaries of Lenin that life should be protected and that those who had surrendered should be made safe.
Then here again there is a Report—I will only trouble the House with one further extract on this aspect. It is a Report that gives an interview with a gentleman who was a manager of a British firm in Petrograd. He speaks of how the Bolsheviks hold power in Petrograd:They continue to hold power," he said, "by a system of terrorism and tyranny that has never before been heard of. This is centred at Gorokovaya 2, under the title of the Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Speculation and Sabotage. Originally under the direction of Yourelski it confined its operations to dealing with offences under these headings, but after his death it came out frankly as an instrument of the Red Terror, and since then its operations make the history of the French Reign of Terror, and the Spanish Inquisition appear mild by comparison. People were arrested wholesale, not merely on individual orders, on information received from spies, but literally wholesale. People were arrested in streets, theatres, cafes, every day in hundreds and conveyed to prison. There their names and other details were entered up, and the next day parties of a hundred or so were marched to one or another prison while their unhappy relations stood for hours and days endeavouring to learn what had become of them. They were kept in prison two, three, or four months without any 2145 examination or accusation being made. Then some were accused and shot, fined, or all property confiscated, others were allowed to be ransomed by their friends, and others were released without any explanation. No trial was given. The accusation and the examination were made together. The examiner was generally an ex-workman, or even a criminal. Examination was made in private. Sentence was confirmed by a member of the Commission, and that is the only trial anyone ever received at Gorokovaya 2. The climax was reached after the murder of Uritsky—attack on the British Embassy, and the Lockhart affair, where hundreds of people were arrested in various parts of the town, mostly officers, who were shot and thrown into the river, or bound, put into barges, and the barges sunk, all without even the formality of being taken to Gorokovaya 2. I was in prison—and so on. Those are extracts, let it be borne in mind, from a document which the British Government have seen fit to publish. It is not a question of any stories which might be discredited outside.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
The Government vouch for it. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman has the slightest doubt about these stories, perhaps he will do something to attack the veracity of the witnesses who have been called by the Government for the purposes of this Report.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
I have never had very much belief either in the judgment or the wisdom, whilst quite respecting the honesty, of the hon. Member, but when he says that this is "anonymous tittle tattle," if he likes I am prepared to give him the names of eye-witnesses, distinguished Englishmen and Russians, whom I am quite sure he would regard as men of truth and veracity, who will give him the evidence from their own eyes of what has happened.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
As I supplemented the OFFICIAL REPORT by this statement which I made about the appalling massacre at Odessa, and as the hon. and gallant Gentleman seems to have some doubt, let me give him another case.
Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Sir E. Cornwall)
I would remind hon. Members that leave was given to move the Adjournment in order to discuss the alleged overtures with the Bolsheviks at the Peace Conference. Although, of course, I quite, understand that the Report which the hon. Member has mentioned comes into some part of the discussion, it must not become the subject for the whole of the discussion.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
I was only putting the point as to what is the kind of creature with whom it is suggested there should be negotiations.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
That is exactly what I said would be in order, but a general discussion as to the accuracy of that Report would not be in order.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
I am not concerned whether this Report is accurate or not, except as showing that, at all events, the British Government have given a definite official acceptance by the publication of this Report of what in their view is the character of this pestilential evil of Bolshevism, and I was supplementing what was put in that Report by evidence which has come to me from representative Englishmen and very distinguished. Russians as to the character of this particular element which it is now suggested should be recognised in the terms of the overtures which they have made. From that point I will pass, except to say that I shall be pleased to give the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Wedgwood), or any of those associated with him, the evidence and the names of the witnesses, who can be seen, of a further incident characteristic of this Bolshevik regime. It is the case of where the Bolshevik soldiers went into a high school in a certain town. Six or seven days afterwards loyalist Russians went in, and when they went into the schoolroom they found on first appearance that the boys and girls there were sitting at their desks in the ordinary way, but, on closer examination, it was found that the hands and feet of those children were nailed to the desks and to the floor respectively, and there they had died of starvation. I dare say the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Wedgwood) may say that that is anonymous tittle-tattle. I shall be very glad to give him the names of the representative witnesses who can vouch for the accuracy of that statement. I suppose that to the vast majority of the Members of this House it is not necessary 2147 by detail to emphasise the character of the beast which we are now asked officially to recognise
My Friends and I recognise the gravity of the situation. We take the view that it is practically impossible to secure anything like a comprehensive peace, or a peace that is calculated to be permanent, with Russia left out of the reckoning, but we believe that we cannot possibly make that permanent peace by recognising all usurpation of law and order, and by recognising the bloodstained hands of "these anarchist assassins. We believe it would be better to delay things rather than to give recognition to this kind of thing, not only better for the peace of Europe, but pre-eminently better for the sake of the future good social order in this country, for which we are concerned, and others. If there is to be formal recognition in response to these overtures of the Bolshevik regime in Russia, what are you going to say if it lifts its ugly head in this country? [An HON. MEMBER: "It is doing it now!"] I agree it is doing it, and so far as it is doing it almost everybody is out to fight it. But if you are going to give formal recognition to it in Russia as a sort of short way out of the difficulty, you are simply going to bring anarchy, revolution, and red ruin on the whole of the civilised communities of the world. If you are going to recognise it here and now, you are going to wipe out all the great work that has been done and all the sacrifices that have been made by those who have fought in the name of good order, liberty, humanity, and democracy in the great War. We recognise the gravity of the situation, not only from the point of view of this disorder extending to this country and of this anarchist pestilence spreading to this country, but of what may happen in Great Britain. Think of it—anarchy, Bolshevism frankly and unblushingly admitted will be the creation and the triumph of German diplomacy. It means that Germany is going to organise it, and it is not without significance that vast numbers of Chinese cut-throats have been brought in for many of the dark deeds which are being performed in Russia now. Leave Russia in a state of anarchy, formally and diplomatically recognise that state of anarchy, and Germany will organise Russia, and through Russia China, and instead of your having the combination, as we had in this War, of the 2148 Central Powers of Germany and Austria and Turkey you are going to have a vast population, infinitely greater than that which we had to face, dominated from the North Sea by Germany right away to the Pacific Ocean, and down through China, and I warn the Government, if it is necessary to warn them, that that is a real danger which some of us contemplate with awe if there is the least recognition of Bolshevism. I know the sort of thing that is likely to be said. What is the alternative? It is very difficult to say what is the alternative. There are many weary, tired people in this country, there are many who are anxious about those who are near and dear to them in this small force at Archangel who simply say, "Let the Russians stew in their own juice." But the disease, if it is allowed to fructify, is not going to stop there. This disease in Russia must be stamped out at all costs. On this point there is a great deal of difference of opinion. I speak with a very great deal of reluctance and diffidence when it comes to a question of policy with regard to Russia.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not within his rights in referring to the sending of forces to Russia. He must confine himself to the terms of the Motion.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
What I have to discuss, of course, according to the formal terms of the Motion, is these alleged overtures from Lenin, and I want to use arguments why those overtures should not be contemplated seriously and considered by the plenipotentiaries of this country. I submit that I am entitled in that connection to show that there is a better way, to show the danger of overtures from this kind of creature, to show what would be the consequences which would flow from a recognition of these overtures, and to show what I believe might be a better way to adopt than to accept the overtures from these creatures. I know I was very near the border-line, and because of that I shall be very brief, but I shall be brief for another reason, and that is my general reluctance to make any suggestions as to positive policy which may belong to the military domain as well as to the domain of diplomacy and politics to which one is now addressing oneself. I had shared the view that the policy of sending forces to different points of the circumference of Russia was never calculated to be other than futile.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
That is the point which I say the hon. Member is not entitled to discuss. I am pointing it out in his own interests if he wants the Debate to conclude by Eleven o'clock. He will see the kind of Debate which will take place unless I stop it now. He must keep away from the question of troops going to different parts of Russia.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
I was not going to attempt to discuss in detail the question of particular bodies of troops, but it is quite obvious that this is a matter of vital importance to the future wellbeing of the world. We are now discussing the question whether these overtures are to be seriously entertained or not. One of the grounds upon which it might possibly be entertained is that the policy which has been pursued up to now has proved to be futile, and therefore they must do this or there is nothing to be done. I submit that I am entitled to go at least as far as to say that the particular method which has been adopted and has so far failed and may lead to that kind of mentality at the Peace Conference which enables these terms to be contemplated, was destined from the beginning to be futile, and because of that this other policy may be adopted as a policy of despair. From the beginning I for one had thought this was calculated to be futile. I have not entered into this Debate in any idle spirit. I have not entered on the discussion of this question without the most careful and elaborate attempts to get what I believe to be the very best opinion from loyalist Russians, and from the solid heavyweight Britisher who has come from Russia, and what they suggest is that instead of the Bolshevik mischief being recognised in a formal way at Paris, as suggested by the emissaries from Lenin, the Bolshevik machine might be crushed out if there were a bold attempt made, not to send armed forces from this country but to accept the overtures which have come from the representatives of loyal Russia; that if we will guarantee full supplies for Petrograd and Moscow they will find the necessary means to get to Petrograd, the very heart of the Bolshevist movement. In other words, that we might save our people for certain who are threatened at Archangel.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
I was pointing out what has been represented as the better 2150 way. What is said is instead of your contemplating giving formal and official recognition to the Bolshevik regime, do something definite and effective, without sacrifice of British lives, to stamp it out, and that opinion goes to the extent that if the Allies will give an undertaking to provide supplies through the Baltic, and take steps to encourage General Yudenitch he would undertake from the military point of view to capture Petrograd and hold it. All he asks is a guarantee of food and supplies.
An HON. MEMBER
Will the hon. Gentleman give us the names of the Russians who supplied this information?
§ Mr. EDWARDS
I shall be very glad to give any Member a full list of the Russians with whom I have consulted.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
The House will understand that it would be impossible of my own personal knowledge to give expression to the views to which I have given expression—and I have not attempted to give expression to these views, without the most comprehensive and the most exhaustive consultation with representative Russians and British people who have returned from Russia during the last few weeks. It is because I believe they are witnesses of credibility and speak with vast and intimate knowledge that I thought it my duty to commend this suggestion to the Government as an alternative to what the papers tell us is in contemplation in Paris, and I hope it will be conveyed to our plenipotentiaries in Paris that at all events the view of the House of Commons, focussing public opinion in this country, is that we should regard with horror and with dismay the possibility suggested by some of the papers that official recognition is to be given to the iniquitous regime of Bolshevism in Russia.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
As many hon. Members wish to speak, I shall be very brief in seconding the Motion of my hon. Friend. The day when the Prinkipo Conference was suggested was a fatal day 2151 as far as ending differences in Europe were concerned, and if there is any truth in the latest rumour, I think that I am right in saying that it has created dismay in every section of the House, with the exception, perhaps, of one or two representatives who have, perhaps honestly, declared themselves as Bolsheviks in this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name!"] The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
With the greatest respect to my hon. and gallant Friend, I must really contradict that. I never for one moment suggested that I was a Bolshevik, but I am opposed to tyranny either in this country or any other country.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
It may have been in chaff, but my hon. and gallant Friend last Session on these benches announced that he was a Bolshevik. I am in the memory of the House. I thought that that was probably the reason that he was immediately sent on a mission to Vladivostok. When the Prinkipo Conference was suggested that action spread dismay among all the men who are our friends in Russia, and whom we may hope to be our friends in future when this appalling state of affairs ends. I believe that I am right in saying that the Don Cossacks were convinced that sooner or later, when the Allied Powers had recovered from their exhaustion owing to their part in the great War, they would come to their aid. Directly that conference was suggested messages were sent to them by the Bolsheviks, and among a large part of the forces of the Cossacks there was a feeling of absolute despair. Like my hon. Friend, I have had the opportunity of meeting probably some three score Russians who have come here and learning the situation from them. When our Government suggested the possibility of a Conference at Prinkipo, at which other parties in Russia were also to be represented—which perhaps, to a certain extent, mitigated the proposal—it gave the impression in this and other countries that Bolshevism was not the vile thing which it really is. The Home Secretary, who is present, knows that the feeling, small though it be, exists in this country, and that most dangerous statements are being made, and even gentlemen who have been Members of this House —they are not in this House now I am 2152 glad to say—have, within the last two or three weeks in Hyde Park, deliberately advocated in their speeches, with demobilised men and soldiers among the audience, that their hearers should imitate-the conduct of those in Russia—a clear indication of mutiny.
This kind of thing is going on. If there is any truth in this latest report, what would be the effect on the forces of disorder in this country? The immediate result would be that the immunity which they at present possess would be greatly strengthened. They would be able to say, "At any rate you are talking to these people; you are prepared to discuss peace terms with them. We are no worse than they are." Consequently the whole moral force of the Government in dealing with the Bolshevik peril in this country which undoubtedly exists—there is no use shutting our eyes to it—would be tremendously weakened. We went into the great War in order to try to secure peace on earth, and half of Europe is suffering under this unholy law of murder. We are beginning to understand now that there is a brutal military tyranny-going on in Russia which has never been, equalled in the history of mankind. I hope that hon. Gentlemen will study this, question from every point of view, and I believe that they will come to that opinion, also. The achievements of the Bolshevists in Russia, on the evidence before us, make the achievements of those whom we described as the Huns in the War pale into insignificance. It is the most terrible business ever known in the history of the world. This is the system to which we have been too wont to blind our eyes.
How is this kind of thing affecting Russia? It affects all classes. I am not afraid to mention, first of all, the late Czar of Russia, whose last statement to his people was to implore them to be faithful to the alliance against the Germans, and who, as we all know, with the whole of his family and his children, were brutally murdered. The nobility have been either stamped out or are tramping the streets in the towns of Russia, bootless, unfed, and scavenging to try to get food. The middle classes have been absolutely ruined. The small tradesmen have had their shops shut. Business has become nationalised, so we are told. I hope that the methods will be noted. But that is not all. The working classes in Russia are conscripted body and soul, and are mere chattels, treated like 2153 beasts of burden by their masters, the Bolshevik dictators. May we not, when there is any talk whatever of discussing this question with the Bolshevists, take our memories back to what Russia has done for us? When we were hard pressed in the early weeks of the War the whole strength of Russia was thrown into East Prussia and saved Paris and the Channel ports with ill-equipped and unarmed forces, that went with a heroism which has been rarely known in military history. The United States mourns her dead, and France and Belgium and Serbia and Italy, and other countries, mourn their dead, and we in this country made great sacrifices, but may I not remind the House that if you put all the losses of all the Allies together they do not equal what Russia lost on behalf of the Allies. When I say Russia, I mean the real Russia which is being starved to death now by these people. An hon. Gentleman denies it, but he cannot read what is happening. If he would meet the working-men who have recently come back from Russia they would tell him that what has appeared up to date in the British Press is quite mild in comparison to the reality, and they are astonished at the lack of any kind of exaggeration with regard to this question. There are three alternatives. One is that Bolshevism, will spread over Germany, include Russia, and possibly include China. That is the most formidable thing we can possibly contemplate, because it means the end of civilisation, the end of Christianity—absolutely the end of Christianity. An hon. Gentleman says "No, no!" but does he realise that in all the churches and cathedrals in Russia, where the Bolshevik regime holds, they are dancing day and night in those churches, which have become the homes of the harlots of Russia. We ought to realise those facts which show that the danger of any talk of this description we have heard is so great because it is misunderstood. Secondly, there is the possibility that the people of Russia, the intellectual people, who eventually will gather round with the real workers of Russia who are not with the Bolsheviks, will try to establish a new regime and will appeal to Germany to help them. In that case it would mean simply handing over once more Russia to Germany for future development, and you will, in consequence, have a great unity between Germany and Russia. The third alternative, and the only possible alternative for 2154 this country, with its old, honest traditions, is to have no truck whatever with the thing which is evil, and to discriminate between right and wrong. If this House can send a message this evening to the Prime Minister in Paris—and I cannot believe, after what the Leader of the House told us, that he could for one instant even consider this question with whatever foreign country it may be—I say if we can only send a message to show that this House is, as it has shown this evening, practically unanimous on this point, we will, I hope, strengthen his hands, so that he will be able to say to any tempter who may say that this is an easy way out, that this country will not betray the whole of her history and her faith, but will stand by the forces of law and order in Russia and have nothing to do with those men.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I understand that it has been arranged by the powers behind the Throne that I am not to speak to-night, but am to speak on Tuesday next instead, and, therefore, I shall content myself by saying that the speeches we have listened to to-night, the two able, eloquent and moving speeches, bring me back in memory to this House in the year 1795, when speakers as able and as eloquent, and as filled with the horrors that were taking place in Paris, urged this House, and almost in the same terms, to go to war with France in order to put down the same horrors there. I congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Brigadier-General Croft), the Leader of the Nationalist party, in standing to-night almost in the shoes of Edmund Burke. I congratulate the country on having in Paris a Prime Minister who has a good deal more common sense than the armchair warriors opposite.
§ Lieutenant-Colonel WALTER GUINNESS
In taking part in this Debate I do not wish to be understood as endorsing for a moment the suggestion that has been made in the Press that our Government can be contemplating negotiations with the Bolshevists. We have had such specific pledges from them that it is unthinkable that there could be any foundation for all the rumours which have found their way into the public Press, but we do recognise that at the present time great stresses are being developed in Paris which may cause pressure to be placed on our negotiators which were not contemplated, certainly when the Prime Minister made his statement at the beginning of this Session. Therefore, I think 2155 we owe our thanks to the hon. Member for East Ham (Mr. C. Edwards), who raised this Motion, which will enable us to send a message to the Prime Minister that this House, more than it did even at the beginning of the Session, to-day holds that we must have no truck with the Bolshevist horror in Russia. I can understand those who take up the attitude that we should not interfere with Russia and it has been argued by a certain party in this House, and a party with considerable numbers in the country, that we must let Bolshevism burn itself out. I disagree with that policy. Personally, I think it is a cruel policy and a policy which shows black ingratitude to our former Allies, but it is a policy which many people who disagree with Bolshevism honestly hold. But I cannot understand anyone who wishes to see orderly government there advocating that we should force Bolshevism on Russia, and that in short is what any negotiation with the Bolshevik Government would amount to. Russia has shown as clearly, as any country could do, that she does not want Bolshevism, and that she hates the Government which is ruling her at the present time by force. We have been told by the Foreign Secretary that there have been a hundred peasant insurrections in Russia against Bolshevism and that sometimes that it has taken weeks to suppress those Insurrections, and that they have been finally overwhelmed by vigorous measures, such as complete extermination of the villages which were in revolt against the Government. The White Paper which has been circulated gives us further information on that point. It tells how, when a village in the Bolshevik area in Russia revolts, it is not a matter only of the men suffering but of every woman and child being condemned to a cruel death. We have also the admission of the Bolsheviks themselves that the executions in Russia in the large towns amounted, up to the 1st January, to 13,700. That was the statement of Petrovsky, the Commissary of the Interior, and it did not, of course, include the smaller towns or villages. If Russia wanted Bolshevism it would not be necessary for the Bolsheviks to have these cold-blooded murders of whole sections of the population in order to maintain its rule. Russia does not want Bolshevism, and no country has ever shown dislike of its Government more bravely than the Russians in the Bolshevik area.
2156 The British Government might have been induced to pursue the policy of letting Bolshevism burn itself out, but I cannot believe that they would want to give Bolshevism a new lease of life by interfering with the economic forces which are bringing it to the ground. Burning Bolshevism out is a slow policy, it is a cruel policy, but in the end I believe it will be an effective policy. The strength of Bolshevism has been in their control of food and supplies and arms in Russia. They disarm all those who are against them and shoot down anybody who is in political disagreement with their views. But their stronger weapon has really been the weapon of starvation. They have divided the population up into four categories, and whereas the first category, consisting of fully-fledged trade unionists and employés of the Soviets, get full rations, the remaining categories are being slowly starved to death. There is no doubt, from this White Paper, quite apart from the evidence of the Russians whom we most of us have met, that this has been the strongest weapon in the hands of the Bolsheviks. In the White Paper our Consul at Vladivostok, Mr. Alston, reports that their followers have supported Bolshevism, not because they believe in their propaganda, but because the alternative to joining the Bolsheviks is starvation. I saw in a newspaper to-day that starvation alone had made Russia Bolshevik. That is a complete misstatement of the position. The reverse is the fact. It is Bolshevism alone which has made Russia hungry, and it is this hunger in Russia, a natural economic force, which is now reacting and threatening Bolshevism at its roots. The peasants in the villages now will not sell their food to the Government. The only manufacture, out of all the industries of Russia, is now the manufacture of paper money, and the peasants will not exchange their corn for this useless paper money. The White Paper, on page 23, informs us that there is plenty of food in Russia, that there is plenty of everything in Russia except perhaps coffee, but, as we have heard from other sources, the peasants prefer to bury their food rather than give it to the Bolshevik dictators and thus rivet still more deeply this horrible tyranny on their country.
The truth is that, owing to starvation, the Bolsheviks are at their wits' end, and now it is suggested that we shall help them out of this difficulty by sending food into 2157 Russia. We are informed in the public Press that the Bolsheviks have offered all kinds of commercial advantages to the United States, and that, in exchange for that, it is proposed that we shall authorise a certain neutral—the name of the neutral even being printed, a Scandinavian—to organise the supply of food to Russia. I have no objection whatever to feeding Russia provided you send an army to Russia to see that the food goes to those people who are starving. If you send food without control to Russia you will simply fatten up the Bolsheviks and the Chinese executioners, and enable them to commit greater atrocities against the suffering population. I will not go into the crimes of the Bolsheviks. They are set forth in the White Paper, and I hope that all hon. Members have read it. But, quite apart from their crimes, even if there was none of this black record against them, we have no right to force on Russia a self-constituted Government, founded on no kind of democratic sanction. The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme has suggested several times in questions in this House that the Governments which are opposed to Bolshevism in Russia—that of Admiral Koltchak, and the subordinate Governments of General Denekin and M. Tchaikowsky, are all monarchist Governments.
§ Lieutenant - Colonel GUINNESS
The hon. and gallant Member says "Hear, hear!" That is an absolutely unfounded statement. It is acknowledged by every Russian I have met—
§ Lieutenant-Colonel GUINNESS
No, I do not think it is a matter of opinion. It is a matter of fact; it is a matter of record; it is a matter of the previous history of those who are working with the orderly Governments of Russia. It is not a matter of opinion, it is not a matter of sentiment.
§ Lieutenant-Colonel GUINNESS
Well, perhaps as the hon. and gallant Member admits that it is not a matter of opinion, he would like to hear the facts. I was not going to weary the House with this, but he might perhaps like to know who is supporting this Government of Admiral 2158 Koltchak. I have had sent to me during the Debate this evening by a Russian in London the names of the delegates in Paris.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Did he give you the names of those whom Admiral Koltchak put in prison—of, the previous Social Revolutionaries who were not Bolsheviks?
§ Lieutenant-Colonel GUINNESS
Tchernoff is one. That is a very valuable statement, because I dare say the hon. and gallant Member did not see in the Press the other day that M. Tchernoff, one of the leaders of the Social Revolutionaries, has now been admitted as an equal by the Bolsheviks.
§ Lieutenant-Colonel GUINNESS
Well, as he is considered a fit and proper associate by the Bolsheviks, I do not blame Admiral Koltchack for imprisoning him. After all, Admiral Koltchak has got to secure the foundations of his government, and if M. Tchernoff shares the views of the Bolsheviks, and if the Bolsheviks are using all these outrageous methods of tyranny, and murder and cruelty to secure their position, surely it is only reasonable that Admiral Koltchak should take steps against M. Tchernoff. As a matter of fact, he cannot have taken any very effective steps against him, because, if the hon. and gallant Member has been watching the reports from Russia, he will now see that M. Tchernoff is at liberty, and that his party is received to the bosom of the Bolsheviks. The hon. and gallant Member expressed curiosity as to the personnel of the Government which he considers to be monarchist. Admiral Koltchak's Government is now recognised by the Government of General Denekin and by M. Tcharkowsky. M. Tcharkowsky is the Social Revolutionary who was banished from Russia, and who spent most of his life abroad in this country. In Paris the representatives of this "Monarchist" Government have agreed to stand for a freely elected Constituent Assembly and to leave to that Constituent Assembly the decision as to the future form of the Russian Government. Among those dele- 2159 gates are the following cadets: Struve, originator of the 1904 revolution; Nabokoff, Stakovich, and Efremof. Among the Socialists are Tchaikovsky, Ivanof, Savinkof, Bakmetef, Titof, Avksentieff and Bourtzeff, who was responsible more than anyone else for the last revolution. It is an absolute misrepresentation of the case to say that these men are Monarchists. The anti-Bolshevist Government in Russia are committed to consulting the country as to the form of government they wish. Therefore, for that reason alone, quite apart from the crimes of the Bolsheviks, I think it would be an outrageous interference with Russian liberties for us to bolster up the present absolutely unconstitutional government which has been set up in Russia.
Of course, the matter interests us from a far wider point of view than that of the question of the Russian constitution. Bolshevism is not a Russian question; it is a world question. You can no more make a treaty with Bolshevism or confine it not to spread into other countries than you can make a treaty with a house on fire. Bolshevism means to try to conquer the world, and this country, so far as omens can be judged, does not want Bolshevism. This conutry has made considerable sacrifices to resist German domination and to have a British Government in Great Britain. Personally, and I think I speak for many others, I would far rather have had a German Emperor ruling in England than international Socialism under the auspices of Brorstein alias Trotsky. When the German Emperor sanctioned the murder of women and children he did it by the bullet or the shell—[An HON. MEMBER: "And Biblical phrases!"]—but he has left his former Russian allies to turn on Chinese executioners to saw asunder his victims and to gouge out their eyes before they are finally put out of their misery. Public memory may be very short; but this country still remembers that Russia has had 1,700,000 dead in the War. History has recorded many treacheries, but I do not think it has ever recorded any treachery so black as would be the treachery of requiting the sufferings and the sacrifices of our Russian Allies by forcing them under a Bolshevist regime.
If we have negotiations with the Bolshevist Government we shall force every Russian to be a subject of this unconstitutional rule, and the acknowledgment of this Government would be an absolutely deadly 2160 blow to Admiral Kolchak and General Denikin and the gallant Armies who, after hardships innumerable, are now winning their way to victory. The history of his Army is not perhaps generally realised in this country: how, at the beginning, a handful of 3,000 Russian officers wandered over the steppes under General Korniloff, unarmed, without a base and without supplies, and how that handful of Russian officers has grown until it has become an Army of over half a million. I cannot believe that this country would countenance the betrayal of that loyal force in Russia, and I cannot believe that they would countenance the betrayal of the loyal population of Archangel who are now absolutely committed to our cause and who would be murdered, and worse than murdered, by the Bolshevists if we were to evacuate that territory. I believe that the pro-Bolshevists in this country and in this House are a mere handful, although they are noisy. The Dutch Minister in Petrograd has, I believe, gauged the feeling of this country more accurately than hon. Members who have supported the Bolshevists in this House.
§ Lieutenant-Colonel GUINNESS
I am glad to hear from that interruption that they are apparently repudiated.
§ Lieutenant-Colonel GUINNESS
I regret that I was tempted to deal with the interruption. I do not want to accuse hon. Members.
§ Major Earl WINTERTON
May I call your attention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to the continued disorderly interruption of the hon. Member for Silvertown?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The interruption has not been continuous. I called hon. Members to order, and I thought we were proceeding to order.
§ Lieutenant - Colonel GUINNESS
I would be the last to suggest that the hon. Member for Silvertown had any sympathy with the Bolsheviks.
§ Lieutenant-Colonel GUINNESS
I am sufficiently acquainted with the hon. Member's record to know that that is the last accusation which anyone could make against him. Further, I welcome the repudiation of other hon. Members on those benches of any kind of support for the Bolshevik Government.
§ Lieutenant-Colonel GUINNESS
I believe the Government would be most ill advised to have any kind of communications with the Bolsheviks. The country would be behind them in refusing any measures of the kind. We have to remember that our Russian Allies are living in an absolute inferno, an inferno of slavery, torment, and starvation. It is for us to knock down the gates. It is certainly not for us to succour or to feed or in any way to help the devils who hold the keys.
§ Mr. BOTTOMLEY
I shall strictly observe your ruling, Sir, that within the terms of this Motion we are not competent to discuss what should be the military policy of this country in Russia, either with a view to relieving our own sorely-pressed troops, who are being as much tortured and battered by the Bolsheviks as are the civilian population, if the truth "were known, or for the purpose of restoring law and order in that country, nor shall I indulge in any speculation as to how far any particular Member in this House may be accused of being a Bolshevik or of having any sympathy with the Bolsheviks. I am more concerned to be assured that the Prime Minister of England does not come within that category. I shall want a lot of convincing that he does, and in the few observations I want 2162 to offer the House I shall venture to suggest where I think the real danger lies. I think we are indebted to the hon. and learned Member for East Ham for introducing this question to-night. It is one of several grave and serious questions which attach to-day to the making of peace, and I await with profound interest such statement as may come from the Treasury Bench to reassure the House and the country that there is no foundation at all for the rumour that so far as the British representatives are concerned they will dally for one moment with these overtures from Lenin. Let me put one or two very simple statements of fact before the House, and invite any hon. Gentleman behind me or elsewhere to combat them if he can. I am prepared to give chapter and verse for every statement I make, and the first statement I make I do not think will be seriously disputed. It is that the whole of this Bolshevik movement is part and parcel of German propaganda, just as I should venture to say, if it assumed a more serious aspect in this country, that the same remark would apply. For the hon. Gentlemen on my right, for responsible and accredited and trusted leaders of the Labour party, I have the sincerest and profoundest, and if I may say so quite honestly, from my association with them in this House and elsewhere, the most affectionate respect, but there are other leaders of labour with considerable followings who are trying their best to introduce this disease of Bolshevism into this country, and it is for that reason that I view with such apprehension the possibility, however remote it may be, of our Prime Minister and his colleagues representing us having any kind of negotiations with the spokesmen of Russian Bolshevism.
The next statement of fact I want to make is this, and again I do not think any hon. Member will dispute it. It is that Bolshevism in its working stands for anarchy, stands for despotism, stands for the enslavement of the working classes, stands for murder, pillage, rapine, lust, every conceivable crime which you will find in the devil's calendar, and that it has not brought one single benefit of any sort to the Russian people. The third statement of fact I make is this, and I beg such hon. Friends as may for the moment be doubtful as to the true inwardness of this question to ponder it. It is that these sudden overtures from Lenin simply 2163 mean that the Bolsheviks are at the moment in a dilemma. They are short of food, their people are groaning under them and getting out of hand, and this is a piece of absolute trickery on their part to hold out—forgive me the phrase, Sir—the bloody hand of friendship to the Allies in the hope that we may be deceived, encouraged by well meaning but not very worldly wise people in this country, into accepting their bona fides and parleying with them for the making of peace. These being the facts, which can be demonstrated to the utmost, what we are here to-night to know, and what we are so indebted to the hon. Member for East Ham for giving us the opportunity of knowing, is, Is the British Government going to entertain for one moment these overtures? I venture to anticipate the statement from the Treasury Bench to be that our Prime Minister, who, whatever may be his shortcomings—and we all have them—is not a traitor to his country, is not coming back next week to face this House with such a moral crime upon his soul as would be the making of any treaty with these murderers and villains, I venture to say that that assurance will be this, that if pressure is being brought upon the Peace Conference to entertain these proposals, it is coming from some wild, airy, idealistic element in the Conference which, under the guise of great ideals and altruism, in my opinion—and I am here to express it, and I do not mince my words—is keeping a keen eye all the time upon the material benefits which will go to those countries farthest away from Europe when the trouble comes. It shall never rest on any body of representatives of this nation, and certainly not on this House of Commons, that we will have truck with this body of inhuman scoundrels who are by their conduct creating the greatest satire ever known in the history of the world on what is called civilisation, the greatest travesty upon the name of humanity, and —I say it with all reverence and sincerity —also a blasphemy upon the name of God. I say that if President Wilson is a party to that, or if he is for one moment sympathetically considering such a suggestion, the sooner he goes back to America and takes the opinion of the American people, whom he does not represent to-day, the better for the peace of the world.
§ Mr. J. F. GREEN
It is perhaps not inappropriate that the first time I address 2164 this House it should be on a question connected with Russia. There are some hon. Members of this House who know, at any rate, that for the last quarter of a century I have been most intimately associated with that noble band of men and women who were really too good to live in their own country under the detestable regime of the Czars and found a refuge on our hospitable shores. That, I hope, is a sufficient answer to the somewhat silly cheers, if I may say so, that came from certain people on the opposite side of the House suggesting that those of us who were supporting this Motion, and who were denouncing the Bolsheviks, were in sympathy with the Government of the Czar and desired a Monarchical counter-revolution in Russia. There are men on the Labour Benches at any rate, and many are young men who have not known me, but some of them opposite, whom I now see before me, know what my record is in regard to the Russian movement, and I am quite sure they will acquit me of any sympathy with the desire to see a restoration of the Czardom in Russia. This I do say, and I am supported in this by many of my Russian friends—by my friend Monsieur Bourtzeff, by my very disinguished and dear friend the President of the Republic of Archangel, Monsieur Tchaikowsky, who has been mentioned already—and I ask any hon. Members upon those benches who know Monsieur Tchaikowsky as I have known him, whether it is not preposterous to suggest that such a man as that, after the life that he has led and the sacrifices that he has made, after being an exile from his country for more than a quarter of a century on account of his opposition to the Czars, is the sort of man who is out to bring about a Monarchical counter-revolution in Russia, and yet there is no man in Russia or in Europe who is a stronger and stouter-opponent of Bolshevism than the President, of the Republic of Archangel! That remark applies to every one of this noble band of men who are still alive and formerly lived in this country.
Therefore I suggest that it is idle to hint that the only people who are opposing this Bolshevik régime in Russia are people who want to bring about a Monarchical restoration. It is nothing of the kind. I wish to endorse everything that has been said by the previous speakers in denunciation of this Bolshevik régime. Mr. Gladstone, on a celebrated occasion, described 2165 the Government of Ferdinand of Naples— Bomba, as lie was known—as the negation of God erected into a system of government. I venture to say the government of Bomba was a government we could all admire, compared with this detestable Bolshevik Government. I endorse every word of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (General Croft), when he said that nothing like it has ever been seen. It is a cursed thing, a danger to civilisation, and I say that if our Government, or any other civilised Government, is going to recognise its Ministers or have any dealings with these cut-throats and assassins, who, unfortunately, have a certain part of Russia, but not the whole under their heel—if those men are going to be recognised, and it is going to be supported as a definite Government, then I say it is the absolute end of civilisation in Europe and everywhere else in the world. Therefore, do not let us have any truck with those persons. The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), who, I am sorry to say, has fled, spoke of anonymous tittle-tattle in the Government White Paper. I am not dependent for my opinions on the evidence in the White Paper, although I accept it, and I am quite certain the Government would never have issued the evidence in the White Paper unless they were assured it was true. But I am not simply depending on that. Like other hon. Members in this House, I have—and I esteem it a great honour—many friends amongst Russians. I have seen these men who have come back, and heard from their lips the atrocities they have seen with their own eyes. Therefore I do suggest that it is idle for an hon. Member to come down here and suggest that we, are simply going upon anonymous tittle-tattle. No; we are going upon evidence which is as strong and as potent as any evidence ever presented to us, and I do ask this House to endorse the Motion which has been brought forward by my hon. Friend, and to express in no uncertain terms its determination that it will even go so far—and some of us have certainly no wish to do it—as to oppose this Government, and, if need be, we would resign our seats, and go back to our constituencies, rather than have any part in recognising this Bolshevik regime.
§ Major-General Sir J. DAVIDSON
There are one or two remarks I would like to make. Personally, I have never been an advocate of entering into partnership 2166 with the devil. It does not pay, and, whether it does or does not, you are bound to quarrel in the long run. The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme carried our memories back to the year 1795. I wish he had drawn the parallel a little further, because for the next fifteen or twenty years we were at war with the very country which had been in revolution, and it seems to me it is not impossible that we may be dragged into a, long war now unless we are careful. The Central Empires are in a very shaky condition at the present moment, and it is not improbable at all that they will link up with Russia and lead us into a very awkward situation. I would like to take this opportunity of drawing a moral from the situation as it is at present. Right hon. and hon. Members on the other side of the House during the Naval, Military, and Air Forces Bill seemed rather anxious to cut down our forces, and I think this is an opportunity for us to consider that we may be led into a good deal of trouble in the near future, and that this is not the time to reduce our forces to a dangerous degree. If the Central Powers do connect up with Russian we shall probably find ourselves in a very awkward situation, and, it may be, in for a long period of war. This opinion has been expressed to me by more than one eminent person on the other side of the Channel, and I think it is well worth remembering.
I rise only because up to now the whole of the Debate has centred round the unwisdom of negotiation with what is called the Bolshevik Government, and unless someone from our benches spoke it might be taken that our silence indicated sympathy or otherwise with this particular form of government. Let me first say that there is to-day in this country no responsible leader of the working-class movement—and here let me say that I do not claim that we who call ourselves. Labour men, and fight as Labour men, are the only people who represent working-class opinion, but I am entitled to say that by our particular trades-union and working-class position we are in the main in daily contact with those particular individuals. It is only in that particular sense that we at least are entitled to voice what we believe to be the views not only of those we represent, but the people to which we belong, and therefore I repeat that there is no trade union leader who, with the knowledge that. 2167 we have of Russian affairs—unfortunately, up to now there appears to be no definite knowledge of Russian affairs, but what we have, and I have seen the private reports of Sir George Buchanan and Mr. Lockhart—all the information convinces me that, bad as the German Government may have been, it certainly was preferable to the atrocities that are committed in the name of the Soviet Government. But whilst recognising that, and recognising quite frankly that, so far as this country is concerned, we have no right, and we ought not to claim any right, to interfere with, dictate to, or suggest what the form of government of any other country ought to be, I say without fear of contradiction that all history proves that you cannot govern a country from outside.
I am coming to that in a moment, but if you say what the form should not be, that at least presupposes the right on the part of the foreign country to say what form ours ought not to be. You have no right to attempt to dictate to one nation its policy if you are not prepared to concede the same right to that nation in the same circumstances.
So far as the form of government in Russia is concerned, we have no right whatever to interfere. The Motion says that it is "inadvisable, unwise, and dangerous" to negotiate with the present Government in Russia. Let me first deal with the references of my hon. Friend to President Wilson. There may be differences of opinion as to what the outcome to this country will be, because it is clearly evident, whilst we have won the War, that the Peace is not secured. There will be common agreement that it is the Peace that matters. Anyone who has worked during the War, who has followed foreign events, and certainly—I say it without fear of contradiction—anyone who has been in touch with matters since the Armistice, cannot do other than wish, whatever may be the result of Peace, that nothing will arise that will interfere with or weaken the friendship of the United States and this country. No one can pretend that so far as the United States is concerned—you may argue if you like she ought to have come in before. [An 2168 HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, but here again it is only fair to say that you get the best evidence on that point from a visit to America. President Wilson succeeded in bringing a united country in, whereas he might easily, if he had taken a false step, divided his country to the serious disadvantage of the Allies. Whether there are points of agreement or disagreement on that no one can pretend that there is any other Ally, with the greatest respect to the whole of them, whose motives, interests, or ideals were so pure and clean as those of the United States, and of this country. Therefore I do hope that nothing will be said in this Debate on the Russian situation which will ever reflect upon America, or, as I said earlier, interfere with the cementing of the friendship between these two great nations. So far, however, as the particular Motion is concerned, we are all speaking under the influence of, the knowledge which we get from the Press reports. The Press reports —well, I do not know what others may have in the way of inside knowledge, but so far as the Press reports go they indicate it is suggested that negotiations are taking place between the Allies and some representatives of the Russian Government.
Let us for a moment consider who are the representatives of this country in Paris. There is the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Gorbals Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes), and the Minister of Blockade. No one can pretend that their war record justifies this House, or any Member of it, in assuming that they are enemies of the country. The record of each of these men proves conclusively that they have not only the confidence, but the same confidence that hon. Members in this House have in them in view of their record during the War. That, at least, entitles them to the confidence of the people of this country at this stage. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Very well, if that is admitted, and I am now arguing purely from the point of view of hon. Members who have spoken, surely we are entitled to say that they in Paris must be the best judges of the world's situation?
What is the world's situation? There will foe no difference of opinion that whatever else is necessary a speedy peace is necessary before anything else It is useless talking about the international situation and ignoring the situation at 2169 home. No one can pretend that we are likely to get into a normal position in this country until peace is made, and until then, so far as the internal position of the country, is concerned, it must remain very unsettled. I would suggest, therefore, that instead of hurling charges this evening on evidence that we know nothing about, instead of implying motives to the representatives of this country, without any foundation or evidence—
§ Mr. EDWARDS
On a point of Order. May I submit that there is no hon. Member in this House who has hurled charges at, or who doubts the sincerity of, our representatives in Paris.
The record of this Debate will speak for itself. Does not the Resolution itself imply a charge?
Very well. If that is so, then why have a Debate? What is the object of all this excitement?
§ Mr. EDWARDS
Will the hon. Member allow me to point out that he has had experience in labour negotiations. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up!"] It has not been unknown to him, I believe, that in his negotiations he has got his hands strengthened by those whom he represents.
Then we are to understand, Mr. Speaker, that the object of this Motion is to strengthen the hands of the Prime Minister. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] That is the clearest admission of what I suggest, and, that being so, the Prime Minister will be able to appreciate the full situation. It must either mean that the Prime Minister requires his hands strengthening. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] If he does, it means that he is getting weak. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Or if it does not mean that, it means that the Prime Minister himself requests that his hands be strengthened. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]
§ 10.0 P.M.
That being so, and it is generally agreed it is not the latter, I accept the former as the position. I again repeat that the danger of the Debate is that this House is suspicious of the Prime Minister. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Well, others will draw their conclusions. It is known that the Prime Minister—according to reports—comes back, or intends to come back, to make a statement to this 2170 Parliament. If that is the general position so far as the people of this country are concerned, I ask whether the only construction put on this Resolution would not be that there is a feeling, at least, that the Prime Minister is not as strong on this matter as he ought to be. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] That being so, then there is certainly no object in the Debate. So far as we are concerned I can only repeat that I would regret any Debate in this House that would cause friction in Paris. I may be wrong, but I do say that, in my view, an early peace is necessary. So far as the people of this country are concerned they want to see a peace with an ordered Government—an early peace is necessary for affairs at home as well as abroad. On the other hand, we ought not, in a limited Debate like this, to do anything that will hamper those charged with this great responsibility, and above all we ought to say nothing that would tend to injure, cause offence, or sever a friendship for the United States, for, after all and above everything else, we wish that country to remain a permanent Ally of this country in the future.
§ Lieutenant - Colonel Sir S. HOARE
With most of what the right hon. Gentleman has just said I entirely agree. I quite agree that nothing should be said in this House which would even remotely endanger our relations with the United States, or that, anything should be done that could in any way delay the ratification of a speedy peace. But when the right hon. Gentleman asks what useful purpose can be served by this Debate, I suggest to him that without in any way desiring to embarrass the course of events in Paris, it is the duty of the House of Commons to express its views upon what after all in one of the most important questions that is being considered by the peace delegates. During the last two or three months every other Chamber except this House has had an opportunity of expressing its views upon the course of events in Paris, and I do not believe that the debates which have taken place, in the French or Italian Chambers, have had anything but a good effect upon the course of events in Paris.
That is all the more necessary because for reasons good or bad we are kept very much in the dark as to what is happening in Paris, and we should be resigning our 2171 duty if upon an occasion like this we did not express our views to the peace delegates in such a way as not to cause trouble in Paris, but to let it be known quite clearly that it is the view of the House of Commons that we do not desire to enter into negotiations with a Government which we believe to be wholly bad. A week ago I brought to the notice of the House the negotiations which I understood were taking place between Lenin's Government and certain representatives in Paris. The House will recall to mind that I described to the Leader of the House the visit of two or three prominent Americans, and I made the statement that these gentlemen, travelling with diplomatic passports, had returned to Paris with a definite offer of peace from Lenin's Government. The Leader of the House knew nothing of this visit. He telegraphed to Paris, and the Prime Minister in his answer implied that he knew nothing of this visit either. Since then the Press both in this country and in France have published further details with reference to the visit that is alleged to have taken place, and I imagine, after an interval of a week, that the Home Secretary, when he comes to reply, will be able to give us some further details as to the visit that I described in general terms a week ago. I should like, for instance, to ask him whether these two or three gentlemen really have been to Russia; whether, in the second place, they have returned with a report containing offers from Lenin; whether that report has been circulated to the delegates of the Peace Conference, and whether—I think he might answer this as well—he himself has seen it? It seems to me to be a matter of such vital importance that the House is entitled to press for details. Last week I did not press for details, because the Leader of the House told me—and it was obviously quite true—that he had not any information with reference to the charges that I made. To-night, after a week, and in view of the repeated notices that have been issued in the Press, I venture to press the Home Secretary to tell us freely and frankly what is the truth of this story and what is the report that these gentlemen have brought back to Paris.
I realise the great difficulty of the Russian question. Do not let hon. Members opposite think that I do not realise the great complexity of what to my mind is the most difficult problem that 2172 the Peace Conference has to face, but I would put it to them, apart from the ground of humanity of which we have heard much this evening, that simply on the ground of expediency it would be the height of folly at this moment to enter into negotiations with Lenin. Is it likely that these men, the men whom Lenin represents, the men who from time to time have broken their word, the men who first of all broke their word to the Allies by entering into the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, and afterwards broke their word even to the Germans by starting the Bolshevik propaganda in Germany, are likely to keep any terms of a Peace Treaty that our delegates are likely to make with them in Paris? Suppose again the delegates in Paris did enter into negotiations with these people. Does any one suppose that that would solve the Russian question? Lenin's Government only maintains power over a certain part of Russia—a big part of Russia, I own. Nevertheless, the Government represented by Admiral Koltchak has control over the whole of Siberia, the Government of Tchaikowsky covers Archangel, and General Deniken has certain spheres of influence in South Russia. Suppose that the delegates in Paris entered into terms with Lenin. Would it affect Admiral Koltchak and the other Governments? Is it to be supposed it would solve the Russian question? Admiral Koltchak is advancing and gaining strength in Russia. Are we to make terms with Lenin at that very moment. It would only be making terms with a power that does not extend over the whole of Russia, a power which, according to all accounts, is weakening in its strength and force every day. I would therefore urge hon. Members opposite that simply on the ground of expediency it would be the height of folly to make terms with a Government which, in the opinion of many well qualified to speak, is tottering, whilst its enemies in Russia are gaining strength every day. I hope that the Home Secretary, when he comes to reply, will be able to confirm what the Leader of the House said last week, that he cannot conceive it possible that we should enter into negotiations with Lenin. I hope he will be able to confirm that and that he will go further and say what these Americans were doing in Russia and what report they have brought back. I hope he will be able to make it quite clear that whatever may be the views of these people, or of anybody 2173 else, our delegates in Russia will on no account enter into any relations with a Government which has been treacherous to the Allies, which has committed every conceivable crime, and which, at this moment, is growing weaker, whilst the other Governments—our friends—are gaining in strength.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Shortt)
I am afraid I cannot quite agree with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Thomas) that this Debate will serve no useful purpose. On the contrary I think not only has the Debate been extremely useful, but the subject of it is one upon which the House of Commons is eminently entitled to express its views. In the course of the Debate one of my hon. Friends dropped an observation which might have implied that there were in this House hon. Members who were sympathisers with Bolshevism —sympathisers with the regime of Lenin. And if the Debate does nothing more than call forth from every quarter of the House an indignant repudiation that the House contained a single Bolshevik sympathiser it will have been very useful. We know, I am sorry to say, it is only too true, there are in this country to-day Bolshevik agents. They are sometimes difficult to trace. They are sometimes difficult to catch in anything which brings them within the meshes of the law. But they are here. To the best of our ability they are being carefully watched, and it will strengthen our hands if they know that there is no quarter, at any rate, in the representative House of Commons of England in which they have a sympathiser.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I think it is possible my hon. Friend is perfectly right. I do not suppose there is anyone here who would wish to reconstitute in Russia the old system of government. One hon. Member has spoken of the refusal of our delegates to discuss matters with the Russian Government. I entirely contest the accuracy of that expression. There is no desire, I am sure, on the part of any Member of this House to refuse to discuss things with a Russian Government, but there is a distinct belief, and indeed a certainty, that there is to-day no Russian Government worthy of the name representative of Russia. We are entitled to say, and our delegates are entitled to say, "While we are perfectly willing, if you have a real 2174 Government which represents Russia—a Government with stability, which can be called a Government, which is worthy of the name of a Government—we will discuss with them, we will negotiate with them; but when it comes to a mere gang of bloodthirsty ruffians who are terrorising the population of Russia, with these men we, the House of Commons of Great Britain and Ireland, will have no truck. That, as I understand it, is the meaning of this Motion.
I am quite sure that nobody would deny to Russia the absolute right of the Russian people to determine their own. form of government. Even if they went back to Tsardom, we could not claim any right to stop them. Equally if they became a communistical Government of the extremist kind, nobody, not even the most reactionary person in this country, would claim the right to prevent them. But we are entitled to say this: "If you choose in your country to set up a form of government which is a danger, not only to yourselves, but to the rest of the world, we will have nothing to do with you. We will protect ourselves from you." Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Lenin to-day represents the Government of Russia—we know he has emissaries in this country, and we know that he has others in other countries waiting to come here— we are entitled to say, "We do not care whether you are the Government of Russia or whether you are not; you are a danger to civilisation, and against your emissaries we will protect ourselves."
My own belief is—and I have such sources of information as are open to our police—that the Bolshevist emissaries in this country are finding very little support and very little encouragement. They are here. They are a danger. Where you get industrial unrest, where you get unemployment where you get any of those things which make men nervy and "jumpy," evil emissaries have a fertile ground. But I do not believe that any fertile ground to-day, in spite of any industrial unrest, exists for Bolshevism. I am equally satisfied, as far as I know, that the emissaries of Bolshevism are well in hand. Indeed. I may take the House into my confidence to the extent of saying that every single day that passes I sign a certain number of orders getting rid of some of them. While one has to be very careful indeed not to take some perfectly innocent alien who happens not to be a Britisher, and treat him with any form of injustice, when 2175 once we are satisfied that an alien is a dangerous alien, then we must use the powers we possess to get rid of him.
I have been asked a number of questions about the visit of two Americans to Russia, about the report which they are said to have brought back, and about what is being done with regard to Lenin's proposals or negotiations. So far as I know, there is no reason to doubt that the two American gentlemen have been in Russia, and I understand they have returned. Whether they have brought actual definite proposals from Lenin or not I am not in a position to say. I am in a position to say, so far as the latest information I can get from Paris is concerned, no such proposals are before the British delegates. Whether they have been put before the Americans, of course, I could not be in a position to say, or the French, or the Italians, or any other person; but, according to the latest information, they are not before the British delegates. I have no reason to suppose for an instant that the declarations made by the Leader of the House the other day have been or are going to be departed from. Of course, when you only heard of the matter a few hours ago, you cannot get the definite information and knowledge that is required to make a definite statement. Therefore I cannot say anything really much more definite than that. I think I was asked, Do I suggest that representations might be put before the other delegates and not before those of this country?
§ Mr. SHORTT
No; I do not suggest anything of the kind. These gentlemen being Americans, may very probably have communicated to their countrymen things which they have not communicated to the delegates of other countries, but I have not made any suggestion of the sort. Indeed, I go further. I do not believe for a moment, from the information I have, that there is really any Lenin negotiation or suggestion brought to Paris at all. I believe the whole story is of German manufacture, for the purpose of making the people of other countries believe that the Bolshevist is really a peaceable, civilised, reasonable person. I am betraying no secret when I say our Secret Service know perfectly well that the Germans are spreading Bolshevism where they can. They know it is their only hope. 2176 They know that where Bolshevism goes, anarchy reigns, and miserable weakness supervenes. I believe these stories are of German manufacture, for the purpose of making the people of other countries believe the Bolsheviks are really a perfectly peaceable, civilised regime.
§ Mr. C. EDWARDS
Does the right, hon. Gentleman mean to imply that, the statement that two American citizens, have come from Russia after interviewing Lenin, and have given an interview to certain delegates to the Peace Conference, are not true, and are of German manufacture?
§ Mr. SHORTT
I do not mean to suggest anything of the sort. I never said anything of the sort. I was not dealing with, the visit of the Americans to Russia. I said I had no reason to doubt that they had been there.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I cannot. I said the stories which have reached the Press of America and come back to this country, that Lenin was ready to negotiate on reasonable terms, were really of German manufacture, and that Lenin to-day is no more willing to negotiate on any kind of reasonable basis, and is no more fit to negotiate with, than he was before. As I have said, it is very difficult to answer when you are dealing with questions which cans only be answered with definite knowledge, and I am sure that the House will appreciate that it would be very dangerous for me to repeat something said over the telephone between Paris and London, which might not be quite accurate, and which might give a wrong impression. Therefore, I do not, and I am sure that the House will not press me to do so, give the result of a telephonic message which might give an inaccurate impression; but I can say that there have been no such proposals as have been suggested, nor, indeed, have there been any proposals from Lenin before our delegates. I can at least promise to do this—to convey to the Prime Minister the undoubted fact that the unanimous feeling of this House was in favour of this Resolution. I think that that is perfectly clear. In doing that I am not suggesting for an instant that the Prime Minister is weakening, or that the Prime Minister has sent out any S.O.S. This is a spon- 2177 taneous motion of a body of Members without any consultation or connection of any kind with the Government. The House of Commons has responded to it, and I shall certainly report to the Prime Minister what the feeling of the House of Commons has been. I cannot to-night promise that the Prime Minister himself will be here before Tuesday, but either the Prime Minister or the Leader of the House will be here before the House adjourns, when possibly there may be some chance of getting some more definite information than it is possible for me to give to the House. But this I will say, that this has been a useful and valuable Debate and has made clear to the whole world what it the opinion of the British House of Commons.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I understand that the Home Secretary, in his most satisfactory speech, has laid down this principle, speaking for the Government, that they do not intend to negotiate with certain people whom he described as bloodthirsty ruffians, which we all agree they are, who are now posing as the Government of Russia. I do not think that we could have had a more satisfactory assurance from the Government, and I merely rise to ask whether that is the assurance which the right hon. Gentleman has given?
§ Mr. SHORTT
What I have said was, and I repeat it, that I have no reason to suppose that what the Leader of the House said the other day will be departed from in any way whatever.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
That is not quite as strong as I thought it was. I wanted to be quite certain as to what it was that the Government have told us. I do not want to disturb the excellent speech which the right hon. Gentleman has given us, but I am rather sorry that he has a little bit qualified it towards the end, because I want to be quite certain where we are; and if he had sat down and not made it quite clear that the unanimous opinion of the House of Commons is what I have just set forth, then it might be said that the House had accepted that statement of the right hon. Gentleman which he might have whittled down. Now, as I understand the unanimous opinion of the House, is that we ought not in any circumstances to have any negotiations with the gentlemen—with the men—whom the right hon. Gentleman has described as bloodthirsty ruffians, and that from that we will not depart.
§ Mr. JOHN JONES
I intervene in this Debate because during the part of the discussion which I had the first opportunity of listening to it seemed as though those who are responsible for the Resolution before the House were anxious to score a political victory against those whom they assumed to be their opponents. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] If there are opponents of Bolshevism in this country I claim to be amongst them, because before the War, and during the War, those of us who sit on these benches have had to face the music in every trade union branch and every Socialist organisation with which we happen to be associated. I could have voted for a Resolution of a positive character denoting the policy that the Government of this country should assume in connection with the Russian embroglio, but what is the proposition before the House? It is purely a negative that the Government must not do certain things, but there is no suggestion as to what the Government of this country should do. If you are going to interfere in the internal affairs of another country—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!" and "Yes!"]—I venture to suggest gentlemen—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] —hon. Members at least, that when we are dealing with Russia we are not dealing with Ireland, and the same arguments that apply to the reign of Lenin and Trotsky by the rule of the bullet and the bayonet, also apply in other connections. And some hon. Members of this House, who the other evening applauded vigorously the declaration of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that 40,000 troops were necessary to keep 4,000,000 people in subjection on the other side of St. George's Channel—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"]—surely I am entitled at least to assume that those who do not believe in government by bullets ought to be consistent. Lenin and Trotsky—we know them. I learned all I know of Russia from associates of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, and all I know about Russia, is that it is a place I do not want to go to. So far as we are concerned, we have heard nothing from our friends upon the other side which gives us any reason to hope that they have any ideas about Russia, except that they are very anxious to get into it and do not know the way to get out of it. As far as this Resolution is concerned, those of us who belong to the Labour party are anxious to see peace as soon as possible. [An HON. MEMBER: 2179 "With honour!"] You have sent plenipotentiaries to Paris and now you want to tie their hands behind their backs. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] The practical effect of the proposition to-night is this, that they must not do certain things, but you may be compelled by necessity within a fortnight's time to accept the very things which to-night you say you will not. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no," and "Never."] Not again my dear friends. [HON. MEMBERS: "Pulpit" and "Order."] I should have imagined when I addressed you as friends that I was not talking to enemies. [An HON. MEMBER: "Address the Chair."] Mr. Speaker, Sir. I assume that hon. Members opposite want peace. I also assume that some hon. Members opposite want pieces. You will have peace when you know how to get it. Why do you not propose a resolution that, in the event of the restoration of the Constituent Assembly, you are prepared to negotiate with the representatives of the Russian people? Why do you not declare a policy? Are you going to leave that policy to be settled by the gentlemen who are representing us in Paris, or are you going to say here, as Members of the House of Commons, that you have a policy of your own and not a mere policy of negation? You want indemnities; you want Russia to be left open to the possibilities of international complications of even a graver character than already exist. The spread of Bolshevism in Europe depends upon the spread of starvation in Europe. Hon. Members of this House are supporting the policy of starvation. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!" and "Who?"]—
On a point of Order. Earlier in the Debate, the Mover of this Resolution was called to order because he discussed one or two questions aside from this Resolution. I humbly venture to submit that the hon. Gentleman's speech also is following that example.
§ Mr. JONES
I venture to suggest that Bolshevism is closely allied to starvation; that Lenin and Trotsky have played upon the starvation that exists in Eastern and Central Europe and, as a consequence of the growth of that starvation, they have found very fruitful ground. The best way in which we can defeat Bolshevism is to 2180 provide for the people of Eastern and Central Europe means whereby they can provide for the starving populations in those great countries. Have we proposed anything up to now that will improve the situation? Bolshevism in this country! We know where that Bolshevism exists; we know the people who are responsible for it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who are they?"] If you are so clever you ought to have discovered them: I am no secret service agent, and I have no responsibility for what may happen. [An HON. MEMBER: "A duty."] The duty that I have is to say that, in so far as hon. Members of this House of Commons simply cry all the time for something which they cannot have; in so far as they cry out for their pound of flesh, like so many Shy-locks, they will not get peace in Europe, and Bolshevism will necessarily spread as a result of the continuance of the present arrangements. Therefore, much as we on these benches would like to see Bolshevism destroyed, it is not going to be destroyed by the kind of speeches which we have heard this evening. It can only be destroyed by the restoration of organised and orderly government in Europe. Therefore, instead of demanding the last limit of human endurance from the peoples whom we have conquered, we ought to be prepared to enter into reasonable arrangements of peace and to say to those who were our enemies, just a few months ago that, under proper conditions, peace can be restored. Then you would find that Bolshevism would be reduced in proportion as peace was made more possible. We, on these benches, some of us, have got into trouble inside the Labour movement, because we tried to be patriotic during the War, and you know it. Some of you would not have been sitting on those benches if it had not been for the support of the biggest reactionaries in this country. Some hon. Members know that inside the Labour movement there has been a strong pacifist element. That pacifist element is trading to-day upon the fact that peace does not seem to be very near at hand. Dissatisfaction has been created because of the impossible demands that are being made. Therefore, while we want, so far as this Resolution is concerned, not to negotiate with the men whose hands are red with the blood of innocent men, women and children, and while we have no desire to recognise those who have killed their fellow Socialists as being responsible 2181 governments, we do want to say that the Government of this country and the Governments of all the Allied countries have a very great responsibility to themselves and to the rest of the world in making peace as soon as possible on democratic lines. Because we do not agree with everything hon. Members opposite say, let it not be said that we have sympathy with anarchy or anything of the kind. I want to repudiate any suggestion that we in the Labour movement are anxious to see this country kept apart from peaceful and democratic development. The longer you delay a satisfactory and democratic peace the more sneers we have at America; the more suggestions there are that President Wilson is out for pieces and not for peace; the more sneers we have against that great country which came into the War to free herself from the possibility of militarism in the future, the more we are helping to prepare the hell's broth of the future. We shall have America becoming a great military Power, and we shall have Eastern Europe allying itself with the Bolshevists. Because I have learned a good lesson at the feet of some hon. Members who have identified themselves with the Russian democratic movement in days gone by, I do not want to aid those who would sooner see Czardom on the throne again than see the Russians capable of managing their own affairs. [HON. MEMBERS: "Names!"] Names have been mentioned of Gentlemen who have declared themselves in favour of the restoration of the Monarchy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Names!"] Admiral Kolchak is one. He declared publicly that he was in favour of the restoration of Monarchical Government in Russia. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Hon. Members may not agree with me, and my knowledge of Russia may not be as extensive as theirs, but I am glad to say that my ignorance is as profound, at least. What they know would fill a book, but what they do not know would fill a library. We know the people who are associating themselves with certain movements connected with Russia. They are people who are anxious to get their pound of flesh, and because we know that we have suspicions of the people who are to-day pretending to be the friends of peace. I knew my opinions would be unpopular. That is the reason why I got up to express them. We say that Russia has a great future, and when you try to ostracise, as you are trying to do, and to 2182 make the Russian Bolshevik Government believe that they have the sympathy of a large proportion of the people in their own country, and that they also may have sympathy in other countries, you are opening up greater possibilities of warfare in the future than we have had in the past. It is because we do not want to see the spread of disorder and anarchy that we on these benches declare ourselves in favour of immediate peace, democratically considered, without trying to force Russia into a position of absolute impossibilism.
§ Mr. SEXTON
It is with very great hesitancy indeed that I venture to intervene in this Debate, but I do want to put myself right, and I am speaking purely for myself. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones), I have had to keep my own corner in the trade union movement from the beginning of the War until now, and, like him, I have had to meet with opposition. I have not changed my opinion even to-day. My position here—and I speak for myself—is sincerely to adopt the principle embodied in the Resolution moved to-night. I am not going to be a party, no matter what the conditions may be, to negotiating with men whose record and whose tracks are red with blood. I do not want to detain the House any longer, but that is my position as an individual, and I am speaking purely for myself.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.