§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Lord Edmund Talbot.]
§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
This is, I think, the eighth time since the House began its Session in February that the question of Russia has been debated. I have not been able to find out how many questions have been asked, but I should think, including supplementaries, they must have run into some hundreds, and it might fairly be asked, since the last occasion upon which there was what we call a full-dress Debate was on 5th November, why it is that we are once again debating this question. The reason undoubtedly is that after the Debate on 5th November, which was followed by a Division, which gave, as far as Divisions can, a most emphatic approval of the policy laid down, not for the first time, in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, it was followed by a speech at the Guildhall by the Prime Minister. That speech at the Guildhall evoked an immense amount of interest, and quite naturally so, because the words used by the Prime Minister could not, I think, be related in any form of agreement to the speech which was made by the Secretary of State for War on 5th November, and especially the closing words of the Prime Minister's reference to our relations to Russia excited a great amount of interest. They were these:But I am hopeful that when the winter gives time for all sections there to reflect and to reconsider the situation, an opportunity may offer itself to the great Powers of the world to promote peace and concord in that great country.Those words, to my mind, are words of good sense, but they have apparently excited a great deal of misapprehension. There is one thing, at any rate, which is clear, and that is that in the Government there has been, and for aught I know still is, no settled policy with regard to our relations to Russia, and it is that lack of a clear policy which undoubtedly has been the cause of all these debates, and obviously of the debate to-day. There are, I should say—I can only make these guesses—two master minds which have been at work on this problem, the Prime 682 Minister and the Secretary of State for War, and they have not been in agreement. At least, I fail to see that they have, because I happen to agree in the main with what I conceive to be the attitude of the Prime Minister, and his speech in April—I do not remember the date, but he remembers the speech quite well himself —was one with which I said at the time, and I still say so, with such reservations as he made, I was in agreement. It laid down what was after all the traditional policy of this country with regard to interference and intervention in the internal affairs of any other country. All I can say is that I have listened to nearly every speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, and as far as I can make out from his words and the general impression left on my mind, the policy of the Prime Minister was not his policy. His policy apparently has been one which he has been quite honest about, and that is that Bolshevism, as it is known, is a wicked and an evil thing.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Arid with that aspect of it I entirely agree, and it was largely the duty of this country in the interests of civilisation to repress it- by force of arms. That is the impression conveyed to my mind, and, indeed, to the minds of a very large number of other people. Now the differences between the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for War have not been confined to principle. There is the question of the cost. The Secretary of State for War dealt somewhat vigorously with my right hon. Friend Mr. Asquith in his view of what the cost was, and we had Mr. Asquith's reply. But I put this simple question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War: If Mr. Asquith were 300 per cent, wrong in the figures he gave, what percentage of error would he ascribe to the Prime Minister when he gave precisely the same figures? Of course, the difference between the two was no doubt in the point of view which each of them was taking. When the Secretary of State for War is here, he endeavours to impress us with how little it is costing. When the Prime Minister speaks at the Guildhall he is very properly anxious to convince the people of this country that we have to discharge our 683 debt of honour and therefore gives full play to the ordinary rules of arithmetic, and says it has cost £100,000,000.
Passing from that, I come back again to emphasise what is the real necessity of the situation. Whatever it may be, there were two or three lines of policy open to this country. There was the policy of complete neutrality at the beginning. I do not think that was possible. I frankly admit that, because we were involved in Russia; we had commitments North and South of Russia, and I quite agree you could not suddenly pull up. You had to discharge the first duty of withdrawing your men and what you could of your stores, and I say there was an honourable duty on this country to do what we could, within reasonable bounds at any rate, to give an opportunity to those Russians who had been fighting alongside us to get to some zone of comparative safety. I only put it that way. I quite agree that a policy of neutrality at the start was not a possible policy. There is also another duty which, I think, we have very carefully to bear in mind. Certain new border States were in process of formation. It was not possible for us, I think, totally to disregard that. So, at the beginning, there were certain obligations of honour we had to discharge. What has happened since, so far as If e"1 are concerned? The policy of the Secretary of State for War was what I might describe as an in-and-out policy. When things were going well with Russian generals and admirals, he was all for pouring in men and munitions. When things were going badly, it was time for us simply to confine ourselves to getting away all our men and stores as quickly as possible. I admit that he gave an undertaking to withdraw our men from Northern Russia by a certain date, and that was literally carried out; it certainly was done. But with regard to the whole of his general policy, it was a policy of going as far as we dare, and when it did not look promising to get back.
The Prime Minister was in Paris part of the time, and I do not know how far in the full sense he was responsible for it, but I want to say, so far as I am concerned, that if the Prime Minister had made himself master of this business and carried out consistently what I believe to have been his own real, sound, liberal view of the situation, things would have been in a different state from what they have been. It was that struggle for mastery with 684 regard to the Russian situation which has led us into a wholly unsatisfactory position, with regard to Russia. What, after all, is the position at the present moment? The policy of intervention has failed. Look where you like on the military field, the anti-Bolshevik military position in Russia is one of disaster. I read in the "Observer" yesterday—I forget the exact words —a most emphatic sentence, that the anti-Bolshevik campaign has ended in disastrous failure. So far as I am able to observe—and I have only the opportunity to observe what one reads in the papers —that seems to me a not unfair description of the whole of the anti-Bolshevik operations in Russia. And what is the Bolshevik position? I should think it is perfectly fair to say that the Bolsheviks are in a stronger position to-day in Russia than they ever have been. Militarily they are increasingly efficient—and, from the point of view of the administration of the country—whether it is a democratic administration or not, I do not know—certainly that is also growingly efficient.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
My Noble Friend does not agree with me. I will state where I base it. We had very interesting speeches, in addition to that of the Secretary of State for War, by two private Members, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Colonel John Ward) and the hon. and gallant Member for Leyton (Lieut.-Colonel Malone). Now those were taken as speeches entirely contradictory. I think, on the contrary, that both those speeches were given by men who were the witnesses of the truth of what they saw. Nobody could have listened to the speech delivered by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent without being deeply moved by his record of what he saw. All we could adduce from his record of what he saw was the noble part ho played. I should think there have been very few Members of this House who have done more credit to British citizenship or to British arms than my hon. and gallant Friend. He was obviously telling the truth. He spoke of what he saw, but he also admitted that, outside his sphere of observation, there was another commissar quite close where, as he stated, the inhabitants were satisfied with the justice and the equity of the rule. We come down to the statement made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ley- 685 ton, and what a different picture he drew of a part of Russia. Because some thousands of miles, I suppose, lay between them. I cannot but believe that chaos is being eliminated from these parts, and that order of a kind is being established. Personally, I do not think that kind of order is the order I should like to live under. I am certain it is not democracy, but it is order of a kind, though most unpleasant to live under, and the point I am trying to make is the growing efficiency of the Bolshevik rule in Russia, militarily, socially, administratively. There is no question about it at all; it is growing.
What has been the result of all this on those nearest to Russia, and therefore, perhaps, able to judge what is the attitude of the border States. Again, I can only speak with the knowledge one gets from a perusal of the Press, but I believe that the border States are about to open negotiations with what Government there is in Russia represented by the Bolsheviks. Nobody can doubt that that is a very serious consideration. Further than that, if I am to judge correctly from what the newspapers say, Prince Krapotkin, who is certainly very friendly to this country, and a good judge of revolution deplores the continued intervention of this country in Russia, and I saw in one of the newspapers yesterday that the Patriarch of Moscow has himself intimated that, from the point of view of patriot Russia, as he understands it, this continued foreign armed intervention, either by means of men or munitions, is a mistake. Take it where you like, there is a steady growth of opinion, evidenced by the attitude of the border States, evidenced by such statements as we can get, for what they may be worth, from the public Press of men of the stamp I have mentioned, that there is awakening in Russia to-day a Russian spirit which is deeply resenting foreign intervention. It is a spirit of which we should be wise to take careful note, and guide our conduct accordingly.
What about the debt, of honour? I What have we spent there? £100,000,000; we will not quibble about £10,000,000 or £15,000,000. We know that in round figures £100,000,000 has gone there, and another £15,000,000 is going—I do not know. The point is how much more, if any? May I remind the House of what this country has already done? What are our losses in men? We have lost in the land fighting thirteen officers, with 160 686 of other ranks killed or who have died from wounds. There is a total of 500 officers and men wounded, and of missing —officers and men 190. Some of these I understand are prisoners, This gives altogether a total casualty list of over 800. But what about the Navy I What has happened to it Their loss has been one light cruiser, two destroyers, two minesweepers, and three coastal motor-boats in the Baltic, while at Archangel and Murmansk the loss is put at two minesweepers and two monitors; with officers and men killed, 23, and 107 petty officers and men wounded, a total number of casualties of over 200. I am not saying that some of these were not unavoidable casualties. I think that was the case. As I said in my preface we could not remain neutral. But I do grudge every life and every wounded man on the casualty list beyond the bare necessities of the case. So does the country! I say, taking it all round, we have honourably discharged our indebtedness to Russia.
What about the Allies? They were deeply interested in this, matter. France was certainly deeply interested. I think, on the whole, we are entitled to some more detailed information as to what the Allies are doing in Russia. After all, this is an Allied burden. I quite agree there must be an Allied policy. I think the country would like to know what share of this grave and serious burden has been borne by our Allies. France, of course, is deeply interested in Russia, financially—as we are. I gather again from the Press—and perhaps the Prime Minister, when he replies will tell us how far there is foundation for it—I gather from the one newspaper which is at present being printed in Paris that an agreement has been arrived at that nothing more in the shape of men, munitions, or money shall be sacrificed in Russia. That is a bald statement. Perhaps at long last we are arriving at a definite, agreed, Allied policy. I profoundly hope that is so. Our interests in a friendly Russia are not exceeded by any other country in the world. In the Near East Russia overshadows almost every one of our Dominions. Questions of our Indian Empire and of our great commitments there come in; and it depends very largely on a friendly Russia as to whether we can pursue our mission there with peace and in comfort, or with a constant strain of anxiety, ending every year, as it must do, in military commitments ever increasing 687 in number and in weight. I am talking—as an amateur, I rather agree—in the presence of my right hon. Friend the late Foreign Secretary (Mr. Balfour). who knows the whole range of these things in a way equalled by no man in the House at the present time, and I am quite certain that what I say is true. The overmastering dominance of our interests in a peaceful and friendly Russia cannot be overestimated either in Europe or in Asia.
What is the future going to be? Does this House think, with all the experience of history behind it, that the future of Russia is going to be in the hands of those who were allied with or friendly to the regime which has just been ended? The future of Russia undoubtedly lies in something which will live in the hearts of the Russian people themselves, and careful must we be that we get ourselves into alliance with that. The Prime Minister truly said, in what I may describe as a speech in reply to a question the other day—I am sure he does not wish to make a precedent of that, and I am quite certain the House does not—The vast majority of the population feel no ardent loyalty for either side and very quickly change their allegiance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 13th November, 1919 col. 473.]That is an admirable summary, not only of what is happening in Russia to-day, but of what happened in France at the time of the Revolution. How extraordinarily history repeats itself! My right hon. Friend, will recollect—I am sure he does—particuarly in those early days, the attitude of Pitt and Fox towards the French Revolution. The attitude of Burke we all know. But the attitude of Pitt and Fox was one long struggle to keep out of any form of intervention whatsoever. Ultimately they were driven into it by reason of the attacks which France made upon her neighbours, and we were brought into the war with great reluctance on the part of Pitt. The only reason which would induce him to go into that war was, as he described it, self-defence. These are the words he used very shortly after Burke issued his, "Reflections":This country means to preserve the neutrality hitherto scrupulously observed with respect to the internal dissensions of France, unless the conduct held there makes it indispensable as an act of self-defence.So far did Pitt go—this is recorded, at any rate, by Green—that shortly after the massacre he was not indisposed to enter 688 into relations and negotiations with the then Government of France. These matters of history are full of lessons for us. The profound lesson of all is that it is a huge, and sometimes an irretrievable, blunder, no matter how good your motives may be, to intervene in the internal affairs of another country. What I fear is this, that a very large amount of the support which intervention has comes from a natural desire to make, what Fox called, "war upon opinion." That opinion may be wicked. I agree that, fundamentally, a great deal of the outcome of the Bolshevist regime is essentially wicked. But that is what happened in France—history again repeating itself! We have time now to save ourselves from profound and perhaps irretrievable mistakes in regard to Russia. "I think I may say one word about my own view in regard to what is known as intellectual Bolshevism. I regard it as a negation of democracy. But that is not our business; and I am certain that if we pursue the traditional policy of this country, having, as I say, honourably discharged our debt of honour to those to whom we owed them in that country, our business now is, for our interests in the present and in the future, to leave Russia to work out her own salvation.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I do not think that any hon. Member of this House who undertakes to address it on the question of foreign policy will do so at the present moment without a deep sense of responsibility. I do not wish in any way to be an alarmist. I do not, however, think it is very easy to exaggerate the gravity of the international position in Europe at the present time. Politically, the House is well aware—I do not claim any special knowledge on the point—that in the various parts of Europe there are still proceeding deep movements of unrest. We have a most regrettable state of things in the Adriatic. Jugo-Slavia is struggling with great difficulties. There are considerable internal difficulties in the new State of Czecho-Slovakia-. Famine and want are imminent in large parts of the territory of Central Europe, and the economic position, serious as it was last summer, is now no less serious. The House must recollect, as I know well from my experience at the Blockade Ministry. that this period of the year is the most favourable for feeding the population—far more favourable than it will be in February, March, or April of next year.
689 I do not think I should be right in ignoring the very serious news that conies lo us from America, There is only one hope, in my view, for Europe—that is the rapid restoration of confidence and credit throughout the Continent. For that peace is absolutely essential. Peace is a condition precedent without which confidence and credit cannot revive. I do not, of course, desire to express any opinion as to the legitimacy of the action of the Senate from an American point of view. That would be far beyond my province. But it is right to say that reservations so extensive as appear to have been, at any rate, provisionally accepted, amount almost to A repudiation by the United States of the Covenant, and the repudiation of the Covenant means the repudiation of the Treaty. At best, nothing better can be expected than a long period of further negotiation and discussion, and possibly—for we are bound now to take that possibility into account—a further rejection when these negotiations have been concluded. I cannot conceal that I think that has raised a very grave position indeed. One thing I wish to make quite clear, that, in my opinion, whatever happens, the League must go on, for that is the sole hope of permanent peace. If possible, certainly we desire American co-operation, and I would even say American leads, but if not, if the United States decides not to take part in this great international effort, then we must go on. The burden will be the greater upon us and upon other nations, but our people, and I have no doubt the people of Europe, will face these burdens as they have faced the burdens that fell upon them during the five years of the War. I desire to say that much, and I trust that it may not do any injury to the international situation.
I pass from that to the question of Russia. One of the difficulties that anybody has in dealing with Russia is the extreme difficulty of forming any perfectly sound conclusion—a conclusion satisfactory to himself—as to what are the actual facts of the case. There is no fact which is not disputed, and the one or two conclusions which I have formed I can only present as my own conclusions. One is the atrocities of the Bolshevik Government. I do not base that so much on the horrible cruelties that are reported in connection with the fighting such as those which the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel Ward) detailed to the House, or such as those which were 690 published in the Press recently. They are horrible and terrible cruelties, but it must be remembered that all war is horrible, and civil war has always proved to be the most horrible of all wars. I do not rest the main indictment on these things, terrible as they are; I rest them on the whole history of the Bolshevik regime, a regime from the very outset of cold-blooded murder and outrage. After all, events come very thickly in these times, and the murder of the Imperial Family was a case in point. I am not talking of the murder without trial, bad as that was, of the Emperor and Empress. One can conceive some justification or excuse or palliation for such a crime, but the murder of the helpless invalid boy and his sister without trial, and under circumstances of great atrocity, and by the direction, as all the evidence points, of the Central Governmet of Moscow, that is a crime as bad as any that has been committed in history, and when you reflect that not only were these people but the Grand Duchess Elizabeth—a woman who was a saint if ever a saint lived on this earth, who spent her life in a work of mercy and charity for the people of Russia, that she should have been murdered by the same people in the same manner, that alone would have stamped this regime as a régime without excuse or defence. I cannot help saying, and I hope hon. Members will not misunderstand me, that I regret the tone of the speeches of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), and the hon. Member for Leyton (Lieut.-Colonel Malone), speeches which whatever may have been their intention, certainly conveyed the impression that those hen. Members were anxious to apologise to the Bolshevik Government.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Has the right hon. Gentleman any evidence to give to the House that these murders in Russia were done by the order or with the consent of the Central Soviet Government?
§ Lord R. CECIL
I trust the Prime Minister will not consider me indiscreet if I quote from official information, but I have a strong recollection of very considerable evidence that so long as these people were left to the control of the local people no outrage was committed, and it was only when a commissary came down from Moscow that the whole treatment was changed, and shortly afterwards they were taken out and shot. I have no 691 doubt several of my right hon. Friends will be ready to confirm that. It is nothing to the purpose to tell us that the streets of Moscow are safe, and that there are free representations in the theatres of Moscow. It really does not affect the treatment under the Bolshevik régime. Take the very best that is said—take Mr. Goode's letters, which I have read, and they are very interesting—the very best that is said is that it is a Government by the minority enforced upon the majority. It is, to use Mr. Asquith's words, at the very best a grinding and oppressive tyranny, and at the worst, which is common enough, it is one of the most bloody and brutal despotisms that ever stained human history. I should regret that we should proffer any negotiations to a Government of that kind. I remember very well, and so does the House, when the murder of King Alexander and Queen Draga of Serbia took place. The British Government, with the general approval of the British people broke off all negotiations with the Government of Serbia so long as the regicides were in power. Therefore, it appears quite foreign to all our traditions to propose negotiations with a Government like the Bolshevik Government so long as it is stained with such crime.
The next conclusion I have formed is that armed intervention by foreigners, at any rate, was absolutely impossible. I accept fully what the Prime Minister said in April last about the general reasons why that cannot be done in Russia. I have no answer to it, and I believe it is perfectly sound. I accept from the right hon. Gentleman (Sir D. Maclean) what he said that history shows that foreign intervention in such cases is always a failure. I have no sympathy with the desire of those people—I do not believe it w7ould accomplish their ends—that we should march into Moscow and destroy the Bolshevik Government; indeed, I am bound to say that I have very considerable doubts whether you can destroy Bolshevism by force. I do not think in regard to what I have said that the House will be in any doubt as to my feelings about Bolshevism. I have no sympathy either with its theory or practice, but I cannot help, thinking that the leaders, General Denikin and General Koltchak, would have been far better advised if, instead of trying to capture Moscow when they had recovered a very considerable 692 proportion of the richest part of Russia, they had devoted their time and energy to reorganising that part and establishing a civilised and successful Government, and depend upon it, if they had done that, the moral effect upon the neighbouring Bolsheviks would have been overwhelming. In particular I feel that with regard to the district under General Denikin, because I am informed that the general opinion is that in that district alone there is no less than 1,000,000 tons of cereals surplus beyond what is required to feed the population, and if we could get that into the trade and commerce of Europe it would make a very material and important difference in some of the hardest-pressed districts of Europe during the coming months. I should hear with pleasure that this attempt to crush Bolshevism by force has been abandoned, and that those commanders have settled down to see what they can make of the territories under their control.
The third conclusion I have formed is that the really dominating feeling amongst the great masses of the Russian population is a desire for peace. My right hon. Friend who has just sat down talks about the revival of the Russian national spirit. He may be right. I confess I have seen very little evidence of it in any of these documents or accounts that have reached me. On the contrary, the official accounts brought to me show that the people are so wretched and miserable, the vast masses of them, that they only want peace, and they do not care what Government they live under or who is their ruler provided they are given peace. If you look at the history of the Revolutions in Russia this fact seems to be borne out. There is no doubt that the Kerensky Revolution succeeded very largely because they made proposals for something like peace, and the House will recollect that the first act of the Kerensky Government was to issue that celebrated decree which destroyed the discipline of the Russian Army, and the immediate result was that the whole of the Russian Army trooped back into the centre of Russia to pursue their peaceful occupations. It was because Kerensky had failed to give them peace in addition to many other mistakes he made, but largely because of the failure to give them peace, that the Bolshevik Revolution really became effective.
The great cry of the Bolsheviks was, "We will give you peace." We remember the very remarkable phenomena which 693 took place after the Bolshevik Revolution. At that time, from a military point of view, they were absolutely contemptible, and, in pursuance of a policy of keeping some kind of front on the East, it was the policy of the Allies to assist various bodies and sections under General Alexis and others, to have some kind of nucleus for a pro-Ally Russia. What happened? They collected considerable bodies of Cossacks and others under their banner; the Bolsheviks advanced against them. There was no fighting at all, but the next thing we heard was that the loyal Russians had melted away and disappeared and joined the Bolsheviks en masse. It happened over and over again, and it went through Russia like a kind of epidemic for a few months, and why? Solely because they had promised peace. It was not a particular promise of any system of Socialism or class warfare, or any of the other nonsense that was talked about in Bolshevik circles. The people thought they would get peace in that way, and that as long as they supported the Generals they thought they would get nothing. My right hon. Friend referred to the action of the neighbouring States, Esthonia and so on, and to their apparent willingness to treat with the Bolshevists. It all refers to the same thing. The whole of the population in that part of the world is simply dying for peace.
I had a very interesting talk the other day with a gentleman who has just come back from Archangel. We got talking about the economic situation, and I asked him—he was a British subject—whether he know Russian. He said: "Yes; he knew Russian very well." I said, "Did you ever talk with the peasants? "He replied, "Yes, very frequently." I said, "What did they say?" He replied, "They always asked me one thing: 'When are the English going?'" I asked, "Why do they dislike the English?" He replied, "No; I do not know that they dislike us particularly, but they believed, rightly or wrongly, that we were keeping up the war, and their one anxiety was to get rid of us." I venture to think that is an essential factor in the Russian situation which must be grasped if any successful policy is to be pursued with regard to that country. It might have been possible for the Supreme Council of Paris to have issued an Order in February or at some such time when their prestige was higher than it is now, demanding that everybody in Russia should lay down 694 their arms and cease to fight If they had said that and nothing more, and afterwards they had said, "We will see what we can do to. settle the Russian question, but the essential thing is peace," I believe that it might have succeeded. I doubt very much whether the Allied and Associated Powers now have sufficient prestige and authority for the purpose. My right hon. Friend tells us that the Government are going to promote further meetings of the Allied and Associated Powers. It may be right —he must have in formation which is not at the disposal of private Members—but my own belief is that the Council of the League of Nations would have a better chance of being respected and listened to than any Assembly of Allied find Associated Powers.
I must say that I should like that policy still to have a chance, but I do not wish to press it upon the Government, because I know that in these matters of foreign, policy it is very rarely that an unofficial Member can form a judgment as well as the responsible Minister. They have-the information and it is their business to direct the policy of the country. It is our business to criticise it and to point out where we think it is wrong. I do not myself believe that private and unofficial Members can very usefully try and take the place of the Government in directing the policy. But this I do desire to say to my right hon. Friend and to say with absolute conviction and sincerity: The one tiling that is essential, whatever policy you are going to pursue, is that there shall be no vacillation. We heard in this House the Prime Minister's speech last April. We thought that we understood exactly what it meant. I believe that it received general acceptance in the House. Broadly speaking, it was a policy of non-intervention qualified only by this, that we must respect our honourable obligations to General Denikin and Admiral Koltchak. That is a policy which I believe this House would accept. I do not say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Churchill) has ever said anything verbally different, but no one who has listened to his speeches can doubt that the tone and purpose of them were entirely dissimilar. I could not help when I heard him last week having a picture of my right hon. Friend riding at the head of Cossacks making a triumphant entry into Moscow. That was the kind of tone and 695 platform from which he spoke. Then followed the Prime Minister's speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet. That was entirely a repetition of his April attitude with this addition, that he used language which was generally interpreted as a willingness even to go so far—he may have been misunderstood—as to enter into negotiations with the Bolshevists Afterwards came his statement in the House which did not go quite so far as that, but which still adhered to what I may describe as the April state of mind.
It is not only what has been said, but it is also what has been done that has caused grave misgiving. After the policy of April had been announced there is no doubt that it was carried out. There was the withdrawal from Archangel. It was part of that policy that we should withdraw from Archangel. Then followed the surprising action of the Fleet in the Baltic. I say, quite frankly, that I have never been able to understand in pursuance of what part of the April policy we sunk the Russian battleships and bombarded the Russian ports. Then apparently we gave help to General Yudenitch in what has been described as the daring raid on Petrograd. In what respect was that part of our honourable obligations? I do hope that the Government will be able to clear up these problems. Then came the blockade of Russia. I confess that I look upon that part of the Government policy with grave anxiety. Remember, we not only blockaded, but we positively went so far as to request the German assistance, and we received a reply refusing that assistance and making the very pertinent observation that they did not think that it was a legal blockade. What is the object of this blockade? I really do not quite know. Let me see if I understand the policy as it is represented. The great mass or the large portion of the population of Russia is anti-Bolshevist. That seems to me admitted by all. We are going to blockade that population which is anti-Bolshevist. It appears to me that by doing so we are patting an extra weapon in the hands of the Bolshevik tyrants. The scarcer the food the more the Bolshevik tyrants are able to coerce the population of Russia. What is the explanation? We have had a reply from the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs:The Government will continue the blockade of Bolshevik Russia until a democrat Government which can be recognised by the Allies has been established in Russia.696 How is that consistent with the April policy? That is intervention. That is an attempt to enforce a particular kind of Government upon Russia, which, I understood, was utterly rejected by the Government. I do regret all this, and I am bound to add that I should be very glad to be satisfied that our blockade was regular and legal. I have the highest possible respect for the blockade. It is a weapon of tremendous power. I believe that it is vital for our own security and for the power of this country. I believe that it is essential if the League of Nations is to exercise its proper power in the world. It is of the greatest possible importance that nothing should be done to blunt that weapon, and it is a matter which the House should lock closely to: Are we acting strictly within our legal rights in anything that we are doing by way of blockade? Depend upon it, we should commit the greatest folly in the world if for the sake of getting some temporary advantage we laid ourselves open to the criticism of the enemies of sea power—and there are many—and enable them to say, "Look how tyrannically these people use the blockade." I hope that the Government will investigate that aspect of their policy very carefully.
The real thing that I desire to press upon them is that they shall be absolutely clear and definite and that there shall be no ambiguity or vacillation in their policy. We have experienced in this country some of the terrible results of vacillation in foreign policy. Everyone remembers the result of hesitation and vacillation in the Sudan. The death of Gordon and the fall of Khartoum. We all know that the last Boer War was largely due to the want of certainty with which we pursued our policy. I am bound to say if the commission of Lord Haldane to Berlin failed in 1912, as it did fail, and failed disastrously for the world, it was because there was a certain ambiguity and want of clearness and want of definiteness not only in his method of carrying out his instructions, but in the instructions themselves. There is not greater danger in foreign politics than ambiguity and vacillation. It is the dangerous thing to be aware of. Do not let us be told that there are parties in the Cabinet of which sometimes one gets the victory and sometimes the other. If that is so, it is far better that the Government should split than have ambiguity. I venture to press upon the Government that they should adhere strictly to whatever policy they lay down and not allow one 697 Minister to speak in one tone and another Minister in another tone, and, above all, that their actions should be consistent with their policy, and not sometimes consistent with one policy and sometimes consistent with another policy.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
This Debate, so for as it has travelled, clearly indicates that all sections of the House appreciate the gravity of the present international position. All of us must share the opinions expressed by the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) owing to the unsatisfactory news that has reached this country from the United States. Believing as we do in the value of a thoroughly organised League of Nations, we must view with alarm any possibility of the United States failing to ratify the Treaty and to take her proper place among the countries forming the League. We certainly express the hope that even now ratification may take place and that the League of Nations may begin its work, and, as speedily as possible, do two things. The League at present is not an all inclusive League of Nations; it is a coalition of victorious Powers. If that League is to do its proper work and is to become what we hope to see it become, the most effective instrument for the permanent maintenance of world peace, it will have to cease to be a coalition of victorious Powers and become an all-inclusive League of the Peoples. Another thing that we look to the League of Nations to set about, and that as speedily as possible, is a revision of the Peace Treaty; I think even the authors of that Treaty, with the experience which they have had since the Treaty was signed, will be the first to admit that it affords very great room for improvement. Some of us believe, in fact, that there is a very growing opinion in this country, as there is in other countries, that until the Treaty has been revised in some of its most important Clauses it is not going to contribute to the world's peace and to the restoration of its normal economic life, as it had been hoped it might do. To-night in this Debate we are concerned with Russia. We are not only concerned with Russia, but we are concerned with the policy of the Government with regard to Russia. I do not propose to go into the many aspects of the Russian position as we have known it for the past two or three years. I am going to-night to confine myself to restating the Labour position with regard to the policy followed, especially since the Armistice, by 698 the Government—I mean the policy of intervention. Labour's view of the Government policy has been stated over and over again in our Resolutions at Inter-Allied Conferences before the Armistice, at our recent annual conferences and at international conferences and congresses. We do not to-night sup port the policy of non-intervention, be cause it may be more popular to do it in November, 1919, than it might have been in November, 1918. I am just a little inclined to think that there are evidences, not only in this House, but in speeches delivered in the country by former Members of this House—
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I might go further and say by former Members of the Government who are strongly inclined to-support this policy of non-intervention, to-day, but who failed to support Labour in its appeal for non-intervention twelve months ago. We have been, opposed to intervention in the internal affairs of Russia for two main reasons. First, we feel convinced that any policy of intervention, whether it be mild or drastic, is a violation of one of the most important of the Fourteen Points, namely, the principle of self-determination. We think that in a country like Russia the people should be permitted to work out their own salvation. We are of the opinion that they are denied the opportunity of doing it if, by sending our Army or contributing munitions, we seek to dictate what the policy of the country should be. The second reason is that we consider our intervention, in the mild form at any rate with which it has been pursued, is prolonging civil war in Russia, because we are convinced it has had the effect of strengthening the forces of reaction without bringing to us or to the Russian people any corresponding advantage. I am prepared to admit that in, the ranks of international Labour and Socialism, and even in the ranks of the Labour movement at home there are and have been strong differences of view with regard both to the theory and the practice of Soviet Russia. I do not think I need state, as I have done publicly on more than one occasion, that I personally am strongly opposed to a Proletariat Minority Dictatorship, just as I am opposed to a dictatorship either of a Czar or a Kaiser.
But what differences there may be in our movement with regard to the theory and 699 practice of Soviet government or of Bolshevism, there is no difference of opinion as to the reactionary effect of an interventionist policy. I do not know whether Members of the House have followed carefully the views expressed by the Moderate Socialists of Russia, and even by some of the Moderate Cadets. I mean Moderate Socialists like Kerensky. I am not going to take up any different attitude towards Kerensky to-day to that which was taken up by most of us and by members of this Government at the time he took office immediately after the Revolution. He was then hailed as the saviour of his country. I am afraid that hon. and right hon. Members have changed their views and are now content to think of him rather as a visionary. I happened to be in Petrograd when he took office as Prime Minister, and I have no hesitation in saying that never in the history of Governments has any Government had a more difficult task imposed upon it than the Kerensky Government had at that period of the Great War. He did his best, I believe, and if he had only had greater support from some of the Allied countries I think the situation would have turned out vastly different to what it did owing to the failure on our part to give him that support.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
The hon. and gallant Member knows it would have been nothing of the kind. They were well defined Allies, fighting for us, and it could not have been intervention by any stretch of imagination. The point I want to bring out is this. I was asking the House whether it had followed the position taken up by many Moderate Socialists and Cadets? I believe I am right in saying that at the period of the Armistice most of them favoured intervention. But what is the position to-day? Those who have been following the writings and sayings of these people will admit it is most significant that in the case of many of the leading Cadets they are now opposed to intervention. Moderate Socialists, too, are opposed to intervention, and, what is more, of those people who have been permitted by our Government to visit Russia during the present year and who have returned, none of them, I think, have done so without having changed or modified their views. Most of those with whom I, at any rate, have come into contact are 700 now opposed to the form of intervention they favoured at the time of the Armistice. Labour is in agreement with the Moderate Socialists and Cadets, and it takes up this attitude. We believe that by the support given to Koltchak and Denikin we have strengthened the reactionary elements in Russia. We have strengthened those who desire to restore the old order of things, and I have no hesitation in saying that if there is one thing that will unite the whole of the Russian people, it will be an attempt to restore anything in the nature of the old regime, or to bring at the head of affairs in Russian life a monarchist system. During the short stay I had there I met many sections of the community, and I met scores of leading employers, all of whom said that the old regime, or anything in the nature of a Czarist regime, had passed away from their country for ever. I believe it is the suspicion that there are those behind Koltohak and Denikin who desire to restore the monarchical system, and bring back again the old regime that has united them as one man in their determination to resist anything of the kind.
We believe that this change of opinion has been brought about by the policy and the methods adopted by the two military leaders I have named. It can be said, with safety, that by methods as ruthless and as undemocratic as any that have been charged against the Bolshevists these reactionary military leaders have sought to establish their dictatorship. These methods and aims we now know have antagonised vast numbers of the people who were formerly sympathetic to the policy that we were pursuing. Our intervention has also had the effect of destroying to a considerable extent the confidence of the Russian people in the good will and good faith of this nation. They do not believe that our intervention has been inspired by respect for democratic principles, and the organised working-class movement has, therefore, demanded, consistently and insistently, the immediate withdrawal of the support which we have been giving to the reactionary elements in that great country. We demand that no money or troops or material or diplomatic aid shall be given. Moreover, we associate ourselves with the expressions of the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) with regard to the blockade. We believe that until the blockade is raised it will be impossible for us to secure anything like normal conditions in the economic life of the country. 701 We believe that until Russia is at peace with the rest of the world the economic and political regeneration of Europe is impossible.
The effective organisation of the League of Nations can only be established when Russia and the other nations of the world have come together on a basis of democratic peace. We are convinced that by treating Russia, our former Ally—an Ally who made incalculable sacrifices on our behalf in the early days of the War—by treating our former Ally as an outlaw, and by prolonging civil strife within her borders, we are depriving Europe not only of her political inspiration, but of her economic help Russia is the source of vast supplies of food and vast stores of raw material. It is not necessary that I should remind the House that those are things of which Europe stands badly in need at the present time. Russia could be a great market for our products and a storehouse for our needs which, by our policy, it appears to me we are wilfully closing against ourselves. Our policy is driving Russia on the path to utter ruin. That ruin acts upon the European peoples as a whole. Instead of a policy directed to the prolongation of civil war, we urge the Government to direct its efforts towards helping the Russian people. I do not know how often and how long some of us have to plead for this assistance. In the Labour movement we have been pleading on all our platforms, in our conferences and on the floor of this House that we might have a policy which would help the Russian people in their great struggle for the regeneration of their land and the conservation of the principles for which they fought so strongly and so unitedly in the great Revolution of March, 1917. The horror that we feel for the crimes charged against the Soviet Government ought not to blind us to the terrible tyranny to which the March revolution we hope will for ever put an end. We believe that the withdrawal of our help from the reactionary forces of Russia will hasten the moment when the Russian people will reestablish control of their own affairs—which is much to be desired—on sound democratic principles. We can rest assured that one tyranny has bred another. The crimes of Czarism have been followed by the ruthless dictatorship of the Soviet system. But the spirit of Russia is free and the tremendous constructive forces released by the revolution will speedily create a regenerated Russia 702 fit to be a partner in the free commonwealth of nations.
We therefore urge the Government to proclaim immediately their intention to discontinue their policy of intervention. We urge them to withdraw, not only their material but their moral support from the factions to which hitherto they have given help and countenance. Secondly, we ought to tell the Russian people clearly and definitely that we no longer propose to interfere in any way, directly or in directly, in their internal affairs, and that we are no longer prepared to violate Russian Sovereign rights or help any class or group in Russia to further their own interests at the expense of the general well-being of the Russian people. Again, we should offer to the Russian people such moral and economic help as they need for the restoration of their country. Such help should be offered to them through the valuable machinery of the League of Nations. It is essential that Russia should have not only supplies but machinery, credit, and the best advice that can be given to aid her in the restoration of her economic life. I would therefore venture to suggest, as I have suggested for several months, that a Commission of experts should be designated by the League of Nations to visit Russia. This Mission should be accompanied by representatives both of the Government and of the different sections of the working-class movement. Such a Commission, carefully selected and properly representative, would be able to state authoritatively that the interventionist policy had been definitely abandoned. That would be the message we could com mission them to convey to the Russian people. We could let the Russian people know that we in this country desire only to help Russia to recover her former position in the common wealth of nations. The Commission could be charged with the responsibility of giving help and advice to the very best of the opportunity which presented itself. The Commission could be charged with the responsibility of organising the supply of money, material, machinery, and of labour, such as everybody admits Russia really needs. Such a Commission, if it were thoroughly representative and invested with full authority, would, in our opinion, go far to win the confidence of the great millions of Russia by assuring them that we desired to help them to re-establish their political and economic life.
703 Let me remind the House that a proposal of this kind was made by organised Labour many months ago, in fact, I ought to remind the House that for something like ten months we have been appealing to the Government to provide facilities for a Mission to visit Russia in order to ascertain the actual facts of the case. Ws believe there have been many statements made, on both sides, that require the most careful investigation. Those who have supported Koltchak and Denikin have made statements against the Bolsheviks, and the Bolsheviks have made statements against the supporters of Koltchak and Denikin, and we ought to know what are the facts of the case. How can we get to know the facts of the case unless we are prepared to offer and provide facilities for a representative deputation —representative of all sections of out-great country—to go there for the purpose of finding out what are the real facts? We have been denied those facilities. Passports have been refused to a deputation, representing the great international conferences, and representing, let us say, the working classes in the organised sense of nearly every country in the world. We think the time has come when, in the interests of Russia herself, in the interests of Europe, in the interests of world peace, a, new policy should be initiated, a policy which shall be constructive, a policy which shall be democratic in its spirit, and a policy which will be immediately helpful. This is our suggestion to the Government to-day. We hope ft may receive sympathetic consideration. We restate our position to-day with greater emphasis and urgency, because we believe that such a policy would assist in giving permanent peace to the world and would assist in removing the awful sufferings which multitudes of the Russian people are experiencing. May I say, in conclusion, that we on the Labour benches welcome the statement of the Prime Minister, delivered in his Guildhall speech. We hope we have put on that statement the correct interpretation. We trust that, at any rate, the Government are at last turning their eyes to the light. We believe that it is our business to assist especially the independent States to re-establish their position. We should encourage countries like Poland and the other border States not to fight but to establish their economic life. An examination of the policy of the Government would go to show that they 704 had been doing the former and not the latter, if the policy of the Government is, at last, going to assume a welcome change, then we can promise that the whole of the organised forces of this country wilt be behind them in any effort they are prepared to make to take up an attitude toward Russia which would be consistent with the traditions of this country.
§ Colonel JOHN WARD
We have listened to two very remarkable speeches on a subject which was debated a few nights ago. Both of them, while representing entirely different points of view as to the Russian difficulty, were very eloquent and forcible. It is impossible for those who have taken a decided hand in the business of Russia, or at least one end of it, to allow either of those speeches to pass without challenging some of the points they have urged upon the attention of the House. Of the two speeches I preferred the spontaneous speech of the Noble Lord opposite (Lord R. Cecil). That was a contribution from the heart, and carried weight, I am sure, with every Member of the House. The allegation of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. Henderson), who, I take it, has assumed the leadership of the Labour party here to-night, is that the Government, by its action, by its instructions to its officers, and by the acts of those officers, has supported reaction as-far as intervention by this country in conjunction with the rest of the Allies has been undertaken. I venture to say there is not a word of truth in that. It is a mere shot in the dark, with the hope, may be, that it is so. The facts will show it is not true. We were told by the right hon. Gentleman that we are not to intervene in Russian affairs. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] That is a feasible policy. But the right hon. Gentleman proceeded" to invoke the League of Nations, to which Russia, as yet, does not belong. He says that this League of Nations must appoint a Commission, with authority to go to-Russia to investigate the situation, to do this and to do the other, in the sacred name of non-intervention.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend does not intentionally desire to misrepresent my position. When I was speaking on nonintervention, I made it quite clear that I referred to armies and munitions.
§ Colonel WARD
So far as the principle of intervention is concerned, it does, not matter whather it is civil interventions 705 or military intervention, for the simple reason that the right hon. Gentleman said in his speech that he wanted everything withdrawn from Russia—munitions, men, advice, everything. I to a certain extent agree with, him, and if we were discussing this subject for the first time I am not so certain that I could not have delivered much the same speech as the right hon. Geatleman has delivered. But it is useless to burke the beginning of this tangle that we have got into with reference to Russia, It is useless to attempt to avoid what, after all, is the most salient feature of the problem with which we have to deal. For good or for ill, we intervened in Russia. At the time it was considered right. It is not a mere British intervention. It is an intervention by all the Allies. Every one of them has contributed to it, only we less than anyone else. I want the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henderson) to understand what he is doing when he denounces this intervention in the way he has done. America has large forces in Russia at present, and, so far as we know, is making no proposition to withdraw them. So that the right hon. Gentleman has denounced America for having intervened, and for continuing to intervene.
I take it for granted that when the intervention was originally decided upon it was an Allied project conducted for a specific military purpose. Owing to the exigencies of the War, it was necessary to reconstruct the Eastern front to draw off as for as they could the pressure from our own Armies in the West. During that initial stage, of intervention we naturally set up certain authorities, as we were bound to do unless we were going to constitute ourselves the sole authority in the territories over which we were operating. We, naturally had to give those authorities some kind of guarantee as to whether we were going to lend thorn material, moral and diplomatic support, and, if necessary, "go the whole hog." SO to speak, in maintaining any position that we ourselves had prevailed upon then to take up. It is useless to attempt to avoid that initial blunder, if the right hon. Gentleman likes to consider it as a blunder, on the part of the Allied Council in Paris. He can treat it just as he likes, but he cannot ignore, it. That is also an inter-allied question which cannot, or ought not, to be decided by Britain alone. We ought certainly to bring such pressure to bear upon the other Allies as we can to assist 706 us in forwarding and maintaining any policy that we decide upon, but we ought not, in my opinion, to venture on definite policies without at least consulting those nations which have stood by us through the War. These guarantees have been quite recently repeated. At the end of July Admiral Koltchak addressed a meeting of Allied representatives at Omsk, including General Javet, Sir Charles Eliot, Mr. Morris, the American Ambassador for Japan, and other diplomats. Admiral Koltchak pointed out thatWhen he assumed the burden of supreme power and responsibilty at that extremely critical moment he had been advised and encouraged to do so by Russia's Allies, who promised to help him in every way in his struggle against Bolshevism. The Allies had not, however, done as much as he considered necessary to render him sufficient assistance, in spite of the fact that he had always observed an attitude of scrupulous loyalty towards every one of the Allied Powers. He had avoided all separate agreements with particular Powers which might have created dissension or jealousy among the Allies and had but recently refused an extremely favourable offer emanating from a certain Power, fearing that his acceptance of it might disturb the existing international harmony. He had been waiting all along for adequate assistance, and lie was sure that had it been forthcoming in time his task would have been achieved long ago.I say that, too, most definitely. To that extent I agree with Mr. Asquith that there are two policies relating to this subject, and you cannot go on the lines of both of them. You have to choose one or the other, and to do that without deviating a hair's breadth when once you have come to your decision, or else your officers, operating oil the spot, never know whether they are carrying out your orders or doing something that you intend to repudiate the moment it is done—At the present moment the Omsk Government was facing a new crisis and the situation was a serious one. Under these circumstances the Admiral considered it his duty to tell the Allies quite frankly that if they did not show in the near future less indecision and procrastination in their dealings with the Omsk Government the supreme ruler would be unable to bear any longer the responsibility for Russia's future, and the question of appointing General Denikin as his successor might soon arrive.Admiral Koltchak added that the Omsk Government, besides foodstuffs and ammunition, was in need of financial help, and he concluded by indicating the manner in which assistance could be renderedThe British and French representatives approved of what had been said by Admiral Koltchak and agreed that further procrastination was out of the question. The representa- 707 lives of America and Japan first consulted their Governments, and after having consulted them made similar declarations and promises that the Admiral's request should be acceded to.
§ Colonel WARD
I will tell the Noble Lord in a moment—Soon afterwards the whole Diplomatic Corps sent an official note to the supreme ruler expressing the hope of the Allies that Admiral Koltcnak would remain at the head of the Government and persevere in the task of reestablishing Russia by crushing Bolshevist tyranny. The Allied Powers signified their readiness immediately to provide the additional supplies demanded by the Admiral.The paper I am quoting from is the "Hong Koug Daily Press." It is an official statement issued by the Omsk Government. The meeting took place in July and this was published on 5th September. We went to Russia for our own purposes. They may have been mean and contemptible purposes, because they saved perhaps hundreds of thousands of our men. It is an unfortunate fact that there are some people who do not consider that of sufficient importance. That is the point I want kept in view all the while—that the Entente Powers have given definite promises. The whole of the Powers that supported us through the War went to Russia to reconstruct the Russian front, to take off as much pressure as possible from our Army and their own. We were all out for a selfish purpose—to save our men—and we made promises in the performance of that duty, and it is rather moan at this time of the day to repudiate what we did then.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Ward) is not obliged to yield if he does not wish to; but if he wishes to yield—
§ Colonel WARD
Naturally I would much prefer to proceed with my argument. Then the contention is that in carrying out the Allied instructions we brought into existence in these territories forces inimical to democracy and to democratic government in Russia. They are the only two serious contentions contained in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Carefully prepared as it was naturally, because it is an important speech, focussing every possible objection to what has been done in Russia 708 as far as the Allies are concerned, these are the two main contentions: first, that you should not intervene. I have met that by stating that the real reason from our point of view is perfectly sound and just and proper and could be. defended upon any English platform. The next main contention is that granted that you were going for a purely military purpose to take the pressure off your own Armies you use that occasion to bolster up a reactionary policy and a reactionary system of Government, in fact, that you introduced a system which was equally bad, with the worst results. Those are the two accusations. There is not a single word of truth in the second any more than there is in the first.
The moment the supreme governor was appointed he appeared in my wagon. He could speak fairly good English. I had never met a dictator and never dreamt that I might have to meet one until I met Admiral Koltchak that night. Naturally, being a Labour man and a, democrat, the very first thing I demanded from him was the safety of the Socialists who had been put in prison and who I heard were to be executed that night. Two of them would not have been alive to write to the "Manchester Guardian" if it had not boon for me, and if it had not been for British intervention. [HON. MEMBERS: "Koltchak?"] No, no. Could anything be so absurd. It shows your failure in administrative duties to imagine that a man could be elected one hour as supreme governor of Russia and take the whole business in. hand an hour afterwards. If that is the idea you have, then it is no wonder you are on that side. Not only did I demand and secure at once, not in accordance with any instructions, but from British traditions—it is the way we are bred—that these men should have a fair trial or that they should be released; but I went further and stated our democratic view of what a Government ought to be. I stated that fairly and squarely to Admiral Koltchak and it is contained in the despatches. Reference has been made to the reactionary policy that this man pursued. To begin with you cannot very well set up judge and juries in revolution. You have no police to begin with. [An HON. MEMBER: "What, about the murders?"] My argument the other night was that you cannot keep free from murders and crime if you break up the law, and it may. well be that these atrocities are as much 709 on one side as the other. Then why all the so stupid interjections? As late as May Admiral Koltchak to the Allies made a declaration of his policy when he asked the Allies to render him assistance in accordance with their previous promises.I solemnly declare at this fateful hour"—This ought to have been published months ago—I make war, not on the Russian people, but only on the criminal and mutinous organisation of the Bolsheviks. Neither vengeance nor persecution is my object. Those who have perpetrated no atrocity and committed no crime have nothing to fear from me, and all who have been forced against their will to help the Bolsheviks in their work will receive from, the Government a complete amnesty. I have assumed office in order to establish in the country, justice and freedom, and to give security and bread to the harassed and famine-stricken population. In every place through which our armies have passed it has been my wish that justice be restored, legal administration and legal rights re-established, the law-abiding protected, and the law-breakers punished. The office I have assumed is a heavy burden and I have no intention of retaining it for a single day longer than the interests of the Empire demand. As soon as Bolshevism is finally crushed my first care will be to call for a General Election, and a National Constituent Assembly. Our Commission is busily engaged at the present moment in the drafting of general regulations for these elections. My desire is that the election should be conducted on the basis of universal suffrage. To this Constituent Assembly I shall hand over all my powers in order that it may without coercion freely decide the future government of my country.This is the reactionary—I have already signed a law guaranteeing for the current year, for all workers, the produce of the land they cultivated and sowed. With the object of assisting in every way the small peasant holders I intend in future enactments to transfer to them by duo legal processes the lards of the large landowners. There are no cheers from this side of the House now. Therefore, I say, knowing this man and knowing his ideas of what human society and government should be, I am disgusted that a man of the importance in the Labour movement of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henderson) should stand at that Box and declare this man to be a reactionary. I am ashamed that such a thing should be done towards a man who has a council of ministers the chairman of which is an old member of the Russian Duma, a social revolutionary, who is denounced as a reactionary, and by men who are not half as advanced. It would be much better if the right hon. Gentleman tried to understand the situation instead of giving forth platitudes that have nothing whatever to do with the problem that the poor Russian people have to solve.710With the object of assisting in every way the poor peasant holders, I intend in future enactments to transfer to them by due legal processes the lands of the large landowners, who will in turn be paid suitable compensation.[Interuption.] In some cases they murdered the lot and took possession. The hon. Gentleman who interrupted me had better make himself acquainted with the facts.I am profoundly convinced that Russia will be prosperous and strong only when the many millions of Russian peasants are fully provided with land. I am equally convinced that the law should provide protection and help for the working men in order to secure their self-organisation on lines similar to those of the democratic States of the West. A special Labour Department of my Government is preparing data for future legislation on this subject.I say, therefore, that the two accusations made by the right hon. Gentleman, and made by hon. Members behind me, belonging to the same people as myself, and who I am ashamed should be so misled, are untrue, not supported by an ounce of fact. While I deplore the vacillation of the Government's policy or of the Allied policy as much as the right hon. Gentleman does, it would be absurd for us to withdraw our support from that country just at the moment when she needs us most.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
There is one point with which I agree with the right hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Henderson), and that is that one of the real difficulties of the present moment is to get all the facts with regard to the Russian situation. I cannot speak from the same personal knowledge as tin: hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Ward), but I can speak from a certain amount of acquaintance with the facts; in regard to one point in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The hon. Member who has just spoken has referred to Admiral Koltchak. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to ascertain with regard to General Denikin what the real facts are before he makes an accusation against him as a reactionary? Neither the right hon. Gentleman nor any of us wants to antagonise the Russia of the future. We none of us know all the facts, but at any rate we can weigh up the information that comes to us as accurately and carefully as possible. I will not say a word about Admiral Koltchak, but with regard to General Denikin, the facts stand quite contrary to the words used by the right hon. Gentleman. I could not take down his actual words, but I hope he will pardon or correct me if I misquote him. The 711 substance of his remarks were that the action of General Denikin—speaking of him and Admiral Koltchak together—has been to take measures as bad as anything that stood to the credit or discredit of Bolshevik rule, that his object was thoroughly reactionary, and that his further object was the restoration of the monarchy. I stand within the memory of hon. Members in the history of the months that have preceded this. I do not think the terms of the agreement which were made by General Denikin have been published. At the time they were under discussion I was abroad, but what clearly happened was that notes wore addressed to General Denikin and Admiral Koltchak asking what were their objects, and making stipulations as to the way in which they should act if they were successful, and it was because their answers, as I assume, were satisfactory, that we then gave them our support, and continued to give it afterwards. Let the right hon. Gentleman or anyone who believes that the things that have been done in the areas over which General Denikin has had control are as unfavourable as anything that has been done under Bolshevik rule, produce the evidence. I agree with the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) that the first thing which is really desirable is to try to get a settled Government in areas of that kind which can contrast favourably with the areas in Bolshevik Russia. If you take the areas that have been under the control of General Denikin, and you consider his administration with regard to prisons, etc., then the reports that one gets are very favourable. Some of us have had the opportunity of speaking with General Briggs and others, and the accounts we get are precisely the same, namely, that for generosity of spirit, for decent treatment of the inhabitants of the districts which have come under him, there is all the difference between night and day in what has been done by General Denikin and what has been done under Bolshevik rule.
7.0 P. M.
I say that, not only because I do not wish to discuss the question of the origin of intervention, about which possibly there is not so much difference, but I do think that it is a cardinal trait of British character, when we have given our support to anyone because of what we believe to be his object in so far as his professions have been proved by his behaviour, not to allow the 712 case against him to go undefended or his character to be impugned unless there are better facts to substantiate the accusations than, anything which has been urged here or in the public Press. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not think that I have wished to misquote him or to misunderstand him, but I do beg the House to realise what the situation of a man like that must be. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and, indeed, there has been a general consensus of opinion in the Debate, that active intervention and active supplies of material have got to cease, but if loyalty, if nothing else, means that we must not withdraw from him the moral support that we have always given and which this country owes to him until, indeed, he has been really proved to be guilty of some of the charges which have been brought against him.
It is the general opinion of all sides of this House that the policy of British active intervention has got to come to an end. But might we just get clearly what we mean by intervention and what the results of non-intervention will mean? We talk of the self-determination of the Russian people. I wonder if there is any Member of this House who really thinks that the Russian people will ever be able to have free self-determination under Bolshevist rule? We have it clearly known that the Bolshevists do not represent Russia. They do not wish to carry the measures that the Russians want, and, of course, one of the main difficulties of the whole situation is that the vast bulk of the Russian people suffers horribly and is wholly inarticulate. They are imposing on the Russian people not what the Russian people want, but what they say is good for the Russian people, and they are imposing it with an amount of tyranny and atrocity which, if we look at the facts without any prejudice, compare unfavourably with the worst regime under the worst Tsar who ever lived. Therefore, what is to happen with a policy of non-intervention?
In the first place it means that the Russian people are to be left. Does it mean that they are to be left to work out their own fate under conditions of that kind, or does it not really mean that the great harm in the present intervention is that it has become, at any rate in European Russia, so distinctively British? It began, no doubt, as an inter-Allied intervention against Germany. It began with Allied help, certainly with Allied approval. But little by little it has taken on in public 713 opinion a different form, and that is really part of the difficulty. Personally, I believe that if there is any feeling in Russia as against intervention, such as the right hon. Member who opened the Debate alleged, it is more against intervention by one particular nation than it would be against intervention in general, little as I think that that resentment really is. But the trouble is now that it is difficult for this country to put forward with general acceptance that we are in European Russia as the mandatory, if I may say so, of civilisation, of the different Allied and Associated nations, and, indeed, of the other civilised countries in Europe. Therefore, the chief harm in intervention at the present day is that it has gradually slipped into being: more intervention, at any rate so far as European Russia is concerned—not Siberia—of Great Britain alone, and not intervention on the part of civilised humanity as a whole.
We were told that intervention was wrong. I think on that that it is a question of what will happen as regards Bolshevism now. Now what a vast mass of the peasantry in Russia are crying for is peace. Is not it really open to considerable doubt whether, if we did not go to their assistance, and give the assistance which they needed, there would have been peace any the sooner; and if there had not been intervention the result would have been action by the Bolshevists against the small nations that were formed in the East of Europe on the Western borders of Russia? So if we agree with what was said by Mr. Asquith at Oxford last Saturday, if our duty would have been to have protected the small nations when they were being formed, I think that it is at least our duty that we should be led into supporting action against the Bolshevists, if not by intervention in helping Denikin and Koltchak, at least in defending the small States during the process of their formation.
On the present situation everybody of course ought to form as best he can his own conclusion on what the Secretary of State for War rightly said is a problem so abnormal that really there are hardly any precedents that will serve as a guide. But I think that we shall all agree that the one key to the whole situation is really peace. It is peace from the point of view of Russia itself. It may be wise to say that, if possible, we ought not to intervene, and yet, when I think of what will happen during the coming winter, 714 when I think of the 150,000,000 to 180,000,000 people in that country, of the appalling suffering and misery that they have passed through, and the appalling suffering and misery through which they have yet to pass, it is impossible for many of us to lead our lives with easy consciences in this country knowing what will be happening to these people in a winter more severe than any that we have had for a long time. But in any case peace is needed from the point of view of Russia itself. When the right hon. Gentleman opened the Debate he was, if I may say so without offence, so easy in his mind with regard to British intervention, I said to myself, "I wonder what the state of mind of Mr. Gladstone would have been when he was so stirred to the depths with regard to what happened in Bulgaria"? because the misery and suffering there wore no greater than they are in Russia at the present day.
But it is not only with regard to Russia that it is needed. It is also with regard to the whole of Eastern Europe. To me the question of Russia transcends the boundaries of Russia, because the conditions are of such a kind that there is really no chance for the new States to the West of Russia gradually to solidify their existence and for Europe as a whole to get back to something like normal conditions. It is impossible for anyone who has not got the Government sources of information to put forward with confidence any suggestion. But one way in which it appears to me we might envisage the problem is to ask ourselves—suppose a League of Nations were in existence, how would they act? I am bound to say that I think that one way in which we might treat the question would be to treat the different sides in Russia as people who-were belligerents. That would be to say to the Russians, "the problem within your boundaries is an infinite source of misery and suffering to the people in Russia. It is also an infinite source of misery to the people outside. Therefore, as representing the nations as a whole, we say that you have got to cease fighting and to make your representations to us, and we are prepared to listen to you, but, if not, we are prepared to bring to bear upon you the pressure that the League of Nations ought to have at its command."
If that were to be the case, if the League of Nations were in existence, then I humbly venture to suggest to the Concert 715 of Nations that their representatives can meet at Paris and look at the situation somewhat along those lines. In the circumstances, it is quite impossible for a private Member to diagnose the situation in detail. No one can do so without all the information which only a Government has at its command. But whatever the policy of the Government may be, we need to have a policy indicated to us, so that in future there may not be that general uneasiness in the public mind as to what we are doing, why we are doing it, how far we are about to go, and what are our reasons; because the doubt that there has been in the public mind about this means also that from the point of view of Russia, whatever we do we make enemies and not friends, and unless we are clear we shall get the bad results of whatever policy we may adopt and none of the advantages.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
My hon. Friend who has just sat down has submitted a very thoughtful consideration of a very intricate and difficult problem, and I am glad to notice that all the speeches which have been delivered in the House recognise that every course which you take in regard to this Russian tangle is full of complexities. You are marching forward into a fog, whichever direction you take. The facts are not clear. The attitude of the various peoples of Russia is by no means defined, and the Russians themselves are such a complex people that no one who has ever attempted to direct their minds or to dictate a policy with reference to them has succeeded. I am very glad of one thing in connection with this Debate—that although there have been several points of view as to the best method of dealing with the Russian situation, there has only been one opinion about Bolshevism. I have heard speeches which took one point of view, like that of my right hon. Friend, and others which took an absolutely different point of view, but they have all been in agreement as to their horror of both the principles and the practice of the Bolshevist reign in Russia. Their only difficulty is as to the best way of dealing with it. The chariot of Bolshevism is drawn by plunder and terror. It is not a democratic constitution. There is no principle ever laid down by any of my right hon. or hon. Friends opposite which would square with any Constitution that the Bolsheviks have ever set up. I have 716 seen articles in newspapers, and some speeches which have been delivered outside, which seemed to endeavour to induce the working classes in this country to believe that Bolshevism represented the reign of freedom for the workmen of the land. If they had read as many of the documents of Bolshevism as it has been the duty of my right hon. Friends and myself to read, they would never have repeated that phrase. Yesterday there came to my hands the last proclamation of Bolshevism. I commend it to the workmen of this country, because, whatever difference of opinion there may be about the right policy for Russia, it is vital to the security and the future prosperity of the country that there should be no two opinions as to the principles of Bolshevism and their application. This is a proclamation in reference to the fuel prices in Russia. It points to the fact that they have defeated Koltchak and Yudenitch and have driven Denikin back, but they say, "there is a much greater enemy, and that is the scarcity of fuel, that has got to be fought." So, they say,The Central Committee proposes the following measures to start a wide propaganda, campaign, especially in the villages, to explain to the masses the significance of the fuel question for the Soviets, while the introduction of compulsory labour for the whole population, or the mobilisation of special classes for work in connection with the preparation und transport of the fuel, must be resorted to without delay.Their notion of freedom for the working classes is compulsory labour.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not know whether that makes it any more agreeable. It makes it more universal. It is directed to the working classes. Let me read it:We raised discipline in the Army. We must now raise Labour discipline. Labour Saturdays must be devoted to fuel work. All instructions connected with the fuel crisis must be carried out, not under threat of punishment, but in accordance with the promptings of conscience.I will show how conscience has prompted.All affairs bearing on the fuel crisis must be dealt with promptly and with accuracy. All cases of delay must be punished severely.Ca' canny is punished in Bolshevik Russia—any failure to produce output promptly and in sufficiency. If the workmen of this country art' under any illusion as to what Bolshevism means, if they are under the impression that it means emancipation, all they have to do is to read the 717 Bolshevist proclamation. They need not depend on articles on Bolshevism. There is no difference of opinion, in this House, at any rate, as to Bolshevism and as to the pernicious character of its doctrines, But when you come to the question how you are to deal with Russia, with all its complexities, it is not so easy. It is easy to criticise; it is easy to say, "You ought to take this path and not that one." Who can say so? I have seen men who in January and February blessed Prinkipo, but now say it is shaking hands with murderers, and these are the people who condemn vacillation, but who then acclaimed it as a policy that had discernible in it a "clear, consistent and humane principle." "That policy does not, as has been inaccurately and, perhaps, maliciously misrepresented, recognise the Bolsheviks, nor does it in the strict sense even open up negotiations." That is the view of people who now represent it as mere shaking hands with murderers. [Cries of "Name!"] Well, that is "The Times." There was a proposal made at the same time that the Allies should communicate with the Bolshevists, and in order to make clear the communication that they should send someone who was really sympathetic with them, not merely to shake hands with these assassins, but a man who would shake hands sympathetically. I am only pointing that out, not by way of any taunt, but in order to show how difficult it is for the most firm writers, the most con sistent writers—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
They are people who grasshopped from Prinkipo to Petrograd, It shows how difficult it is, because you are dealing with a situation in regard to which no man has a complete command of the facts. My right hon. Friend rather taunted me and, I think, the Secretary of State for War with not being quite of the same opinion, but I noticed that he threw over, shall I say, his leader, Mr. Asquith. Mr. Asquith on Saturday last said there were only two policies; one was to intervene with the whole of your strength and the oilier was to leave it alone. But my right hon. Friend pointed out that there was a third policy, and that was that you should discharge your obligations—obligations of honour. My right hon. Friend and I may have differences of opinion, but it is very serious when two right hon. Gentlemen have differences 718 on questions of honour—men who are associated in directing the same concern. It only shows what the difficulties are. My Noble Friend in his speech made a very solemn appeal to the House, and may I say I am not at all sure I did not agree with most of it. But when he talked about policy, although I listened carefully to the whole of the speech, I should lind it very difficult now to tell the House, if I tried to repeat it, what his advice really was. I turned round to some of my Friends here and said: "Would you mind telling me what you think his advice is?" They said they had not a notion. I do not blame him; he knows the difficulty, and he prefers to confine himself to generalities, and I think it is much safer.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
There are no mines in an ice-blocked port. My Noble Friend, and I think my right hon. Friend opposite, said they fully approved of what was called the April policy. Naturally, so do I, because I ventured to lay it down to the House, and he said the House approved generally of it. I am very glad to hear it. There were no indications at the time of that agreement, but I think it has been justified by the event. What was the April policy? I did not hesitate, and I do not now, to say that I very much regret it had not been possible to establish peace in Russia. I still think peace could have been established then if all the parties had, I won't say laid down their arms, but suspended hostilities. That was my view. It was the view taken by the Council at the time, but neither of the parties consented to it—not one of the parties, neither the Bolshevists nor the anti-Bolshevists. Therefore it was idle to attempt to proceed.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Certainly, I think so. My hon. Friend has had com- 719 munication with them. May I just say that although no one here has referred to the Bullitt incident it is always advertised outside? Let me say this, I never heard of Bullitt until he came back from Russia. I hear it stated that I had given him some written terms to give to the Bolshevists. I never knew there was such a man as Bullitt in existence until President Wilson said to me, "There is a young fellow here who has come back from Russia. I should be glad if you would see him." He made it quite clear to me that I was not to attach too much importance to the man. He said, "You will have some interesting information about Russia." That is all I know about that gentleman. I have seen him amongst hundreds of others. I am in the habit of seeing people who can give me information that I think is helpful about the business of government, and when President Wilson said, "Here is a man who has come back from Russia, who can tell you a good deal about it," I saw him. That is all I have to say about that. As to the statements which I said were a tissue of lies, I will tell the House what they were. I read them one morning in the Paris "Daily Mail." Whether it was a statement by the "Daily Mail" or by Mr. Bullitt I do not know The first was that I had given him written terms to give to Russia. That was untrue. The second was that I proposed to send my Noble Friend to Russia. That was untrue. I would not do anything of the kind. Another was that I proposed to send Lord Lansdowne there, but I was afraid he would die—that I proposed to send him to Russia, and that I would have done it had I not been afraid of the "Daily Mail." I will leave the House itself to judge of that. I apologise to the House for troubling it about a man whose reputation depends on the fact that, as lie himself says, he is a betrayer of confidences. He betrayed the confidence of my secretary, Mr. Philip Kerr. I was not in Paris at that time, and as he never referred to Bullitt he did not attach very much importance to him. I forget what he was. I think he was in the office of the American Delegation in Paris, and got hold of documents when he was there and published them. No public man in England would soil his fingers by using the evidence of a man like that. I have referred to the incident because, if it were not referred to, it might be thought there was something to conceal about it.
720 What is the April policy? The April policy was, first of all, that there should be no Allied military intervention in Russia, that is, that we should not send armies to Russia to conquer the Bolshevists, I have not met one man who was prepared to get up and say that the Allies, after five years of war, ought to organise great armies to invade Russia in order to conquer the Bolshevists, it would be lunacy, and no one has proposed it. What is the other consideration, what I call the obligation of honour, and what my right hon. Friend (Sir D. Maclean) also called an obligation of honour. It was that in the case of the men whom you had invited to risk their security and their lives in reconstructing the Eastern Front so as to prevent the Germans from obtaining the necessary supplies to break the blockade, you should at any rate equip them with sufficient material strength to enable them to hold their own in the territories where they were fighting. That is an obligation which we were bound to discharge, and no country has discharged it more honourably than we have. My hon. and gallant Friend referred to the fact that there are countries which are in a. better position to supply Koltchak than we are, and that he was within easy reach of them. We were within reach of South Russia, and Archangel, and the Baltic Provinces. But for us to get at Koltchak would have meant to go round through the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Occan and get to Vladivostok, and thousands of miles further. Those other Powers were not against us but were in the Alliance. I would not have the House think that I blame them, but if there was a failure it was not our blame. We supplied Denikin with all necessary ammunition to enable him to hold his own. and the, policy was a success, the anti-German front was reconstructed, and the Germans wore unable to secure the- supplies they wanted.
What was the second policy? It was to enable the regions very considerable regions-which are anti-Bolshevist to protect themselves. That was done. I am not going to express an opinion as to what Central Russia wants, and there is no man in this House I think who can say. All I know is that whenever the Armies have marched beyond a certain point in their attacks on Bolshevism they have failed. You will say, Do they give a reason why they fail? They say it is because the peasants own their land, and 721 that they are hostile to any change. Here you have the Ukraine hostile to Bolshevists and the Don hostile to Bolshevists, and we have equipped Armies there to enable the population, which are undoubtedly hostile to Bolshevism, to determine their own fates. Therefore, we say that so far from that policy being a failure it has been a complete success in both those respects. They have now got between 30,000,000 and 40,000,000 of their population behind them, in Siberia and the Don and the Ukraine, and if they are opposed to the Bolshevists they can hold their own, and the indications are that they can do so up to the limit I have indicated. It is perfectly obvious that this country, with the enormous burdens cast upon it by the War, cannot undertake the responsibility of financing civil war in Russia indefinitely. Our first concern must be for our own people, and there is no surer road to Bolshevism than financial bankruptcy. It was the beginning of the Revolution in France and it had a good deal to do with the Revolution in Russia, and if we piled on burdens on the shoulders of the people in respect of things which are not productive, we would sink this country in the same morass as Russia is in now. Sitting here as a Government we were bound to take that into account. So has the Government in France. There is no country that has spent more in supporting the anti-Bolshevik clement in Russia than this country has, and there is no country approaches this in the sacrifices that have been made—not one. France, Japan, America1—Britain has contributed more than all those Powers put together, and I boast of it' because I consider it is an obligation of honour on our part. My right hon. Friend asked me about an "announcement in the French Press about an agreement between the French Government and ourselves. It is not an agreement; it is simply an indication of the policy of the French Government which happens to be the same as ours, a feeling that they cannot burden the French taxpayer with any further obligation in respect of the conduct of these operations in Russia.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I cannot say it is official, but I have no doubt it was communicated to the Press and that it is the fact and the policy. There are two things I want the House to remember when you come to consider why Bol- 722 shevism, in spite of all its obnoxious characteristics, has been able to make military headway. You have only got to read the story of the French Revolution and you will find it pursued exactly the same course. The Jacobins were not popular, they were a minority, they were a hated minority; the peasants did not like them; they had only a small body of fanatics well-organised in the towns. Why were they able to make such headway against intervention of a more formidable character than we organised in Russia? Why? Because they, the moment the foreigner entered French soil, engaged on their side the patriotic impulses of the people. You have only got to imagine the effect. There is no doubt at all that the Bolshevists have been able to rally to their side forces which were originally in opposition to them and detest their doctrines, merely by making an appeal to the anti-foreign sentiment in Russia. You have only got to remember this in connection with the story of the last year or two in Russia. Russia has been invaded by British forces, American forces, Japanese, French, Italians, Serbians, Letts, Finns, Czecho-Slovaks and Poles. In the case of many of those races there are historical feuds between them and the Russian people. There is a good deal of racial animosity between them, and there is no doubt at all that the Bolshevists have been enabled to excite a good deal of patriotic feeling on their side owing to that fact. In France the Jacobins were always able to rally people to their side by saying "the revolution is in danger." That meant that the land which the peasants seized and which had been transferred to them by revolution was regarded as being in peril and so the Jacobins had simply to say, "the revolution is in peril." What kept France fighting for over twenty years was the fear that the revolution would be upset. and that the old system would be restored. There is no doubt at all that that has acted in the minds of the Russian peasants, and that is why undoubtedly the Bolshevists, in spite of the fact that they are not popular—and I do not think they are popular with the Russian people—are able to rally enough support to make headway against a combination of very formidable armies. I am dealing with the facts, and after all—
§ Mr. PEMBERTON BILLING
Are there any Russian Proclamations to support this. Are they your surmises, or are they facial?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The hon. Gentleman can form his own conclusions. I say that they are certainly facts. That is the information which I have. I have read a great deal about it. I have seen a good many people, not Bolshevists, but people who have been in contact with Russia and who are thoroughly anti-Bolshevist, who would like to overthrow Bolshevism, but who tell me that that is the thing that stands in the way. I will come to another difficuty. Let us really face the difficulties. What is the other difficulty? Here you have got the Baltic States on one side. There is Finland, there is Poland, there is the Caucasus, Georgia, Daghestan, Azerbaijan, the Russian Armenians; then you have Koltchak and Petlura, all those forces anti-Bolshevist. Why are they not united, why cannot you get them united? Because their objects in one fundamental respect are incompatible. Denikin and Koltchak are fighting for two great main objects. The first is the destruction of Bolshevism and the restoration of good government in Russia. Upon that he could get complete unanimity amongst all the forces, but the second is that he is fighting for a reunited Russia. Well, it is not for me to say whether that is a policy which suits the British Empire. There was a very j great Statesman, a man of great imagination,-who certainly did not belong to the party to which I belong, Lord Beacons-field, who regarded a great, gigantic, colossal, growing Russia rolling onwards. like a glacier towards Persia and the borders of Afghanistan and India as the greatest menace the British Empire could be confronted with. I am not on that now, except that it has perhaps great relevance to one observation of my Noble Friend, that is the consolidation of these nationalities on their own ground. I will come to that later on, but what I want to point out is this. The Esthonians do not want a reunited Russia; to the Latvians and Lithuanians, it is poison. [Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY: "The Ukrainians."] The Ukrainians I am not quite so sure of. They are divided, and I would not dogmatise about them. I met a. Ukrainian the other day. He was the late Russian Minister of Finance. He told me he was bred and born in the Ukraine, and he said, 724 as far as he was concerned, he had never before the War heard of the Ukraine nationality. As far as he knew, there was no difference between that part of Russia and any other part. He said, "I am a Russian, and the mere fact that I was born in the South does not make any difference." Denikin and Petlura take different views. It shows how difficult it is for you to thread your way in this tangle when you get two honest Ukrainians like Mr. Bark and General Petlura who disagree about the country where they were born. Let us take the other. Georgia, General Denikin says, is part of Russia; it is an essential part of his policy to re-incorporate Azerbaijan, Daghestan, Russian Armenia in Russia, but they do not want it. They are fighting for independence, and one of the conditions they make—and this is in answer to a question put to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House—is that it is a condition of their uniting in any attack on the Bolshevists that we should guarantee their independence, and not merely that, but that we should guarantee them supplies and cash enabling them to pay their Armies.
But what I want to point out is how complicated the whole Russian situation is. It is not a plain, straightforward fight between two rival ideals or two rival systems. You have got, first of all, the fight between Bolshevism and anti-Bolshevism, and you have got inside anti-Bolshevism two separate and distinct theories with regard to the future, not government of Russia, but economic policy of Russia. I agree with everything that has been paid by my hon. and gallant Friend that Admiral Koltchak is a man of very advanced and broad views. That was the case before Bolshevism over came on the scene, and that is why in the Council in Paris we recognised that he was the man to write that letter to, because we know he received it with sympathy. The first difficulty is that two rival systems are fighting one another. The second is that one set of anti-Bolshevist forces are fighting for consolidating, reuniting, reknitting together the old powerful Russia that overlay two continents; the other great anti-Bolshevist forces are fighting for local independence, for their nationality. Georgia and the Caucasus fought, I think, for thirty or forty years for independence, and there is a recrudescence. What are we to do there i That is one of the great difficulties, and it is impossible under those circumstances for 725 any man lo be able to lay down a policy without great anxiety, grave doubt, and grave trepidation. The other idling I should like to say is this, that the fact that the object is good is no justification for our incurring heavy obligations in carrying it out. What is the position now? We have great burdens. We had a Debate in the House of Commons the other day upon the expenditure of the Government. There was a general desire for economy, and there was a general apprehension that our burdens were more than we could bear. I think we convinced the House that, provided that we did not add unduly to those burdens, the country could bear them; but can the country bear them if we undertake indefinite obligations not in respect of our own country, but for the restoration of order in other countries?
Take another point. There are three claims for intervention now made upon this country. One is intervention in Russia, the second is intervention in Armenia, and those who want intervention in Russia are opposed to intervention in Armenia, and those who are opposed to intervention in Russia are in favour of intervention in Armenia. But they all want intervention, and each is a good case—disorders, massacras, horrors, and Britain the one land that could rest-ore the semblance of justice and good government and equity. [Colonel J. WARD: "True!"] True, but can we do these things? Now let us look at the third. There are Germans still in the Baltic provinces. That is full of menace. I wonder whether hon. Members; realise altogether how full of menace it is. There is a historical root for that. When Prussia and Germany were crushed to the earth by Napoleon, the great statesmen of Germany sought to overthrow the French despotism by organising in Russia. It was to Russia they went. It was to this very province—Koenigsberg. They went there. That is part of East Prussia; right along the Baltic provinces they formed their armies, they attracted to their standard Prussian patriots. The same thing happened then as happens now. The Prussian King did his best to stop it, because he was afraid of France. He appealed to them to disarm; they refused, they defied their own sovereign, and it was from there that the organisation started that overthrew the French power in Germany. That historical appeal is undoubtedly at the present moment having its effect in Germany, and that is 726 why these men have formed their bands in the Baltic provinces. They must be cleared out, otherwise the peace of Europe is not safe. That is why at the last Conference which I attended in Paris that question was determined; it was decided to take action in that respect. Can we take action in all these places? Russia, Armenia, Baltic provinces! Will anybody, looking at the state of the world as depicted by my Noble Friend, the unrest in all lands, the questions which are unsettled in all lands, the fact that Britain is one of the Powers which has got the obligation to see that the conditions are established which have been laid down in the Peace Treaty—will anyone advise, will any wise man advise, will any wise man, whatever his courage may be, recommend this land to undertake this terrible responsibility of restoring order in a country which is a continent, which is a pact of two continents, which no country has ever intervened in without landing itself in disaster? All I can say is, I can take no such responsibility. I warn my hon. Friends, whose detestation of Bolshevism is no deeper than mine, that Bolshevism would lead to black reaction. It always has, and I hate it. It is the enemy of everything which is good in what my hon. Friends opposite value. But that is not the way to fight it. I am not afraid of Bolshevism in any land which is well-governed. It has to be fought by sympathetic justice in all countries, by planting confidence in all classes, rich and poor, yes, and the vast multitude of those who are neither rich nor poor, but whose path is just near enough to the morass for them to see their friends drop into it from time to time. We must plant confidence in all of them, that their complaints will be heard, and will be determined with justice after they have been heard with sympathy. If we do that, I have no fear of revolution, but I dread wild adventures in lands whose conditions are unknown, find where nothing but catastrophe has awaited every Empire and every Army that has ever invaded them.
Lieut.-Colonel W. GUINNESS
I must-confess that the Prime Minister's speech has been extremely disappointing to those who wish us to carry out our honourable obligations in Russia. It is disappointing because he appears to draw no distinction, between the effect on this country of the success of those whom we 727 have been supporting and their enemies; he draws no distinction between the origin of the various States on the periphery of Russia who are competing for oar support. He argues that because Georgia wants its independence, because the Ukraine wants its independence, that is a reason why we should wash our hands of the whole matter. I do not think we can treat the question in this way. He picked out about the two worst examples he could, because both those movements for autonomy have been set in motion by Germany. The Ukraine is an Austro-German invention, and still bears its burdens. It is more or less controlled by Austro-German influences to this day, and I do feel that it is a most cruel blow to those who trusted this country in Russia that we should lump them altogether and say, "We do not really distinguish between whether they are of German origin or whether they are of legitimate anti-Bolshevik origin, and we wash our hands of the whole matter." The right hon. Gentleman devoted a good deal of his speech to demolishing cases which no one had put forward. No one wants to send armed intervention to Russia, but that is no reason for advertising, as he did in his speech, his intention of not going on supporting our friends in the way that we have hitherto supported them. It is perfectly obvious that we cannot involve ourselves in heavy financial obligations. But that is not the proposal. What our friends want are munitions, credit, Red Cross facilities, and other commodities which would be a perfectly good debt, and would probably involve this country in no permanent expenditure whatever. We have been told by the Secretary of State for War that a great proportion of the war stores we have sent were absolutely unmarketable elsewhere, and, though I do not think this House could reasonably be expected to commit itself as to what it is going to do after March, I certainly see no reason why we should commit ourselves against a further extension of British credit if the position at that time seems to make it expedient, in the interests of those who were our former Allies.
There is another point with which, I think, the Prime Minister might have dealt, and that is the recognition of Admiral Koltchak and General Denikin. We have recognised all these other border States. We have recognised the autonomy of Esthonia, the autonomy of 728 Lithuania, the independence of Finland and Poland. Why cannot we, anyhow, give our moral support to Admiral Koltchak and General Denikin by recognising them as the da facto Governments in those territories which they now control? Have we now recognised them?
I have asked several questions in this House, and I have always been assured by the Foreign Office that we have not I recognised them, and it is a most welcome statement from the Prime Minister that we have recognised them. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that that is the first time that. announcement has been made in this House.
I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman in his speech was so discouraging to those who have been our friends and fought by us through the War. It is very easy for us to take a detached view about Bolshevists. They are a long way from us, but those who are up against them in Russia know that the Bolshevist system cannot make peace with civilisation. if the Soviet Government would change its methods no one in this House would counsel Admiral Koltchak and General Denikin to go on fighting. If they gave self-governing institutions and let Russians decide for themselves, certainly it is not for this country to say that Russia is to have one form of Government rather than another. But the Soviet Government, as it is, is a carnivorous organisation which is inconsistent, with peaceful production. It can only live by spreading over its neighbours and devouring their prosperity. You can no more expect Bolshevism to live within its own boundaries than you can expect a man-eating tiger to live in a stall and feed on carrots. After all, we cannot look on this question as a question which does not affect us. A lot of people say, "Let the border States arrange their own affairs," but if the Russian pot boils over the British Empire is going to be the first victim. I can understand if the United States of America or Spain did not take much interest about Russia, but already our long Asiatic frontiers are threatened by the junction between the Bolshevists and 729 Afghans at Merv, and if they break into Turkestan our own fellow subjects will be very deeply involved. Besides that, the Bolshevik ferment is working in Turkey, and must enormously complicate our difficulty in bringing a solution to the vexed problems in the whole of the former Turkish dominions. I do not think we shall have any peace in Turkey or Mesopotamia, or any part of the Near East, until there is a stable form of Government in Russia, and the Bolshevist poison ceases to trickle through to the neighbouring States.
The German danger is perhaps not quite so immediate, but it is one which we cannot possibly forget. Germany now is helping both extreme parties in Russia. They are helping the Bolshevists on the one hand—no doubt they were largely responsible for the success of the recent operations against General Yudenitch—and they have helped Bermondt and the extreme reactionaries on the other. If Germany gets control of Russia we shall have been saved from the danger of a mid-European State to face the far greater danger of a middle-world State, dividing the teeming populations of the Far-East from the restless, diverse, over-civilised States of Western Europe. In a not remote future, if Germany is able to control Russia, it is quite probable that she may draw China into her system as well. What chance would the nations at the outskirts nave to curb the ambitions of a Russo-German-Chinese block established astride the Urals, with the advantage of interior lines, a colossal reserve of man-power, and far greater unity of control than anything which could be put up against them by the League of Nations? This danger of German control in Russia is one we cannot possibly afford to forget. Germany has got an enormous advantage in her knowledge of Russia, in her experience of Russian commerce, and the great root which German culture and German methods have struck in Russia ever since the time of Peter the Great. Ever since the commercial arrangement between Russia and Germany German influence has gone ahead, and at the present time she stands far in front of any nation in her understanding of Russia and her opportunities of getting control in that country.
Surely it is to our interest to encourage those who wish to bring about a moderate and constitutional Government, and for that reason it does seem to me disastrous for this country to make enemies of every- 730 body in Russia. The Bolshevist never can be our friend. Admiral Koltchak and General Denikin cannot be our friends if we go on changing from one leg to another, and do not let them know what we are going to do a month hence. There is no doubt it may be that the Prime Minister does not propose to take any active step to force people to negotiate in Russia. His speech to-day has done very little to clear up the ambiguity which has been caused in the minds of many people by his recent utterance in the City on top of his former record. We cannot forget the Prinkipo proposal. We cannot forget that whatever may have been the change of front by a few of those who then supported him, by the majority it seemed disastrous because it did not distinguish between right and wrong. The Prime Minister seems in Paris to have fallen a victim to the methods of a very irregular diplomacy which have shaken our reputation in foreign countries, and certainly in Russia has done a very great injury to our former friends. The Foreign Office has very great faults, but, anyhow, its officials are circumspect and honest. Unlicensed diplomats, however, are very often rash, ignorant, and susceptible of very shady influences.
There has never been a greater field for the shadier side of amateur diplomacy than Russia since the Armistice. There was a certain Commissar Krassine, who from his wide knowledge of affairs realised the situation. He baited the trap very skilfully with concessions, offers of mines, forests, and factories, and everything which was likely to make the mouth water of international financiers. This man is still, I believe, the Commissar for Combai. Really he is a German agent, and formerly was the Russian agent of the German firm of Siemens Schuckert. This ferment spread. The Scandinavians and the Americans all fell over each other in their anxiety to get these wonderful Russian concessions. I can understand the temptation of the Prime Minister in Paris to be open to all advice, and perhaps to listen to people without asking too much about their credentials. The right hon. Gentleman has got the defects of his qualities. He is the possessor of a great power of decision. He has, perhaps, the dictator's rather natural preference for a servant or underling rather than for a councillor. That, perhaps, explains some of the encouragement which was given in Paris to these unofficial negotiators. Be- 731 sides that the Prime Minister is a dreamer of dreams and impatient of intractable facts. Therefore, when in his short cuts to the Millennium he finds himself landed in difficulties he finds it much easier to throw over an unofficial negotiator than to throw over a Foreign Office official. He has given us a very clever explanation of the Bullitt affair this afternoon.
I am quite certain that the Prime Minister told us the whole truth so far as he was concerned—that he had had no dealings with Bullitt. But the Prime Minister is responsible for his staff officers; and, really, when anyone in the close Confidence of the Prime Minister makes a definite proposal in a letter to Mr. Bullitt on the lines which have been published, I think we may fairly say that it is a dangerous proceeding for anybody in such close contact with the Prime Minister who represented his country at the Peace Conference. I hope that his experience may induce him in future to stick to the recognised channels of diplomacy, and to walk more warily among the various unqualified diplomats. The Russian problem is far too dangerous for amateur hands. To that extent I prefer the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Widnes to send a deputation to Russia rather than we should have any further Cook's tours by British Members of Parliament, with no knowledge of Russian, and only shown one side of the case. I am afraid, however, that such a deputation as proposed by the right hon. Gentleman would be handicapped to some extent in the same direction, because it would be almost impossible, without a knowledge of the Russian language, to see anything but what the Government in the particular area to which they went chose to show them. Therefore, I am afraid, much as one desires all light upon Russia, we are not likely to get it in that particular way.
It is most unfortunate if anything we do leads the Powers that be in Paris to exercise a pressure on Russia to cry peace when there is no peace. The League of Nations is an experiment which, as has been pointed out this afternoon, is very much endangered by the present difficulty in America. It will be disastrous if we try to apply its principles to a case, which is not really yet ripe. Arbitration is only possible where the parties have a common ground, and where there is some principle which both will accept. Under 732 present conditions, I am afraid that you can no more cure the breach in Russia by arbitration and well-intentioned talk than you could mend a broken neck by Christian science. The Paris atmosphere certainly encouraged people when they were up against difficulties to look to formulae which would affect even if they could not solve; but I do beg the Government to remember that the League of Nations must be founded on the recognition of right and wrong. It cannot possibly succeed by a betrayal of our friends.
I am quite sure Chat throughout, the- whole country the remarks of the Prime Minister this evening will be received with the greatest acclamation. So far as the Members of the House are concerned, or even on the Front Bench, it has not been so received. We must regret the vendetta which has taken place within the last week between the members of a leading newspaper group and the Prime Minister—a personal vendetta between two great powers which has greatly obscured the whole issue of the Russian question in the minds of the British public. I could have wished that all this energy and abusive rhetoric had been used for constructive work, and not for destructive work. It is very easy to criticise: it is very difficult to put forward a constructive plan. What do these critics want? One day they deprecate war and the next day they will not listen to peace. They never seem to be able to make up their minds. We have heard a great deal about shaking hands with murderers, but if that argument had been used in November, 1918, we should never have concluded peace with Germany. I would almost be prepared to say that if I dealt with no worse characters than Lenin and Trotsky I should not get very far in this, world. This reminds me of some of the cries at the last General Election. Let us examine this point. Who has been shaking hands with murderers? Who has been supplying marauding bundits and partisan leaders with arms, munitions, tanks, aeroplanes—aye, and even men. Who has been stimulating civil war and anarchy? I would like to know what that is if it is not shaking hands with murderers. I call it cuddling with murderes. I have here an example of what is going on in the, South of Russia. It is a copy of a proclamation distributed by Denikin's forces throughout the towns of Kozlov, Tamboy and Yeletz: 733Peasants, arm yourselves and rise against the common enemy of our Russian lands, against the Jew, Bolshevik, and Communists; drive out the diabolical power. A large Cossack Army and Volunteers are moving on Moscow, and soon, soon, we shall breathe freely, and be relieved of the grip of the devil's hands which chained us into bondage, destroying our religion, our Church, torturing our priests, old men and children, and which cast our entire Motherland into starvation and poverty. With God to arms! Would that the power of the devil inhabiting the souls of the Jew-Communists perish.I agree with what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) this afternoon, and I am quite sure that his words will be received with the same enthusiasm throughout the country as those of the Prime Minister. I must, however, just touch on a personal reference that the right hon. Gentleman made at the beginning of his speech. He said that he had listened to both sides of the case, and I was a little bit dismayed, knowing the estimate and weight which his words carry throughout the country, when he used the word "apologists" in regard to those few hon. Members in this House who, in this Russian crisis, have tried to tell the truth and get at the facts honestly and sincerely. For myself, if I wanted to get some idea of the condition of affairs in Soviet Russia, I would rather spend fourteen days in Moscow and Petrograd than fourteen months in Vladivostok, Hongkong and Shanghai.
What is it the people fear in this country? It is a fear of the spread of Communistic principles, and they fear that a fillip will be given to the propaganda of extreme Socialism. This shows that they have not studied the facts. In Russia the first people to assure you of the impossibility of Bolshevism would be the Bolshevists themselves. Every day they are modifying their policy and granting concessions in their land policy and in their industrial policy. It is commonly believed that the industries in Russia are run by elected committees of the workers, but that is not the ease. In regard to the few factories which I have visited to give a typical example, in one, the Management Committee consisted of five members, two elected by the workers in the factory, two by the management or technical staff, and one elected by the Supreme Council of Public Economy, which corresponds to the Ministry of Commerce of the Government. So you see that within Russia we are getting, largely through the efforts which have been adopted in this country, 734 an organisation in Russia on the lines of our trade boards and Whitley Councils. I believe there is a happy mien in industrial organisation between the extremes of the old-time Conservatism and the extremes of Bolshevik communism.
Let employers in this country take warning from Russia. If they oppose the legitimate aspirations of Labour to a. voice in the management and control they are skating on very thin ice, and if this is persisted in they may bring about a collapse of the social fabric in this country quite as much as the revolutionaries at the other end. There are just as much Tory-Bolsheviks in this country as you find Red Bolsheviks in Russia. You find them in Ulster, which is the seat of rebellion and the school of revolution for the United Kingdom. I am inclined to think that people are apt to get ruffled over the whole Russian question, and they do not approach it with calm consideration. They are too apt on this question to take their cues from the headlines of the daily Press. What is the other fear which people who advocate intervention desire? They hope to restore the old order in Russia, whether it is Koltchakism or Denikinism or Yudenitchisrn. They wish to restore the old régime in Russia, and wo have got to face the facts whether we like it or not, that the old regime is dead and irrevivable. This reminds me of the old story of Humpty-Dumpty.
All the monarchical forces and all the monarchical men, Will never set Humpty Dumpty up again.That is very apropos to the Russian situation, and, believe me, as surely as President Poincaire drove through the streets of London last week, it will not be many years hence when the President of the Russian Republic will be entertained in London, probably at Buckingham Palace. We have to recognise the facts that the Bolshevists have won. Kolt-chak has evacuated Omsk; Denikin has ordered the evacuation of Kieff and Yudenitch is entrapped, and probably he thinks that he has won, and probably he has, from the point of view of his financial venture. We have heard a great deal about the so-called Peace offers from the Bolshevik Government, but it is a misnomer to call those offers peace terms. It is not a question of peace. Russia is still legally an ally of Great Britain, and I hope she will long remain one, and if the matter is handed tactfully now she will remain an ally. The only suggestion in 735 these peace offers was that Great Britain, whose status in the international world is so great, should come forward and suggest a conference, and I am glad that is what is going to happen, at least so I gather from the Prime Minister's statement. There is no question of peace. It is a proposal to call a conference, to call together the warring factions and subsequently to deal with the outstanding as Imperial obligations and the War Debt, later, and it is improbable, indeed it is almost impossible, that we are likely to get an offer so acceptable as that which terminated on 15th November. It is impossible that we should get conditions which are so acceptable to all classes in Great Britain and throughout all the Allied countries. People who have refused to deal with this matter and who have checked these negotiations, which matters arising out of the great War, such These matters have to be settled sooner or I hope will now take place, will have a great responsibility to bear. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last (Lieut.-Colonel W. Guinness) mentioned the menace of a great combination stretching across Europe and Asia. It is a very real menace, not very far from eventuality, and we have to face the fact that soon the military situation may be such that instead of proposing terms we shall be forced to accept the terms which the Bolshevists dictate to us. Let us bear that in mind. We have heard a certain amount about "Fool Baboonery." It looks as if Great Britain were going to be made the "Fool Baboon" in this matter.
Let us take care that Russia is represented at this International conference. I wish the Prime Minister had elaborated more fully. An international conference is not an Inter-Allied Conference, and therefore presumably Russia is going to be represented. Let those who desire Russia to be omitted bear well in mind that if you discuss Russia without Russia, Russia may discuss you without you. America can hardly realise what they have done with regard to the stability of Europe by virtually torpedoing the League of Nations. Up till now there have been in the world two nuclei of world organisations the League of Nations in Paris and the Third International in Russia, By torpedoing the League of Nations they have given a great stimulus, to the Third International; they are driv- 736 ing the power from Paris to Moscow. I do not believe there is anyone in this House who does not realise the danger of that or who wishes that to come about, but I have seen the headquarters of the Third International. It was a great building, well organised, and it reminded me of the Supreme Council at Versailles during the War, only it was better organised and there was a great deal more co-ordination between the nations represented there. There was more unity of purpose. Remember that those people who are working the universal organisation of the proletariats Lave a propaganda which is simple and which is easily applicable and in destroying the League in Paris they are bringing about a grave danger of a world revolution.
I would like, if I may, to elaborate what I said in the House on Thursday week concerning the association of the Jewish question to the situation in Russia. The Jewish question is a very delicate matter to discuss in this House. One is apt to be dubbed at once by the title of "anti-semite." Personally I am a pro-Jew and a pro-Zionist, and I leave this absurd anti-semite twaddle to the Press which specialises so particularly in these matters. I believe that in the settlement of the Zionist question lies one of the big clues to the settlement of the question in Russia. Let us examine it from one or two aspects, First of all, you have a great powerful race spread all over the world without any home and without any vested interests except those of finance. I do not wish to cast a general aspersion on a race which has such historic associations, but when you have a father in Berlin, an uncle in Vienna, a nephew in Paris, and a cousin in New York, possibly all holding big international holdings, what more can you expect than international intrigues? Why, even in the Peace Conference I believe it is a fact that there were two brothers, one on either side. That is the racial aspect.
Then there is the ethnological aspect. I believe that the settlement of the world's peace starts from Palestine. That question has been hanging fire now for fifteen months. Settle the Palestine question and the problems of the associated countries of Syria and Armenia, and you will safeguard the territories of Mesopotamia and settle the Turkish question. Why is it that the Turkish question has been left unsettled so long? Why is it 737 that in spite of the recommendations of the Dardanelles Commission the Dardanelles forts have been left un-demolished? I wonder if it has anything to do with the India Office? We could extend the principle of this political inter-meshing to Bulgaria, which would arise out of the settlement of the Turkish question, from Montenegro to Ulster and from Ulster to America. The settlement of Constantinople is one of the keys to the Russian situation. It is at Constantinople that you find the cross currents of conflicting thoughts meet—Berlin, Bagdad, Odessa to the open sea. I hope that all these problems will be discussed at the International Conference which is about to be brought into being. I am sure that we on this side of the House welcome, and the majority of the people of England will welcome, the Prime Minister's statement that the Conference is to be brought into force, but it cannot be left at that. I am sure that even my hon. Friends opposite will press for a further definition of this Conference. I hope that they will assist us in pressing for that definition. If the Conference is to bring any result, it must be a conference of all the interests concerned. The situation in Eastern Europe is now a very serious one. Mr. Morgenthau, in a report recently issued on the Eastern situation, declares that all the little people who are barely born are in danger of dying; they are in a distress which borders on despair, and hundreds of thousands of human beings are hungry and ill-clad. I am told that the food supply in Germany will run to a low ebb next February. In America the American farmers are migrating into towns, spending their money, and neglecting their work, with the result that there will be an under-yield for next year's harvest. The financial situation for the whole of Europe is certainly critical. Banks have already collapsed in Denmark and Scandinavia. If the Conference is to settle anything, it must include all the big interests affected—social, economical and political. It should include possibly Germany and certainly Russia. If it is held by one side only that side will have to impose its will on parties outside, and that means war. I hope that this matter will go through quickly and speedily and will not be allowed to drag on through the chilly winter. I trust a little more expedition will be shown in calling this Conference together than has been displayed in arranging the conference on the exchange 738 of prisoners. The negotiations for that conference, to take part in which the hon. Member for East Leeds (Mr. O'Grady) left to-day, started on the 24th January, 1919, and the radiograms up to last month filled twenty-eight pages of closely typed foolscap! Can anyone imagine any person in connection with a British Department of State, who has the interests of the prisoners at heart, carrying on these negotiations by wireless when a Parlementaire could have been sent to the frontier. What happened? Long delays elapsed—delays of two or three weeks—between a message leaving London and arriving in Moscow. Wireless telegraphy depends on atmospheric conditions. Messages cannot always be sent direct to Moscow. Sometimes they go viá Paris. Sometimes they never get to Moscow at all. In addition to that, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs entered into what I may term as rather childish controversies with the heads of the Bolshevik Government. I will not burden the House by reading some of the challenges and counter-challenges which passed between them. I certainly can see no reason why these negotiations should have been drawn out over eleven months, and why the British prisoners in Moscow should have been called upon to endure the hardships they had to bear in that country. I can see no reason why the matter should not have boon settled in two or three days, if the Government had wanted to settle it. Possibly there were reasons why it was not desirable to settle it.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Cecil Harmsworth)
That statement has been made in the House before, and I then repudiated it with indignation. Perhaps the hon. Member can state the facts on which he bases it.
§ Mr. BILLING
As I understand, the hon. Gentleman wishes us to explain the delays in the communications between the Soviet Government and the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
It was suggested in the House the other day that some member of the Government, or perhaps the Government itself, had reasons for wishing to delay the return of the pri- 739 soners. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not wanting them back!"] I understood my hon. and gallant Friend referred to that in the remarks he made just now.
I do not remember which hon. Member of the House made that statement, but I have no doubt he had in his mind this: that it is quite likely it would be very dangerous to allow British prisoners impregnated with Bolshevism to come back to this country.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
That is the very observation I repudiated on the part of the Government with the utmost indignation.
I am glad to hear that. Then if that is not the reason for the delay, I hope we shall be told the actual reason. I only quoted these comments in order to show that this Conference should have a bigger aspect than dealing merely with the Russian question. We do not want it to go on until the end of the coming summer. If it is going to deal with the problem of Eastern Europe it must be an International Conference. The Prime Minister has not described it in detail to-day, and I submit it is due to the Members of this House, whatever our opinions may be that we should have a clear definition of what this conference is to be. It can hardly be an international Prinkipo. It must be something more than that. It must be a revival of the almost moribund body sitting in Paris, the League of Nations Council. We have to approach the whole question of Russia and Germany from the point of view of a new orientation of the League of Nations idea. I know how keenly the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) feels on this question. I wish he were here to bear me out when I say that this conference will have to be a bigger conference than the one which has been sitting in Paris. It must be a conference to which all parties are invited, and not the least of them our esteemed and worthy ally—Russia.
§ Brigadier-General SURTEES
After the exhaustive speech we have just listened to I will not keep the House more than two or three minutes. I want to say a word or two in reference to the Turkish settlement. I have for many years been resident in Turkey. I am convinced that genuine sorrow is felt by 740 the great majority of the Ottoman people at having been obliged by a corrupt Government to take up arms against their old Ally, Great Britain. I venture to express the hope that any settlement which may be arrived at will be in accord with the memorable pledge given by the Prime Minister in January last year—in accord with his promise to the effect that Turkey should remain intact so far as regards Thrace, Constantinople and the Homeland. I submit that any receding from that position will have the worst possible effect on the millions of Moslem subjects of our King. It is not generally realised how the Moslem Turks and the Anatolians have suffered at the hands of the Greeks. Terrible reports are reaching us about that, and I cannot imagine anything more cruel or more unjust than to hand over the people of these districts to their hereditary foes. I therefore appeal to hon. Members of this House who regard the true patriotic and imperialistic Moslem of Turkey as a factor in our Empire to insist on Turkey proper being left intact, and on the Greek troops receiving orders to evacuate Smyrna and the district which are certainly the homeland if not the actual cradle of the Ottoman race.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. AUBREY HERBERT
My hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down in his brief speech has put the whole thing in a nutshell. Before going deeper into this question, I should like to observe that when I read the reports of our Debates in the papers it constantly occurs to me that there must be many people in this country who feel very sad at the sort of detached way in which we speak of the people against whom we have been fighting recently. There are many people in England who have lost sons, brothers, and husbands at the hands of these various Eastern peoples—the Bulgars or the Turks —and bitter memories will continue during our generation. Far and away the finest monument that we can raise to those who have fallen is an enduring peace. Those who have fallen did not desire to those war prolonged and their country robbed of any more men. In the Near East we are threatened by two danger, one an indirect danger and the other a direct danger. The indirect danger is that the Balkan Peace Treaty, as far as I know it, is so bad that it cannot stand. If it stands as it is, it must, produce war again, and, as war is very infectious, we may all be drawn into it. The direct 741 danger is that our Empire, like all Empires, is a very composite Empire. In it we have many Moslems. You cannot afford to disregard to feelings of those Moslems who have been loyal to us during this War. It is inevitable that their sympathies should go out to their co-religionists. During the last six months argument has gone on at Paris, but there has been no decisive conclusion with regard to what is to happen to Turkey. The result has been that, so far as we know, only one, shall I say, executive decision has taken place—that is the Greek landing at Smyrna, which was accompanied by many unfortunate events. The effect of that has been, first, to weaken the Government in Turkey that was friendly to us. The second result has been to create rebellion throughout the whole of Turkish Asia Minor. The people there have every inducement to join the Bolsheviks. The third result to us has been discontent throughout the whole of our Moslem Empire. It would not be fair to put the blame for all that upon our Government, and I do not do so. One knows there have been many great difficulties in Paris recently, also there have been the American difficulty and the illness of President Wilson. But our Government has to take a great deal of responsibility for the tangle in which we now find ourselves. What men like myself, who have been in the East, require most at the hands of the Government is knowledge of what their policy is, if they have got a policy. We are tired, and everybody is tired of expedients. We want to get back to principle, and the sooner the Government take that decision the better it will be. You cannot go about the East talking to these people about self-determination and then expect no trouble, unless your policy is going to be in accordance with what has been proposed. In a wav of this sort, when everybody has had work thrust upon them, every country must get into a difficult position. When, dealing with issues vital to this country, Ministers in this House contradict themselves, the country laughs and thinks it is rather funny, but when you make contradictory promises in the Near East, the Near East has not our sense of humour and does not laugh. What wo say to the Government is this: "If your plan is to destroy the Ottoman Empire, have you reckoned what the cost is going to be, and what the cost is going to be to us; in other words, what we are. 742 in for?" As a very humble Member of the Back Benches, I should like to make a protest against the treatment this honourable House receives at the hands of the Government. We ask questions, the answers to which a good many of us know. We ask very important questions, and we are always told it is not in the public interest to let us know. May I observe that this country has been through a great war and many very dangerous crises? Nobody can maintain that the country did not behave admirably under the shock of those crises. Really it deserves a little more consideration than the Government gives it. Constantly it is not a question of public interest at all, but rather a question of its not being in the Government's interest to tell. They do not like their wisdom being assailed. If any of us had made as many mistakes in the Near East as the Government have made, we should also do our best to keep it dark. The absurd point we have almost reached at the present moment is that nothing is a calamity until it is discussed. You can have a conflagration all over the East, you can have ferment in India, you can have a rising in Egypt, but the one great disaster is a Debate in the House of Commons'. In the last War we had a Censor. We were quite right to have a Censor, because we did not want any information communicated to the enemy. Now, while the next war is in preparation, we still have the Censor's ghost with us, and when the next war comes I suppose we shall have the second coming of the Censor. This policy is really the policy of the ostrich. You cannot put off the evil hour indefinitely. However much a man may hate dying, he does not postpone death by not making his will.
To deal very briefly with the question of unrest in the East, let me take the question of Egypt. Let me ask the House to consider what I think is more important than the disease, that is the cause of the disease. If you only consider the disease, the remedies you apply will be accidental and expedients. If you consider the cause, you may cure the disease. The Prime Minister said not very long ago that the whole world was suffering from shell-shock. The East is suffering from shell-shock nearly as much as the West. That is one of the causes. I think the second contributing cause has been the unfortunate recruitment of the Labour Corps in Egypt. That is 743 a responsibility which I do not think British officials ought to be saddled with entirely. That is really more or less a native responsibility. The last cause is the doubts about ourselves and about our policy. The Egyptian is not a more honest man than anyone else, but he does like honesty in other people, and he expects it and insists on it in us. In the past we have dealt in a currency of integrity with the East, and it is only now that they are beginning to doubt our coinage. They are doing it for the reason I mentioned. But I come back to the fundamental thing. It has been the landing and what took place at Smyrna that has added oil to the fuel, and it has done it really very simply for this reason. There is such a thing as sympathy between all co-religionists in the world. I do not know Egypt well, but I am pretty sure that ninety-nine out of 100 Egyptians do not want the Turks back again to rule over them. But they cannot avoid having a sympathy with the people who share their own religion, and when they see those people being attacked in the way they have been attacked they are angry and they are fearful for themselves. They think the same thing may happen to them, and rightly or wrongly they look upon it as a breach of faith on our part.
When one says this kind of thing one is very often answered, "You have the old Conservative Crimean tradition of friendship with the Turks, or perhaps it is that you, like every Englishman, like the Turkish people amongst whom you have travelled." On this occasion this is not so I feel that we are having to pay for the crockery that a great many other people are breaking, and I do not know if we are going to have the money to do it. As far as this question of Asia Minor and Smyrna is concerned, I do not know that there would be two pins of difference between me and Lord Bryce, who, I suppose, has done more for the Armenians than any living man. I should like to ask the Government who was consulted with regard to this Greek landing at Smyrna. Was the Foreign Office consulted? Was Lord Allenby consulted? Was the Viceroy of India consulted? Was any responsible man consulted? I very much doubt it. We all know what happened at Paris. If it was possible to avoid consulting experts, experts were not consulted, and the result is that you have chaos, you have a land of Alice in Wonderland, only written in blood. Our position as we stand to-day 744 in the eyes of a great many of our fellow citizens in the East is that we are abetting persecution. I believe that is the last thing this country would wish or would tolerate. Someone said to me the other day, "If we have trouble it is we who have the machine guns and it is they who have the bows and arroiws." A good cause, or what comes to the same thing, a cause which men believe to be good, is better than the best equipped army. In the end it will always win.
In this War it might have been reasonably expected that the Mahomedans of India should have been spectators, but they were not. They were fighters. The Mahomedans of Egypt, when they fought, fought with distinction, and "they worked very hard in this War. The fact is not always remembered that during the times of our disasters our Moslem fellow citizens remained loyal to the Empire. We had trouble, but it was insignificant. During Mons, during Gallipoli, even when Kut fell they were loyal, and then it was only when Lord Allenby had conquered Palestine and our Armies were occupying Syria that trouble came in Egypt and in India. It was only then, when we got the great plus of victory on our side, that the plus became a minus which threatened us almost with bankruptcy. I think the reason is very simple. When we went into this War we appealed on behalf of great ideals to every section of our community, and they came in with us. The Moslems went on to land that they considered holy and fought side by side with us against their co-religionists, and side by side with us they went to Constantinople. Now they feel that when we have all won the victory together there is an attempt to profiteer in that victory and to take a sectional advantage of it. This victory is too big to belong to any section. It is not a Protestant or a Catholic or a Mahome-dan victory. It is not Scotch or Canadian or English. It is a general victory against Prussian militarism, and they want to see their co-religionists fairly dealt by. If they have that feeling, and I know they have it extraordinarily strongly, it is upon the faith of the words of the Prime Minister in the pledge that he, made to the representatives of the trade unions on 5th January, 1918. My recollection is—I am speaking from memory; I apologise if I misquote him —that in his speech lie said, "What we want is freedom for the Armenians and for the oppressed people of Arabia from the corrupt 745 yoke of Constantinople. What we want for Asia Minor is that the Turks should have the homeland of Turkey and that Constantinople should remain their property." Those words are ringing in the ears of all the Moslems of our Empire. When we have trouble in this country we are accustomed to go to the Prime Minister to settle strikes, and his settlement has been very wonderful, though I do not suppose anyone would say that his precision of statement as between employers and employed was wonderful in its precision. The English are a good-tempered people and they can afford to laugh, but if through Mr. Venezelos you promise the Greeks certain territory which you have already promised to the Turks you cannot expect the Turk and the Greek to smile at each other. You cannot treat trouble in the East like a dock strike. The British Government has very often been compared to a statue of Hercules. Hercules was not Hercules because he held a club. He was Hercules because he stood upon two very strong legs. If we are like the figure of Hercules it is because we have one support in the East and another in the West, and if you break either of these supports the remnant of that unhappy Colossus is only fit for a mortuary or a museum.
Over a hundred years ago we lost what are now the United States because the Government of England did not know or did not care sufficiently about that question. To-day if we do not take care we may very well lose our Empire in the East for the same reason. If we had chosen to land a battalion in Smyrna we should have pleased all these people and we should have had a quiet country. What has happened is that you have Asia Minor in revolution, a revolution which is spreading, a revolution which is being approached by the Bolsheviks, and over the whole East you are going to spread Sinn Fein, which is quite unnecessary and need never have been created. For two years after the beginning of the War, I and many people who knew the East felt that you could only achieve peace in one way, and that was by the parity of giving and riot by the parity of grabbing. I do not say that we want to grab. This is an extraordinarily delicate question to touch, and if you look around I do not think you would see any other Power who would have either the inclination or the power to give very much. We must lead. To me this was always the only pos- 746 sible solution, that we should say, "We are prepared to give Cyprus to Greece if proper military guarantees are given, and if proper guarantees for the Moslems in Cyprus are given." If we had done that we should have been in a position to say to all the other people who desire territory in that part of the world, "Well, we have given up something that really was a treasure. We have given up something that we might claim almost to have created, and we have done it in the interests of the peace of the world. We now ask you to give up something that you have not got, something that you have not created." We have got involved in many contradictions, and it seems to me that the main contradiction lies in this, that to one lot of people we have held out freedom and self determination, and to another lot of people we have held out things that made liberty and freedom imcompatible with our first promise. If Great Britain ever had to go back on a promise, I hope it will not be to go back on a promise to people to whom she has already pledged herself as a guarantor of freedom.
§ Captain ORMSBY-GORE
I am sure the House will agree with me that the speech to which we have just listened has been a most interesting and memorable one. I agree with every single word of it, and I hope that its earnestness will impress itself upon His Majesty's Government, and that they will realise that many hon. Members are sincerely anxious regarding the policy of the Government in the Near East. Most of the afternoon was taken up with discussion about Russia, but what is costing the taxpayers of this country far money, far more British effort and British life than the whole story of our enterprise in Russia, is the continued delay in bringing off the Treaty of Peace with Turkey. We were informed, in answer to a question the other day, that £2,000,000 a month is the cost of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force which falls upon the taxpayers of this country. Instead of the situation in the Near East getting bettor, it seems, from all accounts, both in Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine, Egypt; Asia Minor and Armenia, getting daily and weekly more anxious, more expensive and more difficult to solve. All because delay continues. What is the Paris Conference doing now, and when are we going to take up the Turkish Treaty? We have asked this question again and again. America was never at 747 war with Turkey, and she has made it clear in the last few days that she is not going to have a mandate in the Near East. It is of the utmost importance that we should hurry on the Turkish Treaty at the earliest possible moment. Half the trouble in Egypt to-day is owing to the failure to settle peace with Turkey. A great deal of it is promoted by a certain amount of pro-Turkish agitation, in Egypt. These agitators say, "We will not acknowledge your Protectorate until Turkey is definitely settled and the Allies have agreed that the Turkish suzerainty is at an end."
One of your great difficulties in settling the Eastern policy is the growing uncertainty in that part of the world as to what your settlement is going to be. Nothing is more fatal than uncertainty, and I am going to ask the Government some question bearing on this matter of uncertainty. Much of the trouble now in Egypt, apart from that which is caused by the delay about the Turkish Treaty, is due to uncertainty about even such a question as to whether the Milner Commission is or is not going out. Until we get a categorical statement from the Government that the Milner Mission is or is not going out, agitation will go on in Egypt either for or against it or about it. The only hope you have of restoring prosperity and settled conditions in Egypt is to make your policy perfectly clear from the very beginning, stick to it, and carry it through. It is absolutely essential that there should be no ambiguity as to what General Allenby's instructions are, what is the goal of our policy in Egypt, when the Milner Mission is going out, what is going to be our policy in regard to the fellaheen, are we going to keep on Lord Kitchener's policy or another policy, what is our policy in regard to capitulations, and in regard to the position of foreign residents in Egypt? The unrest is not confined to the political classes of Egyptians. It is shared by Greeks, Italians, Frenchmen, by British Civil servants and by British residents in Egypt, unofficial as well as official. We do not know where we are, and until we know where we are it gives the widest opportunity for the propaganda of a man like Saad Zaghlul and the people who are screaming for Egyptian independence. We ought to make it perfectly clear whether we mean to evacuate Egypt or 748 not. If we intend to evacuate it let us say so, and if not let us say quite cleirly that we mean to be masters there.
The propaganda and agitation still go on and will continue until definite faits accomplis are presented to the people of that country. We do not sufficiently in the East explain oar policy and the character of our policy. It is most important that when you declare a policy in general terms you should give reasons for that policy. I am one of those who think that not only in the interests of Egypt herself, but in the interests of the British Empire and in the interests of all nations, the British cannot evacuate Egypt and must maintain their Protectorate. Thirty years of British occupation have increased the land of Egypt enormously by means of extensive scientific irrigation works. We have enabled a much larger population to exist in Egypt than has ever been possible because we have control of what-an independent Egypt could never control, namely, the upper valley of the Nile. If Egypt were independent to-morrow and Saad Zaghlul had his way, the Sudan could never be held by Egypt. They could use every drop of water required in spring time and the Egyptian cotton crop would be non-existent. Whoever is master of the Nile from Albert Nyanza to Khartoum and from the mountains of Abyssinia down to Khartoum where the two main streams meet—and Egypt alone can never hold that country—has at his mercy Egypt and the whole position and prosperity of the country.
I understand that some people say that w-e can evacuate Egypt provided we keep open the Suez Canal. It is quite impossible to garrison or maintain the Suez Canal for forty-eight hours unless you are in control of the Nile at Cairo. Neither Suez nor Port Said can exist unless the water diverted from the Nile in the neighbourhood of Cairo enters the fresh water canal that runs alongside the salt water Suez Canal. And those- who suggest that all you have got to do is to hold the Suez Canal as the highway of the nations of the world, and that we could then retire from Egypt, are ignorant of the fundamental fact that; the Suez Canal cannot be detached from Egypt and is absolutely controlled by whoever is master of Cairo. For those two reasons alone it is utterly impossible to evacuate Egypt. If we intend to hold the Sudan and Central Africa and keep open the 749 Suez Canal we cannot evacuate Egypt, and if we cannot evacuate Egypt we have got to say to the Egyptian people now exactly what our policy is and what it is going to be. The longer the uncertainty continues the more difficult the situation will become.
There is great difficulty in defining the word "protectorate." Indians, under the Government of India Bill, know exactly whore they stand. They have in black and white what their constitution is. Egyptians do not know whether the Constitution, which Lord Kitchener gave them, is or is not to be scrapped. Take the position of Egypt internationally. Is Egypt a distinct part of the British Empire? If so, is she to have a share along with India in the councils of the British Empire? The Egyptian Ministers saw Indian representatives of the Government of India go to Paris to take part in the British Empire Delegation. In the future is Egypt, an important country vital to the maintenance of the British Empire, going to have its place in the British Empire? I would urge the Government at the earliest possible moment to declare when the Milner Commission is going out, if it is ever going, and to come to a definite decision about the future of Egypt, and, above all, as to whether they will set up an Egyptian office, a Near Eastern office, in this country, analogous to the India Office, and will take the administration of Egypt and the Civil Service out of the hands of the foreigner? A great many people want to have a definite answer to these questions at the earliest possible moment.
Now, turning from Egypt to the question of the Ottoman Empire. No doubt anybody who ventures to talk about Syria treads on dangerous ground, but it docs not become any easier to deal with Syrian problems if we continue to burke the issue and refuse to face the facts. The nettle has got to be grasped. We were told in the last Parliament that it was a delicate question. We hoped that agreement would be come to between Emir Feisul and his victorious Arabs, ourselves and the French. We are still in doubt as to whether that question has been settled, and, quite apart altogether from the Turkish Peace Treaty, it is vital to the settling down of the Near East that there should be a definite public understanding between the French people, the English people and the Arabs as to exactly where they stand. It is not sufficient that the 750 Governments come to agreement. The peoples in the three countries wish to know what that agreement is. It must be something that is understood in the East as to exactly where the responsibility of each party begins and ends.
At the present moment the occupied portion of Syria is divided into two areas. Occupied territory in the south is under British control and consists, of Palestine, West of the Jordan. North of that comes the area of French control, and east of that comes an area of Arab control, and the problem resolves itself into the question as to how far we are to push the theory that every square inch of the ex-Ottoman territory must be mandate. Personally, I submit the view that the Arabs under Prince Feisul fought for independence, and independence they want and mean to have, and I do hope that it may be possible to come to an agreement with our French Allies on that basis, namely, that as regards occupied enemy territory north, that is the Lebanon and the littoral and the great town of Beyrout, we shall make it clear that under no circumstances does England desire anything but that the French should have the fullest mandate they could possibly desire there. Similarly in Palestine, I hope it will be made quite clear that if it is to be a British mandate it is a single-nation mandate, and not any form of international control, except through the League of Nations and one country as the mandatory of the League, and that in the Eastern area, with possible adjustments of boundaries, the nucleus of a really independent Arab civilisation will be allowed to develop. I sec, personally, no reason why that should not extend across to Mesopotamia, and embrace part of Mesopotamia. We are asking the French to give up some of their claims to Eastern Syria—that is to say, a purely Arab Syria. Then I hope we are not going to push the mandatory desire in Mesopotamia too far. I want to see the Arabs given a chance. Remember, they were once a conquering people. They were the people who gave of the best to Islam, and in the early days formed a bridge between the civilisation of the ancient world and the civilisation of the medissval world. I want to see that Arab genius given a. free chance.
In this connection surely it would be possible to arrange between France and Prince Feisul and his supporters some such relation as exists, say, between Siam and the French I Let us make it perfectly 751 clear before the world that no Englishman wants to have anything to do with Damascus or Syria, or to have a mandate either direct or indirect in that part of the world. I will go further. In matters of commercial concessions, when you have a mandate, all nations must be equal. If the French would only give Prince Feisul independence, then they could have a commercial treaty giving Franco in Syria a complete priority of concession, a-s they have, I understand, in Siam. We do not want any commercial concessions in Syria, and France does. I see no reason why she should not have it on the basis of an independent Arab State. I must say one word about Armenia. It is essential that we should have some indication as to what is to be the future of Armenia in the event of America refusing a mandate. There, again, there is uncertainty. All over the Last there is uncertainty. I hope that at the earliest possible moment these uncertainties will be cleared up, because they are costing us money, and they are laying up infinite trouble for the future of ail the nations concerned. Some of the fairest provinces of the earth are still waiting to be developed, are waiting to settle down to peaceful conditions. I entirely agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that it is essential that the pledge we gave with regard to the Turkish national land shall be redeemed. So I want to see the Armenian pledge redeemed and the pledge to the Arabs, redeemed. That can be done, but only if we continue to maintain the idealism which brought these people into the War on our side against the Turkish oppressors. We can do it only if it is perfectly clear to all Eastern people that when we give pledges we carry them out, and, above all, that when these pledges are given we leave no stone unturned to carry them out without delay.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
I make no apology for returning to the subject discussed earlier in the Debate, because I am sure the House will agree that, in spite of the interesting speeches to which we have just listened, the question that is exercising the minds of people above every other is the question of Russia. I think that probably, whatever the House may feel, the country outside will be very much disappointed by the speech of the Prime Minister to-day. I hear from the benches on my right "No, no" muttered, but I can only say that the people who 752 desire a decisive lead 0n the question of Russia must inevitably be disappointed, for at the end of the right hon. Gentleman's speech we were left in precisely the same position as we were in at the beginning. The Prime Minister twitted the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord E. Cecil) on the fact that when the Noble Lord had sat down it was impossible to say what his suggestion was. I think the House will agree, after a careful analysis, that the Prime Minister said even less. There is one thing I think we want to remember, and that is that the view-point of the Press must be somewhat different from the view-point of statemanship. Generally speaking, the Press desires to reflect the view of the country at the moment, and the mere fact that one section of the Press may have retracted and now uses very strong words with regard to Bolshevism surely indicates the fact that the true meaning of Bolshevism is now understood in this country and that public opinion is very much hardened The right hon. Gentleman waxed very wroth at those who were demanding intervention, though he had just told us that every single speech showed that there was 110 demand for intervention any longer. Then he rebuked hon. Members, especially, I thought, those on this bench, and said. "Would anyone intervene?" The position is generally accepted that intervention in the military sense is a thing which is no longer desired, but we are considering a very different thing. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitehin very lightly suggested that when General Denikin and Admiral Koltchak made their advances they ought to have devoted themselves to organising the territory behind them. I think that if the Noble Lord had been a greater student of military history he would have seen what an impossible proposal that is. He might just as well have suggested that after we had gained a certain amount of territory on the Western Front we should have abandoned our trench-line system and built houses. It is absolutely impossible for two Army hosts opposing each other in Siberia and South Russia to stand still on a vast front.
One other subject I wish to refer to was raised by the Members of the Liberal party. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir D. Maclean) said we must be careful to get ourselves into alliance with these people, and he used the expression just after he had been referring to the Bolshevists. I 753 regret he is not here. What does the Leader of the Liberal party mean, by that? He had just been mentioning the Bolshevists.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
The hon. Gentleman has cleared up that mystery. It is not the Bolshevists with whom we are to get into alliance. I hope the hon. Member is right. I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman has now entered the House. Speaking with regard to Bolshevists the right hon. Gentleman said, "Careful must we be to get ourselves into alliance with these people," Does he mean by that we ought to be careful to get ourselves into alliance with the Bolshevists? The right hon. Gentleman does not mean that, and then evidently he can only mean with loyal Russia on the other side of the question.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
What I meant to say or to convey was, and I do not recollect the exact words I used, that we must be very careful in the new Russia that we are not thrown into the position of antagonists to that Russia,
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, and I think it is very satisfactory because I take that to mean that he docs not mean any sort of alliance with the Bolshevists. That, therefore, is satisfactory from every point of view. I am not going to refer now, as the time is very short, to the amazing indiscretion, I think it can only be described as such, of the Prime Minister's Guildhall speech, and the less said about that speech the better for the honour and dignity of this country. This House, I think I am right in saying, has been more emphatic on the question of Bolshevism than on any other question before it for the pasit year. We have declared definitely in this House that we will never touch the idea of conversations with the Bolshevists, as I think the House realises that you cannot approach this leprous thing without actual defilement. That is not too strong a way to put it. The only consolation we have, out of these recent happenings is the fact that it has now been laid down by the Prime Minister that at any rate there will be no change of the policy of this country without the sanction of Parliament. That is satisfactory so far as it goes, but we must 754 remember the Stockholm incident, and the speeches of the right hon. Gentle-man the Member for Widnes (Mr. Henderson), an ex-Cabinet Minister, during his election, and if they were not correct there should have been at any rate some answer in the Press. We remember one or two other occasions of things happening without the House of Commons ever having been consulted. One can only hope that the vitalising effect of the recent Recess, already evident in the House, will secure that no decision will be come to opposed to the decisions arrived at by this House on any vote the House has ever been asked to take.
There are two points of view of the Russian question as a whole. There is the moral side, and the material side. One cannot forget too often that when we entered this War, France, Russia, Serbia, Belgium and ourselves, we entered into a compact together that we would see this thing through. We were relying on ourselves and our Allies and in the belief of the soundness and righteousness of our cause. In this common cause I would like some hon. Gentlemen to remember that no Power gave more passionate and generous aid than did the Russians in those days at Ypres. Our memories are very short indeed, and I put it to those who have studied these matters whether we could have stood one more onslaught from the Germans at that time. [An HON. MEMBER: "Question!"] I think hon. and gallant Members who were there will boar me out that there were no single reserves on our front, and is it not the fact that the British Army was absolutely as nearly physically finished as any army could be, and it was only their spirit held the line at Ypres. If the Germans could have concentrated larger forces for one fresh attack it would have been a miracle if that line had stood, with one man for every five yards and no reserves and no support. What was the fact which saved us? It was the Russian effort in East Prussia. At the request of our Allies, our Russian friends hurled themselves into East Prussia, ill-equipped, unarmed, and made an attack of vital consequence on the enemy whilst he was stabbing at our very heart. They did so because they saw the German plan for overwhelming the Allies on the Western Front, and it was for that reason that Russia deliberately hurled her men into the cauldron, armed with wooden guns, and clubs and staves, 755 in order that they might relieve the pressure on ourselves. Those facts are forgotten by one or two hon. Gentlemen in this House who speak as if these things never 'Occurred. I can only say this as far as Russia is concerned, that the Loyalists of Russia never broke their word to this country. They have always stood firm by the original ideas of the Alliance. They have had temptations to throw us over time and again, but the Loyalists of Russia stood firm. The only people who broke their word were the German-paid agents who destroyed the Constituent Assembly in Russia and set up Bolshevism there. They are the only people who have betrayed us. When we remember the tremendous sufferings that these people have been through, it is desirable that we should realise how much has been the support which the Russian people have given to us. If Bolshevism survives, then Germany has won in the East, according to plan. That is the first point I want to make clear.
I would ask the House to realise this also, and the right hon. Gentleman who was recently Foreign Secretary, if he is not already aware of this fact, that after the treaty of Brest-Litovsk a secret Treaty was made between the Bolshevists and the Germans by which an arrangement was made by which in return for certain commodities and goods to be sent on the one hand, the Germans promised 14,000 instructors for the Ked Army. That was some time after the Brest-Litovsk Treaty. There is a fact which you cannot neglect. I have seen men who were in Russia, and they saw those instructors drilling and assisting the Red Army in Petrograd, in spite of anything which may be said to the contrary. I should have liked, if time permitted, to have given one or two instances of the perfectly appalling things which have happened to friends of mine in recent days. I mention the case of one great friend of mine, a member of the Russian nobility, who had one son killed in the attack on East Prussia, and his second son was murdered at the instance of a German agent in Moscow by the Bolshevists because he had been an officer in the Russian Army. I can bring proof of the fact. Another friend of mine, whom I have seen quite recently, was dining in Moscow with four other friends, and he was the only one who was not slaughtered in that house because he happened to have an American passport. 756 The other four were murdered in cold blood. I could give photographic evidence of these things which are happening. It is no good saying they are not happening; they are happenpening and in a very widespread manner. The people of this country are not likely to listen to the arguments of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Lieut.-C'olouel Malone) who spoke earlier and who went to Russia. I do not know whether it was as a walking advertisement for Pelmanism—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!" and "Order!"]—and how successfully to become rich and great. I ask why he did go to Russia, and must take this opportunity of uttering a complaint, which I think will be endorsed by the House, of what a monstrous thing it was for the Foreign Office to give the hon. Gentleman passports to go to Russia without ever informing the Prime Minister. As the Prime Minister has told us emphatically, he knew of nobody who had gone to negotiate with the Bolshevists, and that a follower of the Prime Minister should have gone to Russia and interviewed these people there whilst our Fleet was still engaged with the Bolshevist forces and whilst our Army was not yet withdrawn from Archangel, is monstrous, and it makes it almost impossible to believe that the Government is sincere in its policy.
I have referred very briefly to the moral side, and I should like to say one word with regard to the material side. If the Bolshevists win through this fight, then Russia inevitably falls into the hands of Germany. Nothing can prevent it. Her agents are already spread over the whole of Russia, and wherever the Loyalists are advancing these German agents are making trouble behind and making difficulties for Admiral Koltchak and General Denikin; but, if Bolshevism succeeds, it is perfectly evident that any vacillating policy on our part now is not going to win their approval. The hon. and gallant Gentleman came with a promise to this country of thirty pieces of silver if we would make friends with the Bolshevists. The opinions of this House and of the country as a whole agree with those of the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke (Colonel Ward) with regard to the idea of what British honour on this subject is. As to General Denikin and Admiral Koltchak being left to stew in their own juice, the Prime Minister has told us that he has given them supplies for three months; but what is the use of that? In this country we have vast 757 supplies of guns and ammunition, which are useless, uniforms and boots which are worth their weight in gold to Denikin, and it is only the cost of transport; and for fear of spending a little more money now you are going to leave Russia to fall into the arms of Germany, because if you fail Denikin and Koltchak, who have no means of manufacturing these articles themselves, the result is going to be that these men have either got to go over to Bolshevism or to turn to any force of law and order they can find, and the only such force left is the German Empire. If either Denikin or Koltchak have to turn to Germany, or the Bolshevists win through and become absorbed in Germany, Germany has won the War. What I want to say is that the Prime Minister appears to be looking at this question from the point of view—I say it with all respect—of the resolutions of the Labour party at the present moment, but there is a much longer view than that. By our very action and by refusing to spend the money for a ha'porth of tar at this time, we are gambling with the whole future of the world. Does anyone who has studied Prussian history believe that if Russia falls into the hands of Germany to build up again economically, Russia will not become part of the economic system of Germany, enslaved under Prussian domination? If she does, this means that Germany and German-Austria and Russia will be able to put into the field men drawn from an Empire with a. population of 330,000.000, and if you add the Chinese Empire to that, which is quite possible, when you realise that the Bolshevists are using Chinese executioners at the present moment, you can see the tremendous peril there is for the future on the question of man power. With regard to resources it is the same. We are faced with this fact, and are we not entitled to something from the Government which will tell us that in this country we are not going to take any longer the present position of indecision? Are we not entitled to ask the Government, in view of what our Allies in Russia have done for us, even if they have found exhaustion in men and finance that there shall not be exhaustion in honour, but that we shall give our moral and diplomatic support to the forces of law and order in Russia and show them that we are still their friends, so that when the reconstruction of Russia comes, Russia is not going to fall, as otherwise inevitably she 758 will, into the arms of Germany, but will look to us as the friends who have not betrayed her and by whom her loyalists have stood ever since the commencement of the War?
My hon. and gallant-Friend opened his remarks by saying that in his judgment there was no question that so disturbed the country at the present moment us that of Russia, and with that the Members of the Labour party entirely associate themselves. You have only to attend meetings week after week of thousands of the working classes and refer to Russia to get a very clear indication as to what their views are. They are disturbed about Russia, not because of the sentiments and feelings of my hon. Friend, but because they believe we have no right to interfere with the internal affairs of another country and to wage a war that has not yet been declared. My hon. Friend said that some remark was met with thundering applause. I do not know whether it was on his brief or not, because there did not happen to be any applause in the House. But I submit that the best test of his views and our views on this particular question is to be found in the results of the recent by-elections. Take any election since the General Election, where even my hon. Friend's party have put up candidates, where they have Hooded the constituencies, where they have sent down all their speakers, not only to point out the vices of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on that bench, butt-he vices of everyone, and the net result is that in the whole of the elections they have not polled 5 per cent, of the electtorate.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
One hundred thousand electors altogether is not a bad number, considering the movement has only been going a year.
Here is an hon. Member who says he is the custodian and the guardian of the people of this country, here is an hon. Member who twits the Prime Minister for letting down the dignity of the country, and who now tells us that his contribution to the dignity of the country is 100,000 out of 45,000,000.
We are entitled to say that, having clearly put our views before the electors, having never disguised our 759 policy, having clearly laid it down that in our judgment intervention was a mistake, SO far as the judgment of the country is concerned, it is certainly indicated in the direction of our policy rather than that of the hon. Gentleman. But he wound up by saying that his one fear was that Russia should fall into German hands. That is a sentiment with which I think the entire House would agree. I do not think there is a Member in any quarter, or belonging to any party, who would not deplore the fact that there should be some sinister combination between Germany and Russia, but I would very respectfully point out that if we are pursuing a policy at this moment to which the Russian people themselves are opposed, which the Russian people themselves do not understand and do not believe in, the evidence at least rather shows that they will look anywhere rather than to us for their friends, and the result will be that we shall be accomplishing the very thing by that policy which the hon. Member himself deplores.
I want to submit that, however important the question of Russia itself is—and I do not minimise its importance—the world position is in itself most disturbing. We on these benches have never yet been trained in foreign politics, but it requires no student of foreign politics to be other than alarmed at the present situation, and I venture to assert that the one essential to our restoration of normal conditions is peace. We cannot have gone through the experience of the last five years, pouring out blood and treasure, and finding upheaval everywhere, without being compelled to recognise that peace is the one essential to normal conditions. In this connection one should be careful in interfering in the least with the domestic affairs of another country, and I certainly, although I have visited America on many occasions, know all too well the danger of saying anything that would interfere or render the situation in America more difficult than it is. Nevertheless, one cannot help but deplore the circumstances of the last few days. The refusal of America to help shape the destinies of the world most certainly adds to our responsibility. Their refusal to accept any responsibility for the League of Nations must not prevent us from going on and developing what, after all, is the only instrument of peace that holds the field to-day. No one knows better than 760 those who took any part in the shaping of the League of Nations, the difficulties. It is an easy matter, I admit, to criticise the constitution of the League of Nations as it is to-day. It is an easy matter to pick holes and find fault with it, but, after you have done that, and come back and asked yourself one simple proposition, namely, "What hope is there for peace in this world?" you are driven back to one conclusion only. The only hope of this moment is the League of Nations, and for that reason, whilst I deplore the decision, I hope it will be temporary, because after what America did in the War, and when we remember the ideal for which the American people stood, and the great ideals in which President Wilson himself declared a policy, one cannot help concluding at least that, so far as the American people are concerned, they are not averse to sharing their responsibility in this great matter.
The Debate to-day has clearly shown that no one can speak with absolute knowledge of the situation in Russia. Every speech that has been delivered from opposite points of view has brought clearly to light one fact, that those who have visited Russia, those who have studied the Russian situation, are always influenced by the particular point of view of those with whom they have discussed the question, or by what they have seen themselves, and the great difficulty in which those of us who disagree on this question find ourselves is that we are often trying to defend our policy on two positions. That is as unfair to us as it is foreign to our intention. First, it is usually argued that those who disagree with the policy of intervention must necessarily agree with the Bolshevist policy. As a matter of fact nothing is further from our position. I think it will be generally admitted that much is said on the Bolshevik policy that is untrue; much is said that cannot be verified. But, allowing all that, what we have been told, and what we do know, is such at least that those who are associated with the Labour party do not desire, do not advocate, and do not pretend to defend what is called Soviet rule.
No more than the hon. Gentleman can speak for the whole of his 761 party. If he will tell me there is any one party in this House or the Front Bench itself that is absolutely united, it will be time for him to ask me that question. But, as I have endeavoured to show, at least there is far more unity in our ranks on this question than has been evidenced on the Government Bench. At any rate, I can speak for the overwhelming mass of the working-classes when I say that the working-classes do not support, and do not intend to support, anything that is other than a democratic form of government, and I was going to follow on by saying that no one could be other than moved by the speech of the Noble Lord. He pointed out, quite rightly, that whatever might be said of a form of government, its virtues or vices, no excuse or justification could be made, say, for the murder of the Royal family. With that I entirely associate myself. But we must not forget that crime begets crime. One cannot forget the bloody Sundays under the old régime. Some of us cannot forget the atrocities of the Cossacks under the old régime. Not that you are trying to defend, not that you are trying to justify, for I again repeat, no one can justify murder under any régime. But you are compelled to keep clearly in mind that the particular people we are now dealing with were themselves not only victims of reaction and of tyrannical rule, but were the victims of crimes and atrocities that oven the Bolshevists have not exceeded.
I want to refer to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Stoke (Colonel Ward). Those of us who know the great and gallant part he has played in many fields of battles are naturally proud to associate ourselves with him as a Labour man, and, incidentally, to welcome him back. But that, of course, does not prevent us being equally frank in dealing with his speeches as he was in dealing with the speeches of some of my right hon. Friends. I would ask the House to observe the difference between to-day's Debate and the Debate of a fortnight ago. On the former occasion the hon. and gallant Gentleman delivered an eloquent speech which was appreciated in mostly all quarters of the House. It was endorsed in its entirety by the Front Bench opposite. The Secretary for War said on that particular occasion that in his view the last word had been said. In fact, he said he endorsed everything that the hon. and gallant Member had said. I 762 presume, as, indeed, the House was entitled to assume on that occasion, that the right hon. Gentleman was speaking for the Cabinet. I am only going to observe that the Prime Minister himself has given the best answer to-day to that speech. I would ask the House to note the difference in the endorsement of the Prime Minister of the speech to-day, and the endorsement of my right hon. Friend opposite a fortnight ago. One can only conclude what I said a few moments ago in answer to an interruption, that there is certainly not unanimity on that question so far as that Front Bench opposite is concerned.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stoke read to this House a declaration by Koltchak, and, continuing, he very vigorously denounced my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. Henderson) for doubting the integrity and democratic sentiments, in fact the revolutionary tendencies, of this particular gentleman. The House generally agreed with the sentiments. No one applauded those sentiments more than the Secretary for War. It is only fair, however, to say that there are other opinions of this gentleman, [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am not going to question for the moment but that the sentiments of the hon. Member for Stoke may accurately represent Koltchak' s views. Incidentally, one ought to observe that when he gave Koltchak's-declaration of lighting Bolshevism to the-end there were loud cheers in the House. When, he went on to point out that a further part of his policy was a distribution of the land of the country, those sentiments did not seem to get as many cheers. At all events, here is another opinion:Moreover, from information received, it would appear that Koltchak had been collecting members of the old regime around him, and would seem to be at heart a monarchist. It appears that the Czecho-Slovaks were finding this out. The sympathies of the Czecho-Slovaks are very democratic and they are not at all prepared to fight for the restoration of the old conditions in Russia.That is another opinion of the policy, and that, incidentally, is the opinion of the Prime Minister.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No. I never said that, but quite the reverse. I think I stated distinctly that Koltchak was not a reactionary, and that during the revolution he was a Kerensky man.
I heard the Prime Minister say this evening that he endorsed 763 the character given by the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke (Colonel Ward), but I am quoting from the evidence given of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in Paris The "Manchester Guardian" for 5th November reproduced the evidence given before the American Senate and this extract is a reproduction of that. Of course, if my right hon. Friend says that he never made that statement, and that that was not his opinion, I should be the very first to accept his denial. On the other hand, we are entitled, when a statement so important as this is made on the authority I have mentioned, and made in the American Senate, to put that opinion against that of the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I think, as that has been quoted once or twice, I ought to state that it purports to be a record of something said at a private meeting of the Council. There was no shorthand note taken of anything that was said, and that must be a record of what somebody took down from pure recollection. I saw it through the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who was good enough to show it to me the other day. That Report was quite inaccurate, and it was clearly something that something that someone had put together from a recollection of what had happened at the meeting. No shorthand note was taken. It was purely a private meeting, and it is quite an inaccurate account of what took place.
I accept that statement, but, incidentally, it does show the difficulty in gauging the situation, because, on the one hand, here is testimony given in this House attributing one character to Koltchak, and, on the other hand, equal publicity is given to another opinion and credit for the utterance of that opinion is given to the Prime Minister. In any case, that is sufficient answer to the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stoke (Colonel Ward). If the House prefers the judgment of the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke to that of the Prime Minister, I am quite prepared to let it stand. I again repeat that publicity is given in English and American papers who are quoting this as a full and complete statement of the Prime Minister's expression of opinion at this particular Council meeting. There is a more significant point in to-day's Debate. I said earlier that the right hon. Gentleman the 764 Secretary of State for War certainly to-day did not seem to share the view that was expressed by the Prime Minister. It is perfectly true that lie gave no utterance to the contrary, but if the House remembers the speech that he himself made a fortnight ago, and will carefully read the speech of the Prime Minister to-day, they will be able to see the difference at least in the policy and the methods on this particular subject. I notice that yesterday my right hon. Friend contributed an article on the dangers of Labour governing the country. He said that the first and the greatest difficulty which would embarrass a Labour Government after it had taken office would be to minimise the difference between its practices and its principles. Here we have an illustration of the principles enumerated by the Prime Minister and the practices of the Secretary of State for War. He went on to say that the Labour party would find t themselves confronted at the outset with the dilemma of whether they would break their promises or break their country. One can only conclude after to-day's Debate, and after the recent Debates on Russia during the past fortnight, that my right hon. Friend must have anticipated what was going to happen in the House to-day, and, undo: the guise of blaming the Labour party, was having a go at Ins own Government on this particular point. As far as we on these benches are concerned, we welcome the declaration of the Prime Minister to-night. What we are anxious about is that it shall be the policy of the Government to-morrow. The Prime Minister has come out in his old Laberatism. He his given expression to-night to views and principles that were Largely responsible for putting him on that bench. It has been very difficult for him, as we must all have felt, to let himself go, but he appears to have done it to-night, and there is no one welcomes his declaration more than those of us who sit on these benches. I can only repeat that our anxiety is lest something may happen that effect will not be given to what he has stated. At all events if he himself will only stick to that policy and to these principles he will find whole-hearted support from these benches. We welcome his statement. We believe it to be the right policy which will be endorsed by the overwhelming mass of the people of the country because, as he rightly says—we may condemn the Bolshevik 765 Government, we may condemn their actions, but all history proves that you cannot successfully interfere in the internal affairs of another nation.
Before the right hon. Gentleman speaks I want to ask a question. The last time this subject was before the House of Commons my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War gave particulars of material assistance which had been and was to be given to General Denikin and other Russian generals. The House would welcome an assurance that there is no intention of now depriving them of the assistance to the giving of which the House has willingly assented.
§ The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Mr. A. J. Balfour)
The last two speeches have brought us back to the general question of the East—the problem of Russia. I do not mean to dwell upon that at any length, or indeed at all, because I think the statement of the Prime Minister earlier in the evening made quite clear what was the attitude of the Government upon this very difficult and complicated question, and I do not think that anything I could say would really add to what has already been put before the House and before the country. I must honestly say that the picture drawn by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Brigadier-General Croft) was a rather gloomy one because, as far as I could judge, it seemed to matter very little whether the Bolsheviks were successful or whether the anti-Bolsheviks were. In cither case according to him Russia was to become Germanised and with China,— I added rapidly the figures which he gave mid I gathered they amounted to some 700,000,000–300,000,000 he put down as Russians—he did not mention the number for China, but my recollection is 400,000,000—but between the two he told us the wretched Powers of the West would be overwhelmed by these illimitable hordes under German guidance, Germany in the meanwhile having contrived to monopolise the whole trade of Russia—whether Bolshevik or anti-Bolshevik. There are some pictures so obviously excessive in their gloom that even those who are most inclined to pessimism feel a. certain reaction. We cannot 766 bring ourselves to believe that all these tragedies are really coming upon us, especially when the prophet who draws the apocalyptic picture has himself, so far as I could discover, no real remedy to present to us. He, like almost every speaker to-night, fell into one great error. He always talked as if this were a British problem, and not an Allied problem, whereas quite plainly it is an Allied problem and not a British problem. It is ridiculous to ask this country, with its relatively limited population and area, to bear the whole burden which, if it is to be borne at all by any countries outside Russia, should be borne equally by the Entente Powers as a whole.
I need say really nothing more about Russia except this: I have listened to the Debate to-night, and I have heard criticisms levelled by hon. Gentlemen from different parts of the House against each other, and from hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House against the Government, yet, when you come to boil it all down, is there not an extraordinary measure of agreement on the actual steps to be taken and the actual policy to be pursued? How small, after all, are really the differences which divide us on this Russian question! I have not heard a single individual to-night defened the Bolshevists. On the contrary, every party has vied with every other party in condemning Bolshevist principles and Bolshevist Governments. So far there is agreement. I have not heard anybody defend, as a general principle of national policy, that this country, or even the Entente Powers, should dictate the Constitution which the Russian people night to settle for themselves. Nobody has had the courage or the hardihood to come forward and say, "We ought to impose such-and-such a government upon Russia." Further than that, while everybody is agreed that we should not impose a government, everybody is agreed also as to the kind of government we should like to see. No-body desires to see the continuance of Bolshevism. Nobody desires to see the restoration of Czarism. Everybody, so far as I know, would like to see the broad principles of free institutions established on a firm base, by which the Russian people at last, after the storms through which they have passed—the storms of tyranny of an individual, the yet worse storms of tyranny of a Soviet Government —should be permitted to settle their own affairs in their own way and govern their 767 own policy after their own hearts. Finally, nobody, so far as I know, defends the further expenditure of British money after the present contributions are concluded on the 31st March. Nobody, so far as I know, defends the use there of a, single Brtish soldier in these internal Conflicts of Russia. Very few people desire to add to the expenditure, of this country in Russia.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I am afraid I am not doing my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth justice. He would like to see a large expenditure, even after the very large expenditure to which we are already pledged is brought to an end. I am not sure he would make that speech when the Chancellor of the Exchequer next brings in his Budget. The truth is that it is quite impossible now, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, after all that we have found during these five years in men and in treasure, that we on our shoulders alone should continue to bear the excessive burden which my hon. and gallant Friend would wish to throw upon us. I do not think that upon that point there will be any difference of opinion in any constituency in the country, or that for that part of the speech he delivered to us to-night he will find any serious body of supporters. Therefore I am justified in saying that, although the Government is criticised for not having a clear-cut policy in the position in which a clear-cut policy in the sense of exactly saying what the next step is to be and what the end of the whole of this confused business is to be—although, in my opinion, that is quite impossible, and it would be folly if it was tried—no one has suggested a clear-cut policy of his own which he would like to see adopted. Neither my Noble Friend (Lord R. Cecil) nor the critics of the Government below or above the Gangway, though they have had much to insinuate—not in an offensive spirit—and suggest which was not wholly favourable to the Government policy, have said, "We suggest these three or four clear things which you ought to do." That has never been suggested by any single speaker.
I pass from that subject, which has been thoroughly exhausted by the Prime Minister, to say a few words upon the speeches of my hon. Friends (Lieut.-Colonel A. 768 Herbert and Captain Ormsby-Gore). They left Russia in the main and dealt with the questions of Egypt and the Turkish Empire. As regards the Turkish Empire they know as well as I do that it is impossible for any Government which is taking part in the Peace Conference to speak of itself as to the policy which, if it were alone in the world, it would desire to pursue. It must be a common policy and until the common policy is settled it would be an action unfair to our Allies and our friends if we were to map out the Turkish Empire in precisely the form in which we should like to see that great area of the Near East ultimately arranged. It would be impossible to carry on any action between different Governments if that kind of procedure were once sanctioned and approved. But, of course, my hon. Friends are absolutely right when they tell us it is a profound misfortune for all these populations in the Near East, the sects of the oldest civilisations in the world, that we have not been able to settle in the Peace Conference the fate which is to be their future. It is not our fault. It is not the fault of any diplomats from this country. It is the fault of the fact that until America has given a clear lead upon this subject as to her own policy it is quite impossible that a common policy of the Associated Powers, of which America is one of the most important, should be laid in clear outlines before the House. How can it be otherwise? It is true, everyone on this side of the Atlantic realises it, and I believe on the other side of the Atlantic it is realised also—although it cannot be prevented, it is quite clear that the state of unrest which now prevails in the whole of what was-the Turkish Empire, from Constantinople on the West to the furthest limits of Mesopotamia on the East, is doing infinite harm and making it more difficult every day to find an easy final and satisfactory solution of these difficult problems. Let us face the question and not reproach each other with evils and difficulties for which none of us are responsible. What is the use of saying that it is a very unfortunate and very unhappy thing that Turkey should not know her own destiny? It is a very unfortunate thing. One of my hon. Friends asked whether the Turkish Empire, the Turkish people, were not going to be wiped out as an independent people. I am not going to pronounce upon the final destiny of the Turkish Empire, 769 but this we may truly say with certainty, that a great historic population like the Turks is not going to be wiped off the map of the world by any arrangement which will ever be sanctioned by a Peace Conference at Paris, or London, or Washington, or wherever the conference may sit. The Turkish people have had a great past. The Turkish people are there, and if all that we profess and all that we believe about self determination and nationality is to find its exemplification with regard to the Turks, as it does with regard to other peoples, it is certain that after peace there will be a Turkish Empire, just as it is uncertain at this moment what the precise bounds of that Empire will be. That is all the answer that my hon. Friend could expect that I could give. It is probably all the answer he expects me to give. I trust it will satisfy him.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
Empire is a vague word. It has the very great advantage of not indicating what the form of government is. If I said it was a monarchy or if I said it was going to be a republic, or if I gave some other description of it the hon. Member would ask what I knew about it. I say "Empire" because that may mean anything.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
The right hon. Gentleman will recognise that this is a matter of life and death to the subject races who have hitherto been subject to Turkish control. Does he mean that the Turks are to be left in control of the subject races which they have martyrs from generation to generation?
§ Mr. BALFOUR
That is not the meaning of Empire, and the hon. Member will draw 110 such inference from the very anodyne word which I used. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Captain Ormsby-Gore) raised the question of Syria. With regard to Syria, I might say with almost increased emphasis, every-thing that I have already said about the rest of Turkey. It is a great misfortune that the question of Syria has not been settled and is not settled as yet. I cannot foreshadow any detailed settlement, but let me say this about it. There has been, not I think in our Press, but in the Press of other countries a great deal of mischief-making and a great deal of 770 misrepresentation which ought to be put an end to. It has been not merely hinged at but openly stated, and stated with emphasis and with iteration, that Great Britain being in military occupation of Syria means to remain the permanent Power in Syria. There is not now and there never has been any shadow of truth in the statement. It was an utter total perversion. The difficulties in front of all of us, of the Western Powers who may be mandatories, and of He Arabs who occupy the country are very great no doubt, but do not let us make them greater than they are. The Arabs now for the first time for centuries have played a great part in a great movement. They have shown themselves, of course with all the Entente Powers, but in especial co-operation with the British troops faithful, brave and efficient. The prestige of the Arab race has greatly risen in consequence of this, and I have every hope that the expectations of one of my friends will be fulfilled, and that we shall see a resuscitation of the Arab civilisation. But, so far as England and France are concerned, let it be quite distinctly understood that there is no rivalry, and can be no rivalry between those two Powers in Syria, and whatever difficulties present themselves in future, it is our earnest wish, in the friendliest co-operation with the French, and with the warmest regard for our Arabian Allies, to see all these difficulties brought to a. satisfactory conclusion. Can I be asked to say another word in the present position of the diplomatic situation when the Turkish question has not yet been considered by the Conference, and is not ripe for consideration? I think not. I do not believe that any party in the House would desire to press His Majesty's Government further on this very intricate and delicate question.
It remains only to say one word about Egypt in the few minutes which are left to me. Egypt has suffered, as so many parts of the world have suffered, I might almost say as the whole world has suffered, from the spirit of unrest which the world catastrophe has brought upon us all. I have for myself absolute confidence that this state of things will be brought to an end, and I have the more confidence because General Lord Allenby is in control of the situation, and understands perfectly the duties that lie before him. The East, which is the birthplace of 771 rumours, is full of the strangest legends as to the views and policy of His Majesty's Government. Let me, therefore, say very shortly that in our view the question of Egypt, the question of the Sudan, and the question of the Canal, form an organic and indissoluble whole. and that neither in Egypt nor in the Sudan, nor in connection with Egypt, is England going to give up any of her responsibilities. British supremacy exists, British supremacy is going to be maintained, and let nobody either in Egypt or out of Egypt make any mistake upon that cardinal principle of His Majesty's Government. Having laid that down, let me make this addition to the statement. We desire in every way we can to associate the Egyptians, the Egyptian native population, with the Government of the country. We desire further, in all respects, I need hardly say, the prosperity of that ancient land. It is now disturbed by a certain amount of dissension and a certain amount of unrealisable expectations, expectations which, if they were fulfilled, would damage Great Britain, would damage the world, and would damage most of all the Egyptian population itself.
The Government long ago announced that they were going to send out a Commission under the most competent presidency of Lord Milner to investigate the situation on the spot. To that policy they unalterably adhere. Until we get the Report of that Commission it would be folly for me to attempt to sketch any projects of legislation or of reform. But I think the Egyptian population may rest assured, and those who feel with them, that our desire is to associate them as far as is possible with the work of administration in Egypt, and that, unlike their Turkish masters who in Egypt at this moment still affect to be pro-Egyptian, we shall do something, we shall steadily pursue the policy of amelioration which has made the Egypt of the early part of the twentieth century an utterly different place for all its inhabitants, and most of all for its native inhabitants, from what it was when it was still under Turkish rule. Those are the principles which have animated His Majesty's Government. We recognise, as every Member must recognise, the amazing complications and extraordinary difficulty of the task that lies before us, but 772 Great Britain, after all, has undertaken other tasks not less onerous, not less difficult, and has brought them to a successful conclusion; and why should we despair?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The right hon. Gentleman has ended with a declaration which can only be received in Egypt as a direct negative to all Egyptian aspirations. He seems unaware of the fact that the Egyptians have definitely stated that they will not have anything to do with Lord Milner's tribunal. He invites their co-operation, being fully aware that the Prime Minister has resigned, or offered to resign, if that Commission goes out, and that there is every sign in Egypt of a great boycott of the Administration by the native Egyptians. It is futile to deal with Egyptian policy on those lines; it is futile to create in Egypt a second Ireland and a cause of infinite trouble, distraction, and, I would add, of dishonour to this country. But I do not want to go into the Egyptian question at this hour. I want to get back for a few moments to Russia—
It being Eleven of the clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.