HC Deb 16 April 1919 vol 114 cc2971-99

The moral effect of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down seems to be that to raise the blockade is not enough, and that, in addition, we must also have international co-operation in finance. I only regret the right hon. Gentleman did not go further and urge not only international co-operation in finance, but also the higher international co-operation in idealism and in brotherly love, which is as essential to the establishment of real civilisation as the more material side of international finance. We on these benches welcome the right hon. Gentleman's return to Parliament, and we are extremely proud of the example he has set for English tradition and English character in Paris. It will be seen later that his efforts in regard to the League of Nations, and also in connection with the international economic situation, have secured recognition in quarters where his merits were not before so fully recognised.

We are here not only to welcome back the Noble Lord opposite, but also the Prime Minister. He, too, has in a way surprised some of those who did not receive his support at the last election by the admirable way in which he has carried on his work in Paris. The Prime Minister, in spite of all the yapping of the Press and the telegraphing of his followers, has maintained an even course absolutely in accordance with his Liberal past in backing up the Liberal ideas of President Wilson, and doing his best to re-establish the world on the basis of justice and self-determination. Although we have missed him from this House, we have seen that he was doing more useful work for the future of this country in Paris. I am glad he has come back, because I think we need him here more than in Paris. The fact is that it is not only the rest of the countries of Europe that are going to rack and ruin but this country as well, owing to the want of co-ordination in the different departments of government, and the general business of Cabinet rule here requires a head who will make some effort to co-ordinate the Departments and secure that there shall be a reasonable economic administration of this country.

Everyone knows that the Board of Trade is the public Department which is most open to criticism, and its system of maintaining restrictions on imports and exports has been quite inadequately defended in this House, and I am certain it would not have been tolerated if the Prime Minister had been more in this country recently. There is another Department which to me seems to require the firm hand of the Prime Minister. We all realise that when we had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) and the Noble Lord opposite (Lord R. Cecil) at the Foreign Office, we had then people in charge of foreign affairs who at any rate could be trusted to maintain some of the old traditional Liberalism of view that we associate with Palmerston, and even with Mr. Gladstone in the past. Now we have at the head of the Foreign Office and in this House representatives who are not either sufficiently Liberal or strong to carry on those traditions, and consequently the Foreign Office, which has always wanted a firm hand to control its reactionary tendencies, is going from bad to worse. During the War there was a constant struggle between the Foreign Office and what was known as the Garden City, consisting of the Members of this House who were working more directly under the Prime Minister. This struggle went on, and now not only has the head of the Foreign Office changed, but we have now got Lord Curzon there, who is probably the most exact type of the eighteenth century Tory you could find.

Then followed the dissolution of the Garden City suburb which used to keep a check on the Foreign Office, and conse- quently you have foreign affairs conducted by the most reactionary element in the whole country. You have now a serious Egyptian situation, into which we have been dragged deliberately by the Foreign Office without rhyme or reason. They recalled Sir Reginald Wingate because his views did not agree with theirs, and because he thought that Egyptian views should be listened to and considered. As soon as they recalled him they sent out General Allenby, and the result was that he insisted on the carrying out of those reforms that Sir R. Wingate had asked for and had not obtained. This mere stupidity of the Foreign Office has involved us in a very critical situation, and what is far more serious we see in the Prime Minister's absence there has been a direct conflict of policy between the Foreign Office and the War Office and the policy advocated by the Prime Minister. That is where the danger is likely to come from. Before we know where we are we may find ourselves committed to expeditions either in Russia or Roumania or any part of the Far East, which is wholly opposed to the genuinely Liberal policy of the Prime Minister and President Wilson.

The papers one day are suddenly filled with news of the critical situation of our force at Archangel, where we are told we may expect another Kut unless something is done at once. We remember the cry that was raised of the women and children being in danger at Johannesburg in 1896, and this produced the well-known Jameson raid. We have this danger constantly flaunted in our faces. The newspapers are inspired with it, and the public get into a panic. The result is that the War Office gets carte blanche to send troops to Archangel, and we are committed without the consultation of the Prime Minister by the Foreign Office and War Office combined to an enlarged expedition to Archangel. The result is that men who wish to be demobilised and get back to their businesses, and who have been three or four years in the service, are either being detained at Archangel, or are being sent out there with a rush.

It may be that there is a real danger in Archangel; but from what I can hear the chief danger comes from the fact that the Russian troops that are co-operating with us have a fatal habit of deserting to the other side whenever they get a chance. What we do want, both from the Foreign Office and the War Office, is an assurance that in any case this demand for relief for Archangel or for the troops on the Murman Coast is not merely a mask for getting there a force which will make a further advance, and, indeed, make a dash, upon Petrograd and so by a sudden dramatic coup end the present Russian Government. What we want to have, particularly in view of the Prime Minister's speech to-day, when he said that peace was the one thing necessary—though I should say, rather, that peace was the first thing necessary—is an assurance that when we have a division, or two divisions, in Archangel those troops will not be used for a sudden aggressive campaign, and that no amount of urging from the Archangel end as to the extraordinary facility with which this advance could be made shall, as in the case of the advance on Bagdad four years ago, be allowed to induce the Government to sanction a further advance which may commit us to indefinite liabilities in that country. We know quite well how these things begin. The military on the spot take matters into their own hands. They assume responsibility, and the country is dragged in behind the military element in order to rescue people who appear to be in peril. I do ask that we shall have to-day an assurance that there will not be any question of using the troops which have been sent to Archangel for a further advance in the direction of Petrograd, but that during the time that they are there they will be used strictly as a defensive force to enable us to protect, if it must be by arms, the people whom we have promised to protect in Archangel and to help to withdraw the troops that are there as soon as possible. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the country is extremely alive to this question of the use of our troops in Russia. I have had letters from all over the country and resolutions passed by trade unions from the North to the South of England. They are all unanimously against this idea of an expedition to Russia, partly, of course, owing to the fact that they realise that we are attacking not so much a system of terrorism as a system of communism which is unpopular among the ruling classes, and also because the parents of the men who have served so long resent their sons being used in this way after they have been enlisted to fight for other purposes. I have a letter which says: I resignedly submitted to losing a boy in France, but I will not resign myself to losing one in a place where we have no business to be interfering. That sort of thing is being said by parents of all these men who are being sent out to Russia. They fear that this force, as soon as it is there, will be used to make an attack upon Russia. Our fears in this matter are based on the attitude of the Foreign Office towards Russia. It seems to me that they are ready to support any methods which may serve to overthrow the dreaded idea of revolution. Looking back on the history of the relations of our Foreign Office with the Russian Revolution, hon. Members will see that we have every ground for supposing, if there is a choice between right and wrong, that they will go wrong. We know Kerensky received no support from this country. He was perpetually regarded as a revolutionary and not a fit associate for the diplomatic body. He was turned down when he pressed for peace. I do not know whether hon. Members are aware of the evidence given by Colonel Raymond Robins as to how he was approached by Kerensky to get help from the Allies to see that none of the ammunition got into German hands. That, too, was turned down, because these revolutionary people must not be dealt with on any account whatever, not that they were not ready to attack the Germans, but that they were Bolshevists and revolutionaries, and that was enough to secure the hostility of the Foreign Office. Take the mad conduct of the Foreign Office in connection with Tchitcherine, now the Foreign Minister in Russia. He was in this country when the Bolshevist Revolution came about in November, 1917. Directly the revolution took place, Tchitcherine, who was proclaimed by the Bolshevists as their agent in this country, was put in prison. He was kept there, with every sort of indignity, and finally he was expelled from this country with equal indignity. If you were going to treat a man like that you should not have sent him back to a country where he could be a nuisance to you. I should have kept him here permanently rather than have sent him back to Russia to become one of the Ministers.

Their attitude towards Tchitcherine was part of their attitude towards the old regime. While they kept Tchitcherine in prison, they continued and paid the salary of Nabokoff, the old representative of Russia in this country, and to-day the British taxpayer is finding the pay of the old Czar's agents in this country.

That was not enough. Our representative in Russia, according to the Russian account, and it has never been denied, was engaged in a plot to overthrow the Revolutionary Government in Russia. I do not say that I would not have done exactly the same. When the Government of the country arrested him there was an outcry as to the wickedness of the Russian Government in arresting a member of the diplomatic body. A member of the diplomatic body in any country who tries to upset the existing government and who meddles in the internal affairs of that country is playing an extremely dangerous game and must take the responsibility for the risk. I submit that it is contrary to all the practice of the diplomatic body, contrary to the practice of this country, and to the practice of diplomacy in all countries, that diplomats should take sides in the political conflicts of the country to which they are accredited. We were promised by the Noble Lord opposite that we should have a full report of what Mr. Lockhart has done. We have never had that report. It was the Lockhart plot, and the attempt on Lenin and the murder of Uritsky which really started the terror in Russia. It was the realisation of the Bolshevists that they were threatened on the one side by external attack and on the other side by assassination from within that really started in Russia the terror in exactly the same way that terror was started in France in 1793. The evidence of that is to be found in the White Paper produced by the Foreign Office. This White Paper states, I think in two places, that the terror was the direct result of the Lockhart plot and the attempt on Lenin. That was in September. The terror was at its worst in October, and much as we must all of us deplore the excesses to which it has gone I think we ought, in fairness, to realise that during the first six months of Bolshevik rule there was no murders and no terror. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Well, I should be very glad to be told of any. I have stated what is my information.


Two Ministers were killed at that time.


Not by order of the Government. That was before the Revolution. I assert that there were no executions whatever by order of the Government for the first six or eight months, and it was not till then that massacres swept over the country, stirred up by the worst classes in the country. As soon as a Government starts general executions, then every ruffian in the country takes it into his own head to become a private executioner, and you get a welter of blood such as we see in Russia at the present time. The attitude of the Foreign Office is, we must admit, to support any methods or any Government which will upset the Resolution, and they go on carrying that out in spite of the fact that every time they make the effort it fails. They try to use the Russian people against the Revolution and the weapon breaks in their hands. Russia has become a Socialist State, and its success or example has to be destroyed according to the ideas of the Foreign Office. As long as we carry on our politics on these lines we are not only doomed to failure in Russia, but also to a perpetual indefinite war which will finally complete the bankruptcy of civilisation. You will have to continue fighting in Russia until you have driven the last Bolshevik out of the country, or else you will have to acknowledge it as a communistic State, disagreeable as it is to its neighbours throughout the world, and terrible as it is to contemplate in any industrialised country such as England that they have got a more or less anarchic country as a neighbour.

Russia is a Communistic Socialist State and there we must leave it. Unless we are prepared to continue war indefinitely for its suppression, it will be impossible to set up any Government in Russia—and I believe the Foreign Office will realise it as much as anyone who has come back from that country—it will be impossible to set up any Government there opposed to the present communistic Government unless you leave British bayonets there to support it, because the moment the British bayonets are withdrawn that Government will be upset. The fact is, there have been established vested interests in the Revolution. Every little peasant in Russia has since the Revolution acquired land which he had not got before. He knows perfectly well that his retention of that land depends on the permanency of the Revolution, and human nature being what it is, hon. Members can see that in any country where the vast bulk of the population are peasants who are of opinion that their vested interest is in the permanence of the Revolution, the permanence of the destruction of the landlords, it is impossible to get back to the old position where the peasant will lose his land and become again the tenant of the tyrannical landlord. It was exactly the same in the French Revolution, which was made permanent by the confiscation of the Church lands and their sale to peasants in France. These lands were bought by the peasants at a low price, and every man was determined that the bourgeoise should not come back until his title to the land was recognised. Consequently, the French Revolution, which was as anarchistic as Russia, became established, and no one has been able to return to the old system, which was completely wiped out, the peasants being left in possession of their assignats. We want to impress the Foreign Office at the present time that it is no good hating a form of government, and stirring up hatred against it in this country. If you are not prepared to continue war with that country indefinitely, you had better make up your mind that, bad as the Government is, it had better be tolerated rather than have an indefinite war for the suppression of an idea which is naturally unpopular among the governing classes.

The White Paper which has been produced is thoroughly typical of the Foreign Office. I do not know whether hon. Members have read it, but if they do they will see that it is largely composed of dished-up atrocity stories. I would submit that at the end of a long war it is about time to stop this sort of thing, and to try and re-establish the brotherhood of man, instead of stirring up international hatred. The stories are worse than any atrocity stories we have seen during the War told against Germany, but they are almost uniformly based on anonymous representations from Russia. There was the one given by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmund's (Lieutenant-Colonel Guinness) about the Bolshevik Government employing Chinese executioners who were sawing prisoners into pieces. When I asked him about it he referred me to the White Paper. I ask him, as an honest English gentleman, to look at that White Paper and see what it says there. It is stated that an anonymous Englishman coming from Russia was told at Stockholm by an anonymous Esthonian that these things were taking place in Esthonia.

Lieutenant-Colonel W. GUINNESS

I think the hon. and gallant Member is misrepresenting the matter. That may be what is said in the White Paper, but that was not my source of information. I had been told it by a Russian who has escaped from Russia and who had either seen or spoken to people who had witnesed these things.


I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman will admit that the Foreign Office would put into the White Paper the best evidence it could obtain of these atrocities, and if they had not any better authority to put in than that of an anonymous Englishman, told by an anonymous Esthonian, I do not think he can have evidence very much superior to that. Again, I find in the White Paper the dished-up story about the Bolshevik government communalising women. It is dealt with in a letter by a parson who actually signs his name. But we know how that story started. It was started in "New Europe," a paper conducted by Mr. Wickham Steed, who is now the editor of that eminently respectable journal the "Times." In "New Europe" appeared the story of the nationalising of women by Bolsheviks in Russia, and I believe it played a large part in the election, because the Press immediately took it up and said that the Bolshevik had communalised the women, and in that way encouraged indiscriminate sexual relations. The "New Europe," which started the matter, had the grace to say that they found out it was a lie and to acknowledge it. They said that they had found out that this was merely the declaration of some obscure anarchist State in Samara. Yet we are still fed with all these stories, and they still find their place in the Government's White Paper and in the statement of this parson, who is carrying out his traditional role of stirring up hatred and dissension among men. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] There is the story. I do not know whether the House would like me to read it. [HON. MEMBEES: "No!"] Then we will take it as read. That is an example of the stories given by the Government in the White Paper. The Foreign Office should know better than to produce a White Paper which not only does not seem to have had its stories reasonably edited, but seems not to have been edited in the least by anybody who knew anything about Russia. The White Paper gives no account by anybody coming from Russia who had anything good to say about the present Government there. There was nothing from Mr. Douglas Young or Colonel Raymond Robins, or any of those people who were able to find something good in the Russian Government. They have all been left out altogether. What has been put in are long accounts by an anonymous "Mr. D." as to the present Government in Russia. The names of all the people are given wrong. This gentleman talks of the members of the Government as being "So-and-so." Every one of the names is wrong. He leaves out half the Ministers. What are we to think of a Foreign Office which does not keep an editorial staff or a Secret Service staff capable of checking statements as to who at present form the members of the governing council in Russia. The Foreign Office have made mistakes over and over again in this War in regard to our attitude towards Russia, because they dislike, not murder, but Socialism. This country is going to suffer, unless the Prime Minister exercises a more strict supervision over the Foreign Office solely because the Foreign Office and the War Office, and indeed many of the governing classes of this country object to Socialism, and are prepared to continue an indefinite war in order to suppress the one manifestation of it we have at present. What is happening in Hungary? Since the starting of the Soviet Government they have set up a maximum thirty-six-hours week for apprentices; 37,000 children have been provided with a free bath weekly, and all the hospitals have become public, preference being given to proletarian patients. I suppose the next thing we shall hear of will be an expedition to Budapest to succour the landlords of Hungary. Where is all this going to end? Are we going to establish British Armies in Finland, Esthonia, Hungary, Roumania, Czecho-Slovakia, and all the border States, in order to keep off this Bolshevist terror? At present we have Allied troops in those countries, who can maintain order. Directly they go, these States will be in a revolutionary condition just as bad as Russia. What is more, we have the feeling that in a country like Roumania we are supporting the most reactionary landlord rule that exists in any quarter of the globe at the present time. The boyars of Roumania are notorious. Over and over again the peasants have revolted and been shot down. Only last December there was a revolt in Bucharest, and the Socialists there were massacred like sheep. Our troops are being used there to maintain that sort of rule. The situation is complicated by the fact that the Foreign Office desire to preserve monarchies at all costs. The idea that it is the duty of British troops to preserve a monarchy in Roumania or to preserve the rule of the boyars of Roumania is perfectly iniquitous. A member of the Diplomatic Corps, leaving Bucharest in February last, said: You are enjoying here a White Terror, such as has never been seen before. 4.0 P.M.

That is what is going on under the shelter of British bayonets. We are maintaining a regime detested by the people, consequently a situation is produced whereby troops will be required perpetually in order to preserve the existing state of affairs. There was a rising in Bessarabia, which was in Russia and where, consequently, the peasants got the land. Bessarabia has now been put into Roumania. The Roumanian Government now in power in Bessarabia are decreeing that the peasants shall give part of their land back to the landlords from whom they took it. Consequently you have unrest there and every peasant is a potential rebel in the years to come and a potential danger to any stable form of society, which is a direct postulate of the permanence of the British troops there in order to keep them down. These are the things which make me think that the Foreign Office wants looking after. It is not only the Foreign Office. We have in this country a spirit of resentment against the position in which we find ourselves, after this War, relative to America. A great many Members have the feeling, which is shared by a great deal of public opinion outside in this country, that we have been impoverished, and that America has made money out of this War, that she has stepped into our shoes and has assumed financial control of the world. That may be true, but I do urge upon hon. Members here to remember that, after all, the Anglo-Saxon race is the one to which we are much nearer than any other country in the world, and, speaking in a hackneyed phrase, blood is thicker than water. Anything that prospers America prospers us. Now, at any rate, we are really dependent upon America's good will in a way we never were before. It seems to me fatal for hon. Members like the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) to get up and attack President Wilson in this House or for hon. Members to urge the Prime Minister to cease to support President Wilson in Paris and to turn round and support the French. Nothing could be more fatal than that at the present time, when the whole future of the world depends upon a real co-operation between England and America. [An HON. MEMBER: "And France!"] No; much more between England and America than between us and France. We have more or less the same ideals and the same democracy. We have more or less the same world-wide interests. In all our Colonies you find Americans and English mixing as though they were one people, whereas the French are a stay-at-home race, and do not colonies. We are here in face of a position where American and English co-operation is absolutely essential in future. We have had that position of danger before, and each time the Conservative leaders in this country, with their instinctive hatred of democracy, have split that natural union. We had it in the American War of Independence, which was largely caused by the hatred of the American democracy. At the time of the American Civil War the Conservative antidemocratic forces in this country stirred up hatred of America and again spoiled the natural alliance of the Anglo-Saxon race. Do not let us have it said that now, when the third great opportunity comes along, a real unity, not only of blood and language and tradition, but a unity in the reconstruction of the human race on decent lines, was baulked by this same insane hatred of democracy, insane hatred of anything which was Anglo-Saxon and yet strange in our history. This question of Anglo-Saxon solidarity has a great deal to do with the Russian question. If we deal with Russia on parallel lines to America, if we will treat all the problems that come up in Russia side by side with the Americans, whether we go right, or whether we go wrong, we shall, at any rate, be in good company. But, above all, do not let us act independently of America in Russia. Do not let us try to carry on expeditions which they do not approve of, without the co-operation of American troops.


May we share the railway concessions which Americans are now getting into Russia?


I should certainly hope so, but I do not think your will find any difficulty from the Americans in allowing us to share in those concessions. The difficulty will be that we have not got the capital to invest in those concessions, unfortunately. That cannot be altered by anything we can do now. We have spent our capital. We have now to reconstruct our capital. The only way in which we can reconstruct our capital is by a policy of peace and co-operation with America and not antagonising her and setting up the possibility of future competition in armaments with the great Republic across the seas. The real thing for us to do, therefore, is to strengthen the Prime Minister's hands in co-operating with President Wilson, not only in dealing with such questions as the indemnity, not only in dealing with such questions as the League of Nations, but, above all, in dealing with a country like Russia, where you have a problem of which no man can see the solution, but which can be handled either in co-operation with the democracy of America or in opposition to that democracy. I am confident that if the action taken is in co-operation with it, it will lead to our ceasing to interfere in the internal affairs of Russia and allowing the Russians to work out their own salvation in any way that suits them best. Ninety-three per cent, of the Russian people are at present satisfied with the Bolshevik Government. There is no doubt that the present Government in Russia is getting stronger. It is stronger than it was a year ago. It has recently overrun the whole of the Ukraine—a military feat of no small magnitude. They have widened it. They have taken in the leader of the Menshevist party and the leader of the Social Revolutionaries. The terror is diminishing. The White Paper itself bears evidence on that point. It is diminishing, because Lenin objects to terroristic methods. Things are getting better in Russia. The real terror in Russia is caused by the starvation of the country, and if we can raise the blockade upon Russia, if we can allow it to get back into ordinary trade relations with its neighbouring countries, we shall have done far more to put an end to the terror which is driving Russia to distraction now that you ever do by supporting emigrés. I beg the House therefore to consider that there are two sides to this question and that whether this Government is a bloodthirsty gang of ruffians or not, the common sense of the House and the common sense of all intelligent men, as well as of all humane men, should urge us to relieve ourselves from the Russian incubus at the earliest possible date and to make terms with the Government which will secure to those people who have come under our protection at Arch- angel and elsewhere safety and fair treatment and at the same time enable us to drop military expeditions in this most unpromising country.

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir S. HOARE

I cannot follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman in the very wide field he has covered. I am afraid he and I will never agree either as to the facts of the Russian situation or as to the interpretation this House should place upon them, but I am no less anxious than he is that a full statement of all the available information possible, both for and against the Bolshevist régime, should be placed at our disposal. If the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs has any documents which put the Bolshevist régime in a more favourable light than that in which it has been placed in the White Paper that he has recently issued, I should welcome their inclusion in any future White Paper that he circulates. I believe not one half of the horrors of the Bolshevist régime have yet been disclosed. At the same time if there are any mitigating facts, if there are any reports of a contrary character, I should be only too glad to see them freely published by the Foreign Office. I listened with great interest and with some satisfaction to what the Prime Minister said in his very inspiring speech. I think he was perhaps a little bit hard upon some of the criticism which has been made of the actions of the Peace Conference. No one in this House wishes in any way to embarrass our delegates. We fully realise their difficulties. If it is difficult to manage a Coalition of two or three parties in this country, how much more difficult must it be to obtain unanimity in a Conference where there is a coalition of almost every country in Europe. We realise those difficulties, but we would ask the right hon. Gentleman to remember our difficulties as well. Here we are with few sources of information, as anxious as he is as to the future peace we are going to have and naturally impatient that that peace should be signed as quickly as possible. We have seen the evil of delay during the War. We are anxious, with some reason, that those delays from which we suffered so greatly during the War should not be repeated at the Conference in Paris. So it is not without reason that we feel grave anxiety when we see such events as the Bolshevist invasion of Hungary, when we see again such a calamity as the evacuation by the Allies of Odessa and the possession of the Littoral of the Black Sea by the Bolshevists. We realise the difficulties in which the Prime Minister is placed, but I would ask him to remember that it is not without some reason that we are anxious and somewhat impatient, particularly in the case of Russia. There, looking back, it is my view that the complexity of the Russian problem has been greatly increased by our continued policy of delay. Take, for instance, the evacuation of Odessa. I believe myself that if the delegates in Paris had recognised in a more definite manner that the one obstacle to a Russian settlement is Bolshevism, and had definitely stated and had officially recognised the de facto Government of Admiral Koltchak, which is fighting Bolshevism, events would not have drifted as they have drifted to a point where we have had to evacuate Odessa and the greater part of the Crimea.

I believe again that, in the case of our intervention in Russia, a great many of our difficulties have been directly due to our policy of delay and vacillation. The hon. and gallant Member opposite (Colonel Wedgwood) and I disagree as to many causes of our intervention in Northern Russia, but there is one side of it on which I am in agreement with him. I wish no more than he that this country should be dragged into a great and new war in Russia. I have never disguised that fact, because I believe that it is out of the question to send a big Allied Army. Quite apart from the question as to whether it would be wise I believe that it is practically impossible; but I say that the Peace Conference has made a grave mistake in not strengthening an intervention which, by the nature of things, is limited, by every other means in its power. Supposing, for instance, that last August, when our troops first went to Northern Russia; supposing again, in the last few months, the delegates in Paris had officially recognised the anti-Bolshevist organisations, I believe that the moral weight that that recognition would have given to the anti-Bolshevist forces would have been worth, to the anti-Bolshevist cause, a very large number of Allied troops. I urge, therefore, that, setting aside the possibility of any large Allied force in the North of Russia, it is an elementary need that we should reinforce our efforts by the moral weight that recognition of Admiral Koltchak's Government would give. I know the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Wedgwood) is sincerely convinced that the Government of Admiral Koltchak is a reactionary Government. I believe, just as sincerely that is not the case. If that were the case, I should say that we had no right whatever to attempt to impose a Government on anyone, but it is because I sincerely believe that the first action of the anti-Bolshevist Government will be to enable Russia to determine for itself what Government it desires—it is because I believe that the only hope of self-determination in Russia is the destruction of Bolshevism—that I urge on the representative of the Foreign Office to bring his weight to bear with the Prime Minister to give Admiral Koltchak's Government immediate recognition.

I do not desire a new war in Russia; I do not desire the return of reaction; during the whole time that I was in Russia what little weight I had I threw into the scale against reaction; but I do urge on the Under-Secretary of the Foreign Office that, if peace is to be obtained, the Russian problem must be settled, and if the Russian problem is to be settled, Bolshevism must be destroyed. I believe that one of the best ways to destroy Bolshevism would be to give the whole weight of our moral support to the forces that are fighting Bolshevism. On that account it seems to me to be the height of unwisdom, at the very moment that we are sending reinforcements to our forces in Northern Russia, to talk of negotiation with Lenin's Government. There was no passage in the Prime Minister's speech that gave me greater pleasure than that in which he said that there were no negotiations whatever at the present time going on between Lenin's Government and the Peace Conference. Many of us have read reports in the public Press which led us to believe that such negotiations were going on, and I am glad that, after the disclaimer, first, of the Leader of the House, and, secondly, of the Home Secretary, we now have the definite statement of the Prime Minister that there is no idea whatever of recognising Lenin's Government. I hope that when the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs comes to reply he will be able to contradict many of the statements of fact which the hon. and gallant Member opposite made—the statement, for instance, that the Bolshevik terror did not begin until months after the Bolshevists came into power.


It is in the White Book.


I leave that to the Under-Secretary to deal with. Again, there was a statement made that we are bolstering up reaction in Roumania and other countries. If I believed that, I should say, Withdraw our troops and our influence to-morrow. It is because I believe the only hope for a European settlement is the destruction of Bolshevism that I urge him to take every step in his power, both by the moral support and by the material support that we can send them in arms and materials, to throw our whole weight into the destruction of the one force that is standing in Europe between us and peace.

Captain O'GRADY

I had not the pleasure of being able to listen to the Prime Minister's speech, because I was otherwise engaged. Therefore, I shall not comment on it. I am rising because of a certain observation made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite. I hope that there will be no such madness as would be involved in a war with Russia. Everybody who knows anything about the geography of Russia and her people knows that any army sent into Russia would be literally swallowed up, and would never get back again. Now I come to the point I want to raise in contradiction to the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Wedgwood). I have been trying to discover whether the Bolshevik Government is the Government of Russia. The hon. and gallant Member said that 95 per cent, of the population of Russia were Bolsheviks.


I quoted Raymond Robins.

Captain O'GRADY

I do not think we ought to accept that statement. He has given no proof of that.


I mentioned 93 per cent, as being Raymond Robins' statement of the condition of things when he left Russia.

Captain O'GRADY

That is a mere statement. There is no proof in a statement of that character. The hon. and gallant Gentleman declared that the Government of this country have never rejoiced in the Revolution in Russia and bad never recognised it. May I draw his attention to the fact that in April, 1917, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South West Ham (Colonel W. Thorne), myself, and another friend of ours outside, were asked to go to Russia. Although we had no definite instructions we were asked to convey to the Soviet in Petrograd and the Provisional Government, headed at that time by Prince Lvoff as Prime Minister, and of which Kerensky was Minister of Justice, congratulations on behalf of the British people on the successful revolution in Russia. That cannot be denied. You cannot have it both ways. In 1917, when Kerensky became Prime Minister of Russia, they passed a law enfranchising for the first time in the history of Russia 80,000,000 people, men and women. They brought into effect machinery for an election in November of the year. At that time Trotsky was not known so much, but Lenin was the leader of a particular party in Russia when the election took place. As long as the elections in Petrograd were going in favour of the Lenin party, the machinery which provided the franchise was said to be perfect, but when the election went against the Lenin party in the country, and it was absolutely certain that they would not be elected to power, Lenin and Trotsky headed a party which prevented a democratically-elected constituent assembly from sitting. As a democrat who believes in democracy, I say that there is not a single sentiment of democracy about actions of that character. That sort of thing has been persisted in all the way along. Now, the Lenin and Trotsky party, at the muzzle of the gun and by the bayonet, will not permit a democratically-elected assembly to sit in Petrograd to conduct the laws of the country.

I ask the hon. and gallant Member if he considers that the great bulk of the Red Army now is a purely voluntary Army, who are not compelled by the forces of Lenin and Trotsky to become soldiers. I do not like Conscription, but I submit that there is no form of Conscription in any civilised country in the world which is so stringent and so terrible as that form of Conscription applied to the armies that Lenin and Trotsky are leading at the present moment. Is it within the ambit of the philosophy of democracy for Lenin and Trotsky to send out emissaries into other countries where they have a democratically elected Assembly, and to organise in that country revolution against the popularly elected democratic Assembly with which the people of the country are satisfied. Supposing that my hon. and gallant Friend and myself were to organise an agitation in this country to go into Russia and declare that the whole philosophy of Lenin and Trotsky and the Bolshevist philosopy was wrong, and that the only form of government they ought to have in Russia was our form of government. Would he object to that? Certainly he would. With regard to the terror that exists in Russia, is there any reason why these constant slaughterings should go on? I take the evidence of one of my own colleagues—one of our colleagues in this House—who wrote a letter to the Press the other day—I mean Colonel John Ward. He is a democrat of democrats. We know him well. My hon. and gallant Friend knows him as well as I do, and I think he will agree with me that a man of his responsible position, democrat that he is, would never make a statement of that kind unless it were based upon facts. He has seen with his own eyes the result of the kind of thing that is going on in Russia. If any democrat had been guilty of the atrocities, the murders, the pillage, and the destruction that are placed to the charge of Lenin and Trotsky, I, as a democrat, would like to see him strung up to the nearest lamp-post. I think we want to get to our bearings upon this question of Russia. It is a great country in the throes of convulsion, trying to rectify itself and to reconstitute itself, but it can never do that as long as it continues under the leadership of men whose whole part has been nothing but bloodshed, ruin, and desolation. We should help the people in Russia—and there are many of them—who are anti-Bolshevists. Quite 50 per cent. of the Russian people—peasants and the middle classes—are anti-Bolshevists and desire a stable government. If we can do anything to help these people to reconstitute Russia, and to save Russia for civilisation, we shall be doing the best work in the interests of the world.

Lieutenant-Commander KENWORTHY

I ask the indulgence of this House in making my first speech. I shall be brief. I would like, first of all, to refer to the speech of the Prime Minister and what he said as regards the Peace Conference. I am sure that all patriotic Members of this House appreciate the Prime Minister's insistence on the maintenance of good relations with the countries with which we have been associated in the War. There is, however, one dark spot which is imperil- ling our relations not only with the United States of America but with our own Colonies, and that is our sister nation Ireland. I am sure that the Prime Minister has been hampered more by the position in Ireland, and the example held out by us to countries that we were trying to get to see our point of view of Liberalism and self-determination and free settlement, than even by the telegram that I understand had been sent before I came to this House by a large body of the Members. While we are striving, as I believe generally, for the freedom of oppressed nationalities—the Poles, the Czecho-Slovaks, Greater Serbia, Jugo Slavia—surely the time has come when a real effort of statesmanship should be made to apply the same principle to our sister nation Ireland. Many of us in this House had the honour of fighting in the War. We fought with Irishmen, and I think Members of this House who fought in the War will bear me out when I say that they have borne themselves gallantly on all occasions. That alone should have changed the point of view of many hon. Members opposite.

Our position at present before the world, that we claim self-determination and freedom for oppressed nationalities—that is what we fought the War for—with 40,000 British troops in Ireland, when the Irish cannot have a public funeral without the attendance of British armoured cars, tanks and aeroplanes, is nothing else but ludicrous. I have been somewhat closely in touch with many sections of the citizens of this country recently, and I found that the views which I am now expressing were agreed with very widely by all classes with whom I came in contact. The policy of the Government, if I understand the Minister responsible for Ireland, is somewhat hampered by the unsettled conditions which are said to prevail in Ireland. At the present moment Poland is the spoiled child of the Allies. Everyone I am sure rejoices that the Poles have at last got their freedom, but their first act on regaining it has been to institute pogroms against their fellow Jewish citizens, who have helped them in their struggle for freedom for the last 20O years—since the partition of Poland. Their first act on receiving their freedom was to oppress the Jewish people living in Poland. They are being assisted in every way, and a settlement may be made in favour of Poland, which will possibly, if we make a mistake, imperil the future of Europe; and yet, although it seems obvious that Poland is not ready for complete self-government without some form of guidance and assistance and possibly sympathy from Allied Powers, we still refuse the same principle of choosing her own form of government to our sister nation Ireland. This, I believe, has a most direct bearing on the delays in Paris. I believe that we have been hampered in our attempts to get the Italians to recognise the right to self-determination of peoples on the other side of the Adriatic by the position of affairs in Ireland.

I am the Member to whom the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) referred as mentioning the blockade in the course of the Prime Minister's speech. The Noble Lord has told us that the blockade is still being carried on against Germany for military reasons. The Prime Minister in his speech was careful to state that only with the utmost difficulty at the present moment could Germany scrape together 80,000 men. The Prime Minister went on to say that her heavy guns, aeroplanes, and munitions of war had all been taken from her, and that the danger of a revival of militarism in Germany—I mean at the present moment —is prevented by the sheer lack of means, and I fail to see the necessity in that case for this blockade to be carried on, extending not only to neutrals, to friendly countries, and our late enemies, but to our own country as well. The Prime Minister remarked, and I am sure that everyone agreed with him, that Europe was drifting rapidly into chaos and ruin. It is for us now to see whether we can restore those conditions of industry, trade, and ordinary social life in Europe, in allied, neutral, and friendly countries, to a state of public health.

The Member for Hitchin referred to the spread of Bolshevism, to which the Prime Minister was referring at the time. I only hope that our efforts to restore the normal trade and life of Europe as well as that of our own country will be realised fast enough to provide the natural means of settling Europe down. In reference to the remarks which have been made on the subject of Russia by the last two speakers, I would beg Members of this House to distinguish between the Soviet Government in Russia, the Soviet Republic, and the Bolshevik party. The Bolsheviki are a political party in Russia who obtained possession of the Soviet system of government by the same means as those by which any political party can get possession of the government of this country, by a majority of this House. I do not know if I am telling hon. Members what they all know, but the Soviet system of government—I am not talking about the Bolsheviki at all, but the Soviet system of republican government—is only a linking together of town and village councils, trade union and professional organisations. For an illiterate nation like Russia, reduced to chaos and anarchy, I think it is an open question whether this principle of government is not a very suitable one at the present time. In fact, I believe that there are Members on this bench who would like to see some modification of it introduced into this country in order to assist our work in this House. The Trade Union Congress, with employers represented on it, permanently sitting as an industrial Parliament, would, I think, be of assistance to us on many questions in this House, and that that view is shared by Members usually sitting on the bench behind me. Therefore do not let us condemn the Soviet system of government simply because the Bolsheviki, whom certain Members dislike, I dare say with very good reason, have happened to be able to get possession of the machine. I ask that we should make perfectly certain, if I may use such an expression in this House, that we are "backing the right horse" We have backed the wrong horse on several occasions in Russia already. We repeatedly recognised the separatist Government of the Ukraine. We supplied the Ukraine with French staff officers and munitions and every assistance, and the Ukraine joined our enemy, Germany. That I do not not think can be denied. Our French Allies, unfortunately, mistakenly recognised the Government of Finland as soon as they separated from the Soviet Government of Russia, in spite of the atrocities of the White Guard of Finland and of the atrocities committed during the suppression of the insurrection in Finland. They openly joined our German enemies and invited a German Prince to accept the Crown of Finland. There are two examples of occasions on which we backed the wrong horse. Are we certain that the Koltchak Government which the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea is pleading we should recognise is the right horse? Are we absolutely certain that the Koltchak Army if it advances to Moscow, and upsets not only the Bolsheviki but the Mensheviki and the social revolutionists who have joined the Bolsheviki, though they hate them, in order to resist the invader—as I think in similar circumstances all classes in this country would unite—would not set up an autocratic dictatorship, and encourage military reaction in Germany, and that we should not find ourselves faced with a solid block of autocracy from the North Sea to the Pacific? Let us be quite certain we are backing the right horse, and that we are not blundering again, as I quite agree with the hon. and gallant Member, our Government, wrongly advised by the Foreign Office, has blundered in the past in our dealings with the Ukraine since the Russian Revolution. I believe the great cure for what is known as Bolshevism—and I believe there are as many ideas of Bolshevism as there are parties in this House—are food and work and satisfactory conditions. Might that not be tried in Russia? It will be a great market in the future—to put it no higher. They have a great lack of manufacturing goods of all descriptions, machinery and rolling stock, and, on the other hand, an abundance of raw materials of which we have need. Is not that a way of trying to combat this terror which looms so large in the eyes of so many Members in this House? I do plead for making absolutely certain that we are pursuing the right policy in Russia.

Lieutenant-Colonel W. GUINNESS

The House will, I think, have listened with interest to the maiden speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieutenant-Commander Kenworthy) if only for the reason that he is the first speaker in this House who has, I think, declared himself against the Government of the ballot box and in favour of the Government of the Soviet. I think the objection of constitutionalists in this country to the present regime in Russia is by no means mainly owing to the excesses committed by the Bolsheviks—which, although unparalleled, are to some extent characteristic—but to the fact that the Soviets are entirely unauthorised by the people and have no kind of popular sanction. Now, the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull stated that it would be the same sort of thing in this country if we were ruled by the Trade Union Congress. He shakes his head, but he did mention that.

Lieutenant-Commander KENWORTHY

It would be an assistance, I believe, to this House in certain industrial questions; but, in any case, we have it now.

Lieutenant-Colonel GUINNESS

Yes; but the Trade Union Congress does not govern us on any but industrial questions.


It would not do that if you had your way!

Lieutenant-Colonel GUINNESS

It is an entirely new departure—

Lieutenant-Commander KENWORTHY

I am very sorry to have to rise again—


The hon. And gallant Member must allow a reply to be made.

Lieutenant-Colonel GUINNESS

The hon. and gallant Member suggests putting aside the ballot-box and putting the country under the control of a purely class organisation, such as the Soviet of Russia or the Trade Union Congress here, and perhaps soldiers' and sailors' representatives allied with them. I do not wish to follow the hon. and gallant Member any further in this argument, but would like to come back to two aspects of the Paris Conference which the Prime Minister's speech did not entirely satisfy. The last few days have shown that the Prime Minister is not unmindful of opinion in this House, and, therefore, one is encouraged, while there is still time, to urge on the attention of the Government two very important matters which are still at issue in Paris. The right hon. Gentleman, gave us a more satisfactory account of the state of affairs in Russia than he was able to do on the former occasion, and to-day we were glad to hear that Bolshevism was comparatively on the wane. He gave us excellent arguments to show the urgency of some solution of the Russian problem, but he omitted to carry the arguments through to any conclusion. He begged us not to contemplate another great war, and, if I may say so, that warning was unnecessary, because if the right hon. Gentleman had heard the previous debates in this House he would know there is no party which has urged upon the Government the inception of a war in Russia, but that, on the contrary, those of us who have been raising this matter time after time wish to prevent the Government drifting into the necessity for further armed action. It may seem unreasonable that we should feel uneasy on this question, as the Prime Minister to-day said there was not, and never had been, any question of recognising the Bolshevik Government. As he made that statement on the former occasion that he spoke on the matter, the House will perhaps forgive me if I quote the facts as they appear from M. Pichon's letter of 5th January. M. Pichon said: The British Embassy has handed in the English proposal. This dispatch invites all Governments and all Russian parties to establish peace at once between them and the neighbouring States. In the event of the different Russian Governments, including that of the Soviet, accepting this invitation, they might send delegates to the Peace Conference. You cannot have a more extreme form of recognition of a Government than to allow it to send representatives to the Peace Conference, and therefore our anxiety, I think, is justified, in view of the fact, which no doubt escaped the Prime Minister's memory, that a few short months ago he did make a definite offer that the Soviet Government should be allowed to send representatives to Paris.

It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of the settlement of this Russian question, and our fear is that the matter is drifting into a worse condition. We have lost several opportunities of stopping the flood of anarchy. First of all, after the Armistice, we might have taken over the line which was then being held by the Germans in the Ukraine. We neglected to do so, and we allowed, by our omission, that rich granary to fall into the hands of the Bolsheviks. It is to the interests of this country that there should be a great Russia. We do not want to have a repetition of the troubles in the Balkans. We want a Russia which will be contented, stable, free from internal strife, and developing its industries and resources in a peaceable manner. We have not taken advantage of our opportunities to bring this about. We lately have seen a new and hopeful phenomenon. Instead of pieces continuing to break away from Russia, we see the opposite tendency. We see Admiral Koltchak's Government gradually growing from strength to strength, and being supported by subordinate governments. You would imagine that we would be glad to recognise that, and to see in it the germ of a new and united Russia. In the past we encouraged those governments which broke away from the central government, and we recognised Esthonia, and Lithuania, and Finland, and why is it that the Government will not recognise this growing orderly Government of Admiral Koltchak? It seems to me that they are omitting an obvious method for strengthening the forces of law and order which we wish to find paramount in Russia. It might be argued that they are not sufficiently established to be entitled to send delegates to the Peace Conference, but in view of the fact that there are delegates from Czecho-Slovakia, a far smaller State than that ruled by Admiral Koltchak, I do-not think there is much in that argument. Anyhow, there is no force in refusing to recognise Admiral Koltchak's Government as a de facto government, in view of our action in the case of Esthonia and Lithuania. If we did that, I am certain that we should do very much to set back the position of the Bolsheviks. Here in this country there are very few now, and in this House perhaps none, who openly profess their sympathy with the Bolsheviks. The most effective means of helping the Bolsheviks has lately proved to be that of decrying the Government of Admiral Koltchak as a monarchist and reactionary Government. That Government is pledged to a constituent assembly, and Admiral Koltchak, in a speech delivered a couple of months ago, stated that in the Russia that is to be, only a democratic regime is possible. The main task of the Government is to establish universal suffrage in the sphere of democratic self-government and thoroughly progressive legislation in the sphere of labour and agrarian questions "; and it is because of Admiral Koltchak's stand for a Constituent Assembly that it seems so urgent that we should do all in our power to strengthen his position. I would ask the hon. Gentleman who is going to reply to this Debate for the Foreign Office to tell us why it is that we are helping the Bolsheviks indirectly by withholding the support which we might give to their opponents. We must have some policy in Russia, some alternative to acknowledging the Bolsheviks, or military intervention, and we are entitled to know what that alternative is. We were glad to hear that there are no immediate negotiations with the Bolsheviks, but the Prime Minister did not tell us what was the truth about the continual statements which we have seen that there is a proposal to feed Russia through neutral channels. The Bolshe- viks were the first to invoke the weapon of starvation, and they have now found it a double-edged one. With the weapon of hunger the Bolsheviks destroyed the resistance of those who disagreed with them, but economic forces, the dumb efforts of the peasants to free themselves from this tyranny, are now turning the other edge, of the weapon against the Bolsheviks themselves. Will the Government tell us definitely whether or not we are contemplating to send food to Russia, and, if so, how it is suggested, in view of the Bolsheviks controlling the whole organisation of the country, that we shall prevent that food giving a new lease of life to that Government, which by every admission we wish to see upset?

There is one other point on which I would like to say a few words, and that is the question of Poland. We have heard lately a great deal of the controversy as to whether Poland is to be afforded an outlet to the sea. It is one of those difficulties which has arisen from the abstract principles which were laid down among the fourteen points, and it is complicated by the fact that if you give Poland this outlet you may withhold from a small section of the German race the abstract right of self-determination. It happens in this case that the whole of the governing Powers at the Peace Conference are in favour of giving Danzig to Poland, except the Prime Minister. Although America was the inventor of self-determination, the United States recognised the exceptional needs of Poland and has accepted as a lesser evil the putting of a small number of Germans under Polish control. The matter appeared to be agreed, when the Prime Minister refused to assent, with the result that the Danzig agreement was sent back to the Commission which had considered the matter and which had reported unanimously in favour of that particular solution. That Commission, which was very well informed on the matter, again sent back a unanimous report in favour of Danzig and the corridor being given to Poland to ensure her outlet to the sea, and we do not yet know what will be the result of the second reference back to that special Commission of this question of Danzig. It is very disquieting that our representatives should have taken this line in Paris. One cannot fail to notice that we bore with equanimity the position under which millions of Poles were subjected to a very harsh German rule, but when the question arose of putting a smaller number of Germans under the Poles, we find our representatives immediately invoking the principle of self-determination. This matter is, unfortunately, only one of several parallel cases, and it is to be hoped that the Government will see their way to re-move their veto on this solution of a strong Poland and that they will extend the same principles to Czecho-Slovakia, and to Jugo-Slavia, and the other small States which are being built up in Europe, It seems to me that the creation of these small States in a self-supporting condition is a matter of enormous importance to this country, and in the creation of each one of these small States we shall have to strike a balance between national security and this principle of self-determination. If we strike the wrong balance, and these States are set up on a weak basis, it is perfectly certain that before many years are past they will fall under the control of Germany, and I do ask the hon. Gentleman who is going to reply, to deal with this matter and to give us some information, and I suggest that where the security of our friends clashes with the self-determination of our enemies, the security of our friends should have the preference.

5.0 P.M.


As the House will have noticed, the Debate in its later stages has tended to become almost solely a discussion on internal government in Russia. While saying something on that subject, I would like to go back to the speech delivered by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), for, next to the more important parts of the speech by the Prime Minister, nothing I think has been said of greater weight and importance than was uttered by the Noble Lord. He told us that the most urgent of all the problems was the restoration of a composed economic condition, especially in Central Europe, and he pictured what is the state of things in Russia, in Austria, in Germany, and in other directions. We cannot get away from the fact that the state of things in those countries is inseparably linked up with the domestic state of things in our own land, so that in some senses we are a Parliament acting not only for the United Kingdom, but indirectly for many other parts of the world. I do not agree that the Government have used all its available opportunities and all its most effective, instruments for dealing with the grave situation which has been created. We cannot escape this possibility, that even such eloquent utterances as those which the Prime Minister delivered here this afternoon do not carry us very much nearer to a state of peace and social and domestic and internal order in various parts of Europe. I cannot, for instance, see any weight in the Prime Minister's argument for not yet having completely raised the blockade, particularly in respect of Russia and Germany. Germany is so incapable of any effective resistance, either of a military or of any other kind, that this country need not live in any fear of Germany being able to overcome the conditions which the Armistice has imposed upon her. She cannot raise an army; she is too distracted and disturbed by her own difficulties to settle down to do so. What was an empire has become just an aggregation of small countries and internal factions, incapable of any united efforts for any resistance to this country—

Forward to