§ The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Mr. Balfour)
I understand that the Vote to be discussed to-night, or in the earlier part of the night, relates to the League of Nations, and as I have been the delegate of this country to the League of Nations for more of its meetings than any of my colleagues it has been thought appropriate that that part of the Vote which relates to the League of Nations should be in my charge. I am confident that the Committee will require some very brief but unpretentious statement of the present position of the League, what it has accomplished, and its immediate prospects in the future. The League of Nations is in its first infancy. It came into operative existence only six months ago, but, indeed, it was not until four months ago that the full tale of the original members of the League was reached. Therefore, for certain purposes, our existence may be counted as of only four months' instead of the full six months' duration. If I may judge by the temper of some of the criticisms passed on the League, it would almost appear that it was thought that in that time the League would have come into existence as a fully 1492 equipped and fully organised body, competent to carry out, not only the duties of the League as contemplated in the Covenant, but any other duties which the critics might for the time being have thought fit to put forward.
I would remind the Committee that the organisation of the League itself necessarily takes time, labour, and thought, and that, in addition to what it has done in the way of organising itself in accordance with the Pact, it has been able, as I think, already even now to perform considerable service to the comity of nations. The work of the League in connection with the organisation consists in the first place of appointing a secretariat which will be the permanent thread, so to speak, on which the efforts of the League will be strung. That organisation is at present settled in London, and will be settled in London until after the approaching general meeting of all the nations, which is to take place in November. After that its fate will be decided by the general meeting of the League. Meanwhile it is certainly convenient that London, which was the place where the secretariat was first established, should be continued as its habitat until the new arrangement can be decided upon and carried through.
The secretariat, though undoubtedly it will have to be increased as the work of the League expands, is now, broadly speaking, complete and adequate for the immediate duties of the Council and the League generally. It had to be appointed entirely by the Secretary-General, with the consent and with the approval of the Council of the League, the Secretary-General himself having been appointed at the General Peace Conference in Paris. The work has been done, and in my opinion has been well done, so far as I am competent to form a judgment, and I believe I can speak for all those who have from time to time worked with me on the Council.
In addition to what may be called the ordinary secretariat, there has also been attached to the secretariat a particular officer whose business it has been to watch on behalf of the League those particular duties entrusted to the League in connection with the traffic in women and children. The very fact that there is an extra officer attached to the permanent secretariat of the League dealing with this painful and difficult subject will, I 1493 hope, have a good effect and undoubtedly greatly assist the League in the performance of those of its functions connected with this particular class of reform.
In addition to the establishment of the Secretariat, there has been an office established for the registration of treaties. As the Committee is aware, one of the objects which the Pact had in view was that in future no contracts between nations should be entered into contrary to the Pact, and that future treaties, if they were to be valid, were to be registered, and open to inspection by the whole world. I think the change will be beneficial. I think it probably is one of the most important aspects of what is sometimes called open diplomacy, and I hope that the organisation which the secretariat of the League has set up, with the consent of the Council of the League, for attaining this object will prove effective.
One other question has been raised, though not as yet settled, which is, in my opinion, of vital moment to the future of the League. It relates to the division of expenses as between the various nations composing the League. A very rough and ready method was adopted, borrowed without alteration or modification from what I think is called the Universal Postal Union. I am not sure that that arrangement, rough and ready though it undoubtedly is, will not prove adequate as long as the sums asked of the nations are relatively insignificant, but if any important sums are to be asked for, it is quite inevitable that the nations from whom they are asked will inquire whether that is the fair sum which they ought to pay as among the 40 or 50 nations in the world who have joined the League. And I am convinced, if once they begin to examine the principles of the Universal Postal Union, they will find, however convenient that arrangement might be, and however adequate for the purpose for which it was originally contrived, that some more scientific method of determining what are the proportions of burdens which ought to be borne by individual States will have to be devised. We propose to submit this very difficult and, as I think, very crucial question to the analysis and consideration of experts when the International Finance 1494 Committee meets, as I hope it will soon meet, at Brussels.
We have thus effected, in the course of the six months, the organisation of the Secretariat, but there are other parts of our organisation, not less important, and involving the consideration of questions yet more critical, on which I must say a word. We were directed by the Pact to create certain permanent advisory committees, and it is on the work of those permanent advisory committees that a great deal of the future utility of the League will undoubtedly depend. There are four of them to which I must refer. First, there is the permanent committee to advise on the subject of armaments and cognate military, naval, and air questions, which require the knowledge, and which will enable us to obtain the advice, of experts. That committee we have appointed, and it is already at work. On its labours much will depend.
I am one of those who think that if the League, acting as the organ of the Peace Conference, fails in its endeavours to promote a diminution of armaments much of its utility will have gone, and we shall have to admit that so far it has failed to carry out the high expectations which most of us think that we are justified in entertaining as regards its future activities. We shall, of course, be largely guided by the permanent expert committee on this subject which we have already appointed. No expert committee, and no number of expert committees, taken by themselves, however much they may be backed up by the opinion of the Council or even of the General Assembly of the League, will be sufficient unless the nations and the peoples of the world are content to support the policy which we advocate. If each nation declines to adopt any reform of armaments on the ground that armaments on the old scale are necessary for its security, then the tragedy for the world and for the nations which compose the League will be great indeed. I have no fears that this tragedy will indeed be enacted, but I do not conceal from myself, and I do not wish to conceal from the House, that, in my opinion, the questions which will be raised are questions of extreme difficulty and of extreme delicacy, and that they will require, not merely all the knowledge of the experts who make up our permanent advisory committee, but all the tact and judgment of the Council and 1495 all the patriotism of the nations which are involved.
The second permanent committee, for appointing which we have created the machinery, is the permanent advisory committee in the matter of international health. It was a very great advantage, an advantage which I think was much more easily obtained through the League of Nations than through any other conceivable machinery, that the nations of the world could appoint to advise them in this great international interest, a body of medical experts in which all have confidence, and in which all may feel that that are represented. That we are doing. The machinery through which we are doing it is a medical conference originally held in London at the inspiration of the League; and I believe it will contrive to frame an international permanent health committee which will serve an interest which next to peace is almost the greatest international interest that I can imagine, the interest, I mean, of the general health.
The third permanent committee has to do with transit and waterways communications, which are common lines of communication, whether by land or by water, to more than one country. The most important aspect of this question is undoubtedly the waterways and the problems connected with waterways which have arisen, in prominence, in consequence of the re-arrangement of the map of Europe. There have been commissions appointed to deal with various rivers or parts of rivers, and it has been felt that not only the work of those organisations, but the general problems connected with international waterways require the constant superintendence of the League of Nations, and in this work of superintendence the League of Nations will require the constant assistance of some permanent expert body. That body will be appointed, I hope, after the general meeting of the League, which takes place in November.
The fourth and last of these permanent committees is in some respects the most important of all, and is the one most intimately connected with the problem of maintaining peace. It is the permanent committee which may properly be described as the Tribunal of International Justice. The world has made attempts, 1496 more or less successful, before now to establish such a tribunal. I believe that the methods we have adopted will establish it in its best form, and in a shape which will command the confidence of all the nations of the world, for, indeed, all the nations of the world will have a hand, more or less directly, in drawing it together. In framing this International Court of Justice, we have asked the advice of ten eminent jurists, men of the utmost distinction. Lord Phillimore represents this country; others of great distinction represent other countries, and it gives me peculiar pleasure to say that Mr. Root, the distinguished American jurist, has consented to serve among its members. The Committee, probably, will be aware of the sort of work which will be thrown on the body which they are called into existence to create. This permanent body of international justice will be the referee for all cases of dispute in law. It will be constantly at the service of the Council in all questions of legal difficulty, and I do not doubt that quite outside technical points of law, international or other, this body will be called upon to act as arbitrator in any disputed cases which the nations may bring before it. I cannot imagine a more important adjunct to the general system of the League machinery. I cannot imagine that there is any more essential wheel in the general machinery which the Pact set up for producing or securing harmony between the nations. The organisation of the Secretariat and the organisation of these four permanent committees, when accomplished, will give us, I think, the machinery which the League requires for carrying out its duties. The Committee will see that though much has been done the whole work has not been accomplished. I think that we are in a fair way to accomplish it. These committees are not in all cases yet appointed, but they will be soon appointed, and I think we may look with satisfaction, at all events, on this part of our labours.
I leave now the question of organisation and come to the work which we have done in connection with the Peace Treaty, under the provisions and in consequence of the requirements contained in the Peace Treaty. The first of those is the appointment of Boundary Commissioners to settle, to delimit, the Saar Valley. We have appointed the Boundary Commissioners, and they are at work. The 1497 second, which is more important and probably more vital, is the constitution of the Government of the Saar Valley itself. The population of that area, as the Committee knows, is small, but its international position is important, and the difficulties connected with the character of the population, its position, and the transitory circumstances under which the people find themselves, render the government of the Saar Valley a question of peculiar difficulty and delicacy. As the Committee knows, it is for a certain number of years, until the machinery of self-determination can be fully applied to it, under the League of Nations. I believe that this international body we have appointed for the government of the Saar Valley is doing its work efficiently. It has already presented two reports. A third report, I believe, is soon to be laid before us.
The only other point on which much work has been done under the Treaty relates to Danzig. The Committee has in mind the special and peculiar position of Danzig. Danzig is a town largely though not wholly German in population, but the majority are Germans. The town itself depends for its prosperity upon Poland as Poland depends upon Danzig for its free issue to the Baltic and to the ocean. Poland is necessary to Danzig; Danzig is necessary to Poland. Yet the racial differences between the port and the hinterland are, as everybody knows, the occasion of infinite bitterness, the heritage of ancient historic wrongs. What the Peace Conference decided to do was to give Danzig a constitution, to frame a Treaty between Danzig and Poland, and put that Treaty under the League of Nations. This is a typical example of the interlocking of the work of the Peace Conference and the League of Nations.
The League of Nations is responsible for appointing a High Commissioner, and throwing on him the duty of framing a constitution. He has done it, and done it in consultation with the people of Danzig, and I believe to their general satisfaction. The League of Nations has nothing whatever to do with the framing of the Treaty between Danzig and Poland. That has to be done by an officer appointed by the Conference. The League of Nations has come to the conclusion that it was most desirable 1498 that the man who negotiated the Treaty should be the same man who had to deal with the constitution and who is acting as the High Commissioner of Danzig. They have appointed Sir Reginald Tower, who carries out both sets of functions, the functions he has under us, and the functions he has under the Peace Conference. I believe that that work is going on.
I would remind the Committee that we, as a League of Nations, have nothing whatever to do with the provisions of the Treaty. That is to be framed under the provisions of the Treaty with Germany by the Peace Conference. But if it is done, when the work has been accomplished, then it has to be put under the guardianship of the League of Nations in the sense that whenever there is a dispute between the two parties of the Treaty, that dispute shall come before the League of Nations. Those three points we are carrying out in obedience to the Terms of the Treaty of Versailles. But our activities, such as they are, have not been confined merely to what we were obliged to do under the Treaty, and we have had before us at all events three or four important questions which are not imposed upon us by Treaty obligations.
The first of those is an attempt to deal with the threatened invasion of zymotic disease from the East to the West, especially in Poland. Any gentlemen who have followed these questions know quite well that typhus has raged both in Russia and Poland, transported into Poland from Russia with great severity. They may also be aware that our leading medical authorities are seriously alarmed as to what is going to happen in Central Europe and the countries that may be west of Central Europe in the coming winter. It is in the winter that typhus rages with special severity. It is therefore during the summer most important to carry out these steps and take those preventive measures by which the population of Europe may be protected from such calamities of those with which our forefathers were only too familiar in the days when the plague was a matter of constant and fatal recurrence. We have done our best in the matter. We have acted through the Red Cross societies. In addition to that we have made an appeal to the nations forming the union to provide funds, such funds 1499 as are necessary for staying the plague I ought to say, in justice to the Polish Government, that they have, by all accounts which we have received, spent money freely and with great public spirit and skill in doing what they could in the matter; but the common opinion seems to be that their efforts alone are not sufficient, and, indeed, it would be entirely unfair to throw upon them unassisted the whole burden of acting as the guardians of the health of the West without the West doing something to aid them in this all-important task.
We have therefore carefully examined the expert advice at our disposal as to what sum is necessary to stay the evil. We believe the £2,000,000 sterling would be sufficient, and we are of opinion that of that £2,000,000 sterling an immediate expenditure of £250,000 is obligatory, or, at all events, of the very greatest importance, if the best results are to be got out of our endeavours. We have no power to tax the nation, and it is by no means clear at present, if we had power to tax them, at what rate they should severally be taxed. It is quite evident that there are nations who by their geographical position are profoundly and immediately interested in the sanitary condition of Central Europe. Their neighbour's house is burning, and they are in imminent danger of suffering from the conflagration. Other members of the League of Nations, on the other hand, are separated by wide oceans and illimitable spaces from the scene of difficulty, and if we were to attempt to levy a contribution on that scale the differences would be very great between the two categories. We felt, especially in the absence of that scientific inquiry to which I adverted earlier in my speech, that it would be quite impossible to lay down with precision what the nations ought to contribute. Our appeal, therefore, will be an appeal to their generosity, and I cannot doubt—I refuse to doubt—that when that appeal is made by the League of Nations to its component members it will receive an adequate response. If I am right in that prophesy I hope that the action we have taken may really be of first-class importance in preserving Europe from a repetition of such horrors as those which halved the population somewhere about the middle of the 14th century, and which 1500 continued to decimate the population for centuries afterwards.
Another task also of an important nature which we have undertaken, and which I think could not be carried to a successful issue or so successful an issue by any other machinery than that of the League of Nations, is the return of prisoners from Russia and Siberia to Europe, and from Europe back to Russia and Siberia. That has been a matter on which the Foreign Offices of various countries have corresponded, but until it was taken in hand by the League of Nations I do not know that progress was as great as it might have been. What we have done I think is known to the public. It was stated in the newspapers; it is contained in a very interesting report of Dr. Nansen. We asked him to undertake the duty. He was public spirited enough to answer to our appeal, and I am convinced that no more fitting man in Europe or America exists than Dr. Nansen to carry out this work. He is universally esteemed; his name is one of world-wide reputation. No sinister motive can be attributed to him in any circumstances, and there could be no suspicion of sinister motive behind the country to which he belongs. It is a pure act of public-spirited labour, a labour which he has undertaken, and, so far as we are able to judge, he has undertaken with singular success. And I have every hope that there will be a large return of prisoners of war to their homes, and that with their return there will be an end of the infinite domestic unhappiness and misery which in itself is a disturbing cause of no small magnitude and which keeps the unhappy populations in Central Europe in a constant ferment. If I am right, and if I do not over-praise—and I do not think I do—the action taken by the League of Nations in this matter, they may congratulate themselves at all events that in the first few months of their exisence they have done something of really material importance in the diminution of human suffering.
Another matter which has come under our consideration is the position of international finance. Everybody knows that this is a cause of the profoundest anxiety to experts, and those who are not experts have nevertheless sufficient occular evidence of the suffering which the present condition of Europe inflicts upon its populations. What we are suffering from, 1501 least of all perhaps in this country, what Europe is suffering from at this moment is the result of many and complex causes. Into those I am not going to enter. Among those complex causes few, if any, are more important than the absolute dislocation of credit, and with the dislocation of credit the impossibility of restoring normal commercial and industrial conditions to a world which lives by commerce and industry. I do not know what inquiry will bring forth, but I am certain that inquiry is desirable. Accordingly, there is to be a meeting of experts from all countries—I hope even America will be unofficially represented—and that meeting will be held at no distant date at Brussels. If it does nothing else it will elicit a full, clear and impartial statement, which all may read, of the actual financial position of the world at this moment. To diagnose the disease is no doubt a very different thing from curing the disease, but accurate diagnosis is the first stage towards cure, and that stage I think we shall be able to take with the machinery we have endeavoured to set up.
The last point that comes into this division of my speech refers to what we have done in relation to Armenia. It is perfectly clear to anybody who knows any of the facts that Armenia, remote as it is from all power of being reached by fleets, not easily reached by armies, even if armies were in existence to reach it, presents a tragic and dreadful problem to all statesmen of Europe and America. For that problem we do not pretend that we can find any great and satisfactory solution, at all events for the moment. We have no troops; we have no financial resources. We can neither send armies there, nor if we could send them have we the means of paying them. But we have offered to the Supreme Council to do our best to find a European mandatory who will undertake the task of becoming the mandatory for Armenia, if the nations of the world or some of the nations of the world are prepared to find certain resources to enable it to carry out its duties. More, I believe, it was impossible for us to do; that we have done. How it will all work out in future it is impossible to say, but I do not believe, having given the best consideration I can to this perennial tragedy of Armenia, there is anything more effective that can be done to save the remnants of that unhappy people from final destruction.
1502 That, in very rough outline, represents the labours of the League of Nations during its first two months of existence. I doubt whether any wise man will have thought it was capable of much more. I should almost hope that many wise men would think that what it has done is even more than might reasonably have been expected. Nobody is more conscious than myself that, with the problems of disease in Central Europe, the establishment of courts of appeal, the preparation for the diminution of armaments, and all the other topics I have surveyed, however important they may be and however satisfactory may be the progress that we have made, the work of the League of Nations is one not only of infinite importance but almost of infinite difficulty. We suffer, perhaps, from criticism of various kinds more than is quite just or reasonable. We have two sets of enemies besides our candid friends. Of our candid friends I say nothing. Candid friends are in every walk of life. Mankind has suffered from them from the beginning of time, or, at all events, from the time of Job downwards, and no one has yet found a very satisfactory method of dealing with them. I do not mean to add my mite or my contribution to the failure of centuries, and I mean to say nothing about the candid friend.
We have two sets of enemies. The first are those who frankly dislike the League. Sometimes they are what are called "men of the world." A man of the world usually is a man who believes nothing good of the world, and who not only believes nothing good of the world, but does not think that the world is capable of improvement. I share neither of those views. It is perfectly true in one sense that you will not, within measurable centuries, alter the raw material of human nature. It is there, and you have to make the best of it. But do not tell me that, because the raw material of human nature remains unchanged, human society is never to be improved. It is not only contrary to all faith and hope but contrary to all experience. It has improved and it can improve; and I believe that if the League, that is to say, if the nations working in concert through the League, really have the insight and the patriotism to use the machinery which they have created to the best ability, you will gradually build up a state of public feeling which in the 1503 absence of any positive sanction will make such disaster as we have gone through in the last five years absolutely impossible. That, at least, is my belief, and that is the answer I would give to my friend the man of the world, who I am sure would be most uncomfortable if you now made him travel from London to York in the same conditions of security as those in which his great grandfather travelled at the end of the 18th or the beginning of the 19th century. It is quite obvious that you can improve the structure of society. Among the enemies I have to count those who in some mysterious way have persuaded themselves that war is a great moraliser. Of course all misfortunes can be turned to good account. Disease in that sense is a great moraliser; poverty in that sense may be a great moraliser. That is to say, there are natures who in a time of trial rise to heights, which, perhaps, they did not themselves dream of before the trial came. But if any sane man thinks that that is the road to progress, if he thinks that by multiplying misfortunes you are going to promote morality, he surely should meditate upon his theories within the boundaries of an asylum rather than attempt to add them to the general stock of national wisdom.
There is another and the last of the class of open enemies. They have a sort of semi-moral, semi-scientific varnish with which they cover their strange creed. Having read in their Darwin that there is a struggle for existence, and that through that struggle for existence a great many important morphological developments have occurred, they seem to think that a state of universal warfare is really the best method of attaining universal progress. They entirely mistake Darwin, they entirely mistake morality, and they talk a sort of nonsense which, I regret to say, a great many people who should have known better talked in Germany. But they had a reason for talking it; they wanted to justify universal domination, and by the struggle for existence, in which the best survived, they meant the struggle; between Germany and the world in which Germany survived. Therefore, they may talk bad science and bad morality, but there was a reason in what they said; at any rate, a reason for saying it. But the gentlemen with whom I have 1504 talked, and of whom I speak, have no such reason, and I really think they do nothing but harm by spreading this sham philosophy among the young and ignorant. These enemies are serious enough, but I do not believe that they touch the heart of the people at all. I think they float about and make small talk and feeble epigrams which add to their social stock-in-trade, but I do not believe that they touch the general convictions of the nation or of any nation. Much more dangerous, in my opinion, are the people who do not object to the League of Nations because it goes too far, but who object to the League because in their opinion it does not go far enough. They think it is so powerless as to be utterly contemptible. Those are the real enemies of whom I am afraid, because I am perfectly certain that if they are allowed to have their way they will destroy the League altogether. The other people may damage it here and there, but they do not go to the root of it; but if what I may call the fanatics are allowed to dictate the policy of the League, I am perfectly certain they will blow it to pieces. Perhaps the word "fanatic" has an offensive flavour. I do not mean it to be offensive and if it is I withdraw it.
I was present yesterday when friends of mine advanced theories that absolutely staggered me, and which, if they take hold of the real supporters of the League, will shatter it for ever. Their view is that there should be great naval, military and air forces at the bidding of the League, to be used, I suppose, at a moment's notice as soon as any threat of war occurred, and they want those to be levied, as far as I understand, by compulsory action by the Members of the League, so that they want to create a super-State armed with all the military trappings of a military Empire. It is perfectly true that the objects which they had in view were admirable objects: nevertheless the League of Nations would cease to be a League of Nations, and it would become a series of subordinate States under one super-State. The very name League of Nations shows that those who framed the Pact had no such notion in their minds. Their whole view was of a different character, and I am quite confident they were right. This problem did not go unconsidered at the Paris Conference. I was not a member of the Committee which dealt with these things, but I know they had it under review, and I know 1505 they most carefully considered it and I know they absolutely rejected it, and very much for the reasons or some of the reasons I have given.
Please remember that if the League of Nations is not a world-league, half its value—more than half its value—goes. One great nation is at present standing out of the League. I neither criticise nor enquire into the motives which make that policy, but undoubtedly one of the motives that induced America to pause before it entered the League was the idea that her national sovereignty was fatally or dangerously interfered with. Yet with that example before them, and with that tremendous case and tremendous instance of the evil done by over-pressing the claims of the League, there are enthusiasts for it who say it is no use unless you create over the Sovereign States of the world some super-State which is to direct the forces levied, paid for, or officered, by those sovereign States, and which is to control the free governments of free peoples subject only, I suppose, to an occasional meeting of the League in full confidence and such check as the Council of the League may conceivably impose. I think those schemes are really wild, and nobody who tries to carry them out can come to any other conclusion. I do not think I need really press that further, because I doubt whether there are very many people in this Committee who wish to see this scheme carried out. If there are, I would ask them to just picture what this force is to be, how it is to be levied, how it is to be composed, in what language the words of command will be given, where the barracks are to be situated to house the soldiers, and where the harbours are to be situated to hold the fleet, and how are you going to get a general staff to command it, and how are you going to have a plan of action, and how are you going to deal with the military problem, which, treated as a military problem, would stagger any students of military history. It is not easy to work a few nations together in one theatre of war, but if you are going to work five and forty nations, speaking forty languages, how are you going to try and house them and lodge them, recruit for them, pay for them, officer them, direct them, staff them? The thing really breaks down at once. You would require to have an 1506 executive perpetually sitting and a Ministry which would have to meet as often as the Cabinet of my right hon. Friend if you are going to rule the world in this way. You cannot do it. It is not the plan of the League of Nations and, believe me, it is not a plan with which the League of Nations is compatible for a year.
There have been many criticisms of the League of Nations, the point of which was that the League should have interfered effectively in Europe, as it is at present, in certain critical cases. If anybody will read in a candid spirit through the Pact they will see that what was present to the minds of the framers of that Pact was a condition of things utterly different from that which at this moment prevails. The Pact contemplated a Europe re-arranged in accordance with, and as near as possible, to the legitimate interests of the case. Nationality, self determination, commercial interests, strategic interests—all were taken account of, and the map to the best of the ability of the Supreme Council was to be one which could be sustained, and those who framed the League of Nations were given the duty of sustaining it. Those who framed the League of Nations never contemplated that they were to re-arrange Europe. They contemplated that when Europe was rearranged they should step in and see that it was maintained on principles of peace and equity. That was the framework No doubt the settlement of Europe, which all of us hoped would be a matter of a few months, has extended, with infinite harm to everybody, for a year and a half, and is not completed yet. That has been the cause of untold misfortune. But because the condition of things contemplated by the Pact has net come into force, do not ask the League of Nations to be as efficient as I hope it will be when those conditions appear.
What are the weapons which the League of Nations is asked to use, what are the means which you put at its disposal? They are not the fleets, the armies, and the air forces contemplated by some of my hon. Friends. They are very different. The two main instruments were delay and publicity. Delay and publicity are not instruments which you can use in the middle of a great crisis. They are instruments to use in a peaceful world which somebody desires to disturb. 1507 Delay, discussion, publicity, public opinion, commercial boycott, and arbitration and, if they fail and in the last resort, then military measures. That is an admirable system, but it is not an admirable system for dealing with all the eventualities which are now going on before our eyes, or all the troubles from which we are now suffering. Quite the contrary. It is entirely unfit to deal with those. You cannot, and no rational man would suggest that the League of Nations is constituted to deal with a world in chaos, or with any part of the world which is in pure chaos. That must be dealt with either by the Supreme Council or in other ways. The League of Nations may give occasional assistance, frequent assistance, effective assistance, but the League of Nations is not, and cannot be, a complete instrument for bringing order out of chaos. Those who would throw upon it that burden in the name of peace, in the name of the League of Nations, and in the name of co-operation amongst civilised peoples are doing the greatest disservice they could to the League of Nations. The League of Nations will serve you well if you do not overload it; at least that is my hope, my faith, my belief. If you overload it you will assuredly break it down. Even now it is maimed and crippled by the fact that, unhappily, we have not succeeded in inducing, so far, the United States to take part in our labours. If you either allow the League of Nations to be used as an instrument by the free nations of the world in their own party warfare, or if they try and throw upon it burdens which it is ill-fitted to bear, on them will be the responsibility of destroying the most promising effort in the direction of the renewal of civilisation which mankind has ever yet made. I hope that no share or fraction or fragment of that responsibility will fall either upon this House or upon this country.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
This is the first occasion on which this House has had the opportunity of considering the status and reviewing the work, so far as it has progressed, of the League of Nations, that great international instrument on the future of which a year ago so many hopes and expectations were fixed. I do not think, speaking at any rate for myself, 1508 I differ fundamentally, or indeed at all, from the definition which the right hon. Gentleman has given in the concluding passages of his speech of the scope of the normal and proper activities of the League. I am not aware who the persons were he had in his mind, and who were for what he called magnifying and inflating the functions of the League to a degree that would make it unworkable. I have always maintained that the true conception of the League is this. It must be a representative body in time and as soon as possible of all the civilised powers of the world. Given that body there should be no distinction of status or authority between the great States or the small States. Its main, paramount, supreme function should be to preserve the peace of the world by preventing and if need be settling any differences, and its sanction—for, after all, you must have sanction in the last resort for any authority of the kind—would be, not the maintenance of a military and naval force to be used as occasion might arise, but its sanction would be, first of all, the coercive weight of the common will and general opinion of the civilised world, and next, if there should be States or powers obstinate enough and recalcitrant enough to oppose that general will, then certainly, in the vast majority, if not in all, cases, you would have adequate means of bringing them to sense and to a recognition of their obligations by the application of what the right hon. Gentleman has called the commercial boycott, that is, of economic pressure. You do not exclude, and you never could exclude, the use of force in the last resort. I do not like to quote myself, but to show that I am not enunciating a novel doctrine, I may remind the House, or rather I will quote some words I used as long ago as February last, at the very inception of the matter here in London, when I said:Any League of Nations really worthy of the name must zealously respect the sovereignty of States, great or small, which are members of the partnership within their own domain and over their own affairs. Subject to that condition—and that is a governing condition—the League of Nations should be recognised as being the ultimate and controlling authority both over international disputes and, what is not less important, over international compacts.That, I believe, is a very fair general definition and description of the functions 1509 which the League should perform. I do not think there is any real difference of opinion amongst us about that. The right hon. Gentleman has given us an interesting account of the work which has actually been done by the League during the six months or so of its actual operative existence. I agree with him that most of the things it has done are distinct steps on the road to improvement, and there are two in particular which I would single out, if I may, as especially deserving of the sympathy and commendation of this House and the country. The first and perhaps the most important is the establishment, which is now on its way and which cannot come, of course, in a day or even in a month, of a permanent Court of International Justice. That is an essential part of the effective machinery of any such League. The second, which, though it is directed, we hope, to a more temporary and transient phase, is for the moment, at any rate, equally urgent, is the international economic inquiry which some of us have pressed for for a long time past. I hail both of these proceedings on the part of the League as full of hope for the future.
Before I proceed to make one or two criticisms of the things which have not been done and which I think ought to have been done, let me say, to make myself perfectly clear, that I quite recognise that it is not part and was never intended to be part of the functions of the League of Nations to take a hand in the negotiation of the Peace Treaties. That was never any part of its functions. It would lead to duplication of duties and would be attended by any amount of unnecessary friction, and it would really relieve the Governments concerned of a responsibility which primarily rests upon them and not upon any corporate assembly like the League. I have never said, and I shall never say, anything to suggest that the League of Nations ought to have taken a hand in the negotiations. That must be left, quite properly, to the Powers which were negotiating the Treaties of Peace, but not inconsistent with that, there are certain duties cast upon the League by the Covenant which it might be called upon to discharge before the negotiations for peace were finally concluded. The first—and it has been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman just now—is that 1510 contained in Article 8, the opening words of which are:The members of the League recognise that the maintenance of peace requires the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations.I gather from what my right hon. Friend has said that there is a committee of experts sitting under the supervision of the League to deal with this matter, but, as he very rightly remarked himself, it is not a matter primarily for experts. They may show you ways and means, but it is a matter of policy, in which the nations constituent members of the League ought to exercise the predominant authority. As regards our late enemies, Germany, Austria, and Turkey, the Treaties of Peace themselves provide a very drastic limitation of their armed forces and the equipment of those forces for the years to come. I do not know—I should very much doubt—whether it would be possible, even in an ideal system, consistently with the interests of the maintenance of internal order and functions of that kind, to reduce to a much lower figure the armaments of those countries. I doubt it. If it is possible, be it so, and we should all be glad; but all the more is it incumbent on the nations which are not under any such Treaty disability themselves to set the example, and to show the way in the direction of reduction, both in numbers and in equipment. I earnestly hope—this is not the occasion, but there will be one very soon in which we may discuss the question in regard to our own obligations—but I very much hope that the great Powers who were victorious in the War, and who are now represented on the Council of the League, will not be slow to set an example, not only in the way of suggesting to others, but by their own practice, of what disarmament really ought to be.
On that point I hope there may be no difference of opinion, but now I come to another Article of the Covenant, in regard to which I am not quite sure that I follow the argument of my right hon. Friend—Article 11:Any war or threat of war, whether immediately affecting any of the members of the League or not, is hereby declared a matter of concern to the whole League, and the League shall take any action that may be deemed wise and effectual to safeguard the 1511 peace of nations. In case any such emergency should arise, the Secretary-General shall, on the request of any member of the League, forthwith summon a meeting of the Council.I quite, agree with what my right hon. Friend said just now, that that Article did not contemplate what he conveniently and compendiously described as the steps taken for the re-arrangement of the map of Europe in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty, which might incidentally lead to friction, but it did apply, and it must apply, and to my mind it is impossible to contend that it does not apply, to such a case as the case of the recent aggressive action on the part of Poland, in which the condition laid down by my right hon. Friend was not complied with, but where Poland was going beyond the boundaries, deliberately and wantonly, which had been assigned to her, and Poland was herself a party, being one of the signatories, to the Covenant of the League of Nations. It appears to me, under the interpretation which the right hon. Gentleman himself has placed upon the Article, that this was clearly a case in which the League had the power to intervene which was contemplated by the Covenant as a case in which it would be their duty to intervene. We have not yet had, in this House or outside, any satisfactory reason why in this first and really crucial test case of the efficacy of this part of the Covenant, the League, or those members who have the greatest authority in the Council of the League, stood by in silence and inertia while this aggressive enterprise on the part of Poland was embarked upon.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
It is, of course, an unfortunate fact that the operations were conducted, as we now know, to some substantial extent with the munitions that had been provided by some of the parties to the Covenant, and which were being used, I am ready to believe, contrary to the intention with which they were supplied, but, in point of fact, the aggressive power, Poland, was substantially equipped by the assistance she had received from the Western Powers. I should like to know on what ground it is maintained that that case was not a case which fell within Article 11, and, if so, why the League of Nations took no action in the 1512 matter. Let me here say, parenthetically, that when I speak of the League of Nations and when I criticise the action or the inaction of the League, I am not, of course, making any attack upon the gentlemen who for the time being constitute the Council. The League of Nations is largely what the Great Powers choose to make it, both in personnel and in procedure and conduct, and therefore, when I say the League of Nations ought to have done this or ought not to have done that, the responsibility, of course, rests on the Powers whom the League represents, the responsibility to carry out the solemn Articles of the Covenant by which they are bound.
But equally important, and perhaps indeed more important, are the set of questions that arise under Article 22. We had some discussion about this yesterday, but it was confined to a comparatively narrow compass. Let me remind the Committee of the introductory words of Article 22:To those colonies and territories which, as a consequence of the late War, have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the States which formerly governed them, and which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world, there should be applied the principle that the well-being and development of such peoples from a sacred trust of civilisation, and that securities for the performance of this trust should be embodied in this Covenant.It was therefore clearly contemplated by the parties to this Pact that in the carrying out of the terms of the Treaty of Peace, so far as they related to the future fortunes and government of territories and nationalities which correspond to that description, the League of Nations should come in and that the League of Nations, in fact, should be the controlling and the responsible authority. If there were any doubt as to the interpretation of the first paragraph, it is completely set to rest by what follows:The best method of giving practical effect to this principle is that the tutelage of such peoples should be entrusted to advanced nations who, by reason of their resources, their experience, or their geographical position, can best undertake this responsibility, and who are willing to accept it, and that this tutelage should be exercised by them as Mandatories on behalf of the League.Mandatories on behalf of the League—not Mandatories on behalf of anybody else. I will not read the remainder of 1513 the Article, but I summarise its effect in these simple propositions, that what was contemplated by this Covenant was this, and nothing short of this: The question whether or not in the case of territories or populations of that kind, a mandate should be given was a question not for the Powers, but for the League. Next, the character of each particular mandate was to be determined by the League, as expressly provided by the third paragraph of the Article. Further:—The degree of authority, control or administration to be exercised by the Mandatory shall, if not previously agreed upon by the members of the League, be explicitly defined in each case by the Council.Lastly, in order to secure that the mandate so conferred, so defined, and so limited shall be honestly and effectively carried out, the Mandatory is required to render to the Council an annual report in reference to the territory committed to its charge. That is the procedure which was contemplated, and, indeed, solemnly agreed to by the parties to this agreement. Has it, in fact, been followed? Is it, in fact, being followed in regard to these matters? We had a case yesterday—a small case, it is true—in which an agreement had been entered into, which recited an alleged mandate not given by the League, but given by the Allied and Associated Powers to the British Empire, in which the terms of the mandate were settled by joint agreement between them, behind the backs and without the knowledge of anybody else, and provision was made of a more or less detailed kind for the administration of this territory in the future. Is that consistent, or is it not consistent, with the Covenant? Ought the League or ought it not, before that hypothetical mandate had been embodied in an agreement, to have been consulted and gone through the various stages mentioned in the Article to determine what the mandate should be? It is no answer to say of a thing which has been embodied in an agreement, confirmed by Act of Parliament here, and in two of our Dominions, which is full of the most minute and detailed provisions, "Well, the League may repeal it". That is not what was contemplated or agreed to; on the contrary, the initiative was to be with the League, and the control and intepretation of the mandate throughout was to remain with the League.
1514 This does not apply only to the small case of the little island we were discussing yesterday. I should like to ask what is the case at this moment with regard to Palestine? We are told that arrangements have been made for the future administration of Palestine upon a footing that Great Britain is the Mandatory, and a very distinguished and highly valued late Colleague of my own, Sir Herbert Samuel—than whom I am sure no better man could possibly have been selected—has been very wisely chosen to act as High Commissioner, and he has already departed on his mission. I do not know anything except hearsay about the particular terms of that mandate, but has it been submitted to the League of Nations? Does it proceed from the League of Nations? Is Sir Herbert Samuel going there as Mandatory of the League of Nations, or is he going there as an officer of the British Government, selected by His Majesty's Ministers to perform a duty, not to the League of Nations, but to those who despatched him from these shores? That is a very simple question, and surely demands a very simple answer.
Let me take the case of Mesopotamia. Of course, there is a great deal to be said about our adventures in Mesopotamia, from a totally different point of view, when we come to deal with the Army Estimates. I am not going into that to-day; it would be entirely foreign to the subject of our present discussion. But are we to understand that this country has received a mandate for Mesopotamia? If so, by whom was the mandate conferred? Does it emanate from the League of Nations? Has it the authority, direct or indirect, expressed or implied, of the League of Nations? Have its terms been settled in accordance with the terms of this Covenant by the League of Nations, and are the persons to be entrusted with carrying out the duties and responsibilities to be responsible to the Council? These are matters of the highest importance Otherwise—I take a hypothetical case—you might have a so-called mandate of this kind which was really the result of a bargain, and a bargain with financial and commercial aspects between Powers not directly interested in the country which was to be the sphere of the operation of the mandate. I put that as a hypothetical case, but it is one which, in this loose 1515 interpretation which at present prevails as to the terms of this Article, may very readily become an effective one, with very disastrous consequences.
I have said that I am not making an attack on the League of Nations. I have said before, and I repeat to-day, that I think it would be a very good thing, in the interest of all parties concerned, if the Supreme Council, which at present dominates the affairs, not only of Europe but of the world, were to wind up its operations with as little delay as may be, and this ambiguous state of things, by which the League of Nations can be called into activity at the will of the Supreme Council, or left in inactivity, were brought to a speedy end. But what I am concerned about, and what, I think, this House ought to be concerned about, is that, having solemnly pledged ourselves, as we have, to this Covenant, which many of us hope and believe will, if performed honestly, ex animo, by all parties concerned, have infinite possibilities of good for the peace of the world, in this early stage of the history of its practical execution, there shall not be a shadow of doubt in anybody's mind here, or among our critics abroad, that we in Great Britain, at any rate, are doing our best straightforwardly to carry out the objects of the League.
§ Mr. G. BARNES
I think the House may be congratulated to-day upon two things—first, that we have the prospect of an exhaustive and, I am sure, what will be an illuminating, Debate upon this most important question; and secondly, we have had from the Lord President of the Council a most illuminating address on the work so far of the League of Nations. I shall return in a little while to the point in regard to the relations of the Government to the League of Nations and the extent to which the Government is going to take such steps as may be sufficient to make the League really helpful towards the peace of the world. I want to deal just briefly with what has fallen from the Lord President of the Council. I take it he was speaking rather for the League of Nations Council and not for the Government.
§ Mr. BARNES
In referring to what has been done by the League of Nations Council, the right hon. Gentleman divided 1516 his subject into two parts—those things which were obligatory, and those things that were not obligatory—and, with regard to the first, it seemed to me that the most important thing which came under that definition was that of the Registration of Treaties. While I think of it, I may say I think there was an extraordinary omission on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. He had not a word to say on the work done by the Labour Organisation, which is a section of the League. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman had a good deal to think of in regard to other matters, and it is quite reasonable that he should have forgotten that part, which rather lay outside the exact scope of the Council of the League. It is a separate organisation, but still quite a part of the League of Nations, and, in any review of the work of the League of Nations so far, I think that should form a part.
§ Mr. BARNES
I think it ought to be said that, under the ægis of this Labour Organisation, there has already been held a Conference at Washington at which, I think, eight conventions were drawn up; that most of those conventions have already been the subject of Debate in the Parliaments of the world, including our own; and that only a few nights ago we passed a Bill to give effect to three of these conventions dealing with the conditions of the labour of women and children throughout the world. I venture to say the work of the Labour Organisation will be one of the most important connected with the League of Nations, because it is work of a positive character, and brings the nations together in goodwill and co-operation, and because those who have been afraid of foreign competition, or, at all events, have used the idea of foreign competition as a bar to the improvement of labour conditions, have that argument taken out of their mouths, enabling, as it does, all classes in all nations to come together and march forward concurrently, leaving each nation in the same position as before with regard to the world's markets. I look forward with great hope to the work of the Labour Organisation as one of the agencies by which, in the first place, we may bring the nations together in a spirit of co-operation of all classes in the nation. I look, I say, upon that work as an alternative to the class-war which has been preached so much amongst 1517 us here, and in other countries. The work, I hope, is going to have a great effect in lifting life and labour to a higher plane of being.
I come away from my own little corner, and I should like to say a word in recognition of what the right hon. Gentleman has said in regard to some of the duties undertaken, as well as those laid upon them. Of these, I attach the most importance to the question of the Registration of Treaties. I rejoice that we have got so far on the road towards world unity, on the road to fair and open dealing, and that we now have got a special machine set up to register Treaties. I take it, therefore, that in the future, Treaties made between country and country will be known to all the world and there will be no hugger-mugger business, such as has caused so very much trouble in the past. I also welcome heartily the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman that at last an International Court has been set up by which disputes between the nations may be tried on the lines of commonsense. I agree with my right hon. Friend behind me (Lord R. Cecil), who in this House—and elsewhere—repeatedly has said that one of the first things necessary to lessen the risk of war is to get sufficiently delay to enable people to think over the cause of the quarrel. I take it that the object in setting up this Court is to make provision so that all people will be under an obligation to state their cause of quarrel before the fighting begins. I feel sure if they had to do that, there would be very few cases in which the fighting would begin. We all remember those muddle-headed philosophers in Germany who before the War glorified war as good in itself. Immediately the War began they all got busy in trying to persuade the German people that the War had been forced upon them. They then had to admit that war was not a good thing but a bad thing, and they professed themselves, as did everybody else in that country, as against war. I feel sure that if any party to a quarrel had to plead in that way before an international court, and all the facts were put before the public and known to the world, then very few wars would have to be waged.
In the non-obligatory duties undertaken by the League of Nations Council, to my mind the most important is the release of war prisoners. I was reading 1518 in the newspapers either yesterday or to-day, that there are over 200,000 men, natives of Germany and Austria and other countries, still in Russia, and that, on the other hand, there are, roughly, about the same number, nearly a quarter of a million, of Russians in the countries I have mentioned, or other countries. It is impossible to estimate the amount of domestic misery, privation, and suffering covered by these figures. I think all of us will wish the best of luck to Dr. Nansen in working in this matter, not for his own particular country, but for the good of humanity, in getting these men back to their own families as soon as possible. I would like to say a word about the statement of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the deputation which waited upon him and others yesterday and put the case forward for an international police force. In spite of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I plead guilty to being one of those who look forward to the time when there will be some international authority speaking for the moral sense of mankind, and not only for that, but having some material force at their disposal whereby they can make their decrees effective.
What do we find at the present time? Even during the last few months, since the Council of the League has been in operation, it has been asked to undertake certain business. It was asked to protect Armenia. What did it say? That it could not undertake to protect Armenia, because it had no men, no money, no resources whereby to protect anybody or anything. I trust that is not a condition of things that is going to be permanent. If so, then the League must inevitably become a futility. For my own part, I look forward to the time when, if it is found necessary for the League to undertake mandates or to administer an area such as the Dardanelles—which was talked of a little while ago—that the League Council will have under its control some naval and military force, and some monetary resources whereby it can discharge those duties effectively, not for a congeries of nations, each and every one of them filled by the national idea. I trust that the League of Nations will be able to act as a unit. It does seem to me that that after all, with due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, is the ideal for which 1519 we ought to strive, and not that each nation should have regard only to its own sovereignty; that we should proceed along lines upon which we have travelled a long way already, as in the postal regulations, and many other things which might be mentioned, including some of the things mentioned this afternoon. We ought to travel along that road with a view to co-operation in many things on the part of the nations, and ultimately of co-operation on the part of all the nations for the biggest of all things, that is the preservation of the peace of the world! I see no means to-day by which that can be carried out effectively except by arming the League with some international police force, in the first place—if you like—as an advanced guard. At all events, in some way the League of Nations must be armed, and have force behind it, so as to make its work effective.
I come now to the part appertaining to the Government rather than to the Council of the League of Nations itself I make no complaint against the Council of the League of Nations. I daresay it has done all as then known for which it was started in Paris—all of it—but my complaint is against the Government, that the Government has not submitted a good deal more to it, as might have been done I speak from the point of view of one who deplores the inactivity of the League of Nations Council and which still more deplores the causes of that inactivity, or what, to my mind, has at least been the cause, the lack of proper support on the part of the Allied nations. I was almost going to say the lack of goodwill. I cannot, however, conceive that the Governments, knowing as they do more than other people from the inside the horrors of war, should for a moment withhold their good-will from the League of Nations. Therefore I may be mistaken, but if I am right in my theory they have certainly not supported the League as they ought to have done. I assume it is, their timidity or that the League of Nations is not regarded by them as being efficient for the purpose in view. At all events, my mind goes back to the time when the Governments professed to be in favour of the League of Nations. They are now passing by the League of Nations on the other side. I go back in my memory to the early days 1520 of last year in Paris when the Commission, presided over by President Wilson, submitted the draft of the Covenant to the plenary meeting of the Peace Conference. On that occasion President Wilson said:Something that day had been born which would bring peace to the world"—or words to that effect, only much more elaborate. In introducing that document he spoke in high terms of the document itself, and said that the League of Nations born that day was to bring peace to the world. I say nothing more of that address of the President, because, unfortunately, he has been turned down by his own people, and therefore the heroic efforts he has since made to make effective the principles enunciated at Paris have been for the time being made abortive. But there were other countries who were represented on President Wilson's Commission. These are still committed to the pledges made by their representatives. The Noble Lord, the Member for Hitchin, was a member of the Commission, and a distinguished member. He was generally credited—I suppose rightly—with being to a large extent the author of the document. He had been in daily communication with the Government, I suppose—in fact, I know he was—in Paris until that very day. Therefore, we may take it that on that occasion he was speaking as one with authority. What did he say?—In view of the terms of this document, no nation shall go to war with any other nation until every other possible means of settling the dispute shall have been fully and fairly tried. Secondly, under no circumstances shall any nation seek forcibly to disturb the territorial settlements arrived at in consequence of this peace, or to interfere with the political independence of any of the States of the world.Those conditions were, as the Noble Lord rightly said, embodied in the document. He assumed, as we all assumed, that those terms would be carried into effect. M. Bourgoise, on behalf of France, and Signor Orlando, for Italy, expressed similar sentiments, only in more florid and rhetorical language. Still they, on behalf of their Governments, expressed their satisfaction with the covenant that had been framed. M. Clemenceau, in winding up the Debate, not only as representing France, but as the representative of what was practically a world conference, also said 1521 that he endorsed the document. He asked all of us to have confidence in those representatives of the five powers who would have the matter in hand. With the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Asquith) I think the time has come to inquire how it is that in spite of all these things being said on behalf of the Allied Powers, the world is still convulsed by wars, and that very little has been done by us through the League to stop these wars. I have no right to criticise the representatives of other Powers. In any case, some of these representatives then in Paris have vanished from the scene. Nor is it necessary because the covenant is so framed that any single Power can bring it into operation on certain specified occasions. The right hon. Gentleman opposite quoted Article 11, and, as he rightly said, that Article 11 lays it down that in the event of war or the threat of war any nation can bring the Covenant into operation, and demand a meeting of the Council to discuss the matter. Therefore, it is unnecessary for us to-day to criticise the representatives of other Powers. In fact, we have no business to do anything of the kind. Having regard to the power of any single nation under the Covenant, we have the right to ask how it is that our own Government has not taken the necessary steps to get some of these wars which are going on—we have been told they number between 20 and 30—discussed by the Council of the League of Nations, and, if possible, stopped?
This Debate is giving rise to some very ugly questions that were raised before the War, and which caused a good deal of commotion, and amongst them is the question of the power and position of the War Lords amongst us. People are asking—in fact, some are asserting that we are more under the control of the War Lords than anybody else. If that is so, then it seems to me that we have sacrified our sons in vain. We know that some of the War Lords, and those in the very highest position, make no bones of their position in regard to the League of Nations. They are perfectly frank about it, and they regard it as a huge joke, a sort of encumbrance, something that can be put out of sight, like an undesirable relative, when big things are on. We know that the people of this country intended the League of Nations for big things, and the biggest 1522 of them is the getting and keeping of the peace of the world.
It seems to me that that is the main thing for which the League of Nations was born. When it was promoted by President Wilson and others, the idea was hailed gladly by the common peoples of all countries as a means of preventing a repetition of a war such as that which began in 1914. The next war would not only be a repetition of that, because science is always putting new weapons and agencies into the hands of mankind, and in the event of another war all these agencies would be used for ill. Before 1914 I used to think that nobody would be so devilish as to make war from the air upon the civilian population. I remember sitting next to Marconi, and he expressed himself as horrified to think that science, including wireless, might be used as a war weapon. We all know how a famous British admiral, about five or six years ago, was trounced in the columns of the "Times" newspaper, because he ventured to suggest that a nation might be wicked enough to use submarines to sink commercial ships at sea. We all know that all these things were done in the War, and we all know that similar things, and perhaps worse, would be done if a war were to take place in twenty or thirty years' time. Therefore we must have it in mind that the next war will be something terrible to contemplate.
The most irritating war at the present moment is that between Poland and Russia, and it seems to me that the Government have not moved in that matter as they should have done. I endorse what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Asquith), that the Government have not moved in that matter up to the limit of their power. We ought, at least, to get to know the facts about Poland and the war with Russia. The League of Nations Council has discussed the attack upon Persia by Russia. Is it only going to be allowed to discuss things that suit the policy of the Front Bench? The war between Poland and Russia is just as dangerous to the peace of the world, as that between Russia and Persia, and if they are not going to be treated on the same principle, then the inevitable assumption will be drawn that the League of Nations is going to be biassed, and will suffer accordingly 1523 in a moral sense. I take credit for having elicited from the Leader of the House the statement that no support has been given to Poland since last October. I view with positive alarm the action of the London dockers, in deciding what goods they shall load and what they shall not load in our ships, although I think they have a true instinct of how the labour of this country should not be applied.
I want to know how it is that the Government supported Poland up till last October. So far as my memory serves me, the Poles were then outside the boundaries assigned to them, and they were using force to extend their boundaries, and consequently they came under the definition of the Noble Lord, of doing something which was clearly wrong, and not in accordance with the terms of the Covenant. Of course, I accept the word of the Leader of the House, that we have not supported them since last October, and I think it would be an insult to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman was not telling the truth. The question naturally arises, if we are not supporting Poland. who is? It is well within the knowledge of everybody that Poland has been, and probably still is, in a state of semi-starvation, and cannot fight a war on her own account. I remember reading a document issued last summer by Mr. McAlpine, who had been sent out by our own Government to Poland. This gentleman was sent to inquire into the conditions of Poland, and he reported that it was a country ravished by marching and counter-marching of arms, that most of the factories had been stopped, and many burned down, and that general distress existed all over the country.
Later, I remember reading another document, published by someone representing the working people of Lodz and Warsaw, in which they followed up the description given by Mr. McAlpine, and that document would have melted the heart of a sheriff officer. It told of women and children starving, that they had no work and no raw materials to keep going the industrial machine, and, generally speaking, drew a terrible picture of the condition of Poland, and appealed to us to do something for the Polish people. A country in that condition cannot make war off its own bat. It is being supplied by somebody, and we have a right to know, and we have 1524 now reached the stage when we ought to know who is supplying Poland with munitions by means of which she is disturbing the peace of the world. It cannot be Germany or Austria, or Turkey, and therefore we come down to this, that Poland must have been supplied with munitions not last October, but since then, and right up till now, by one or other of the countries with whom we are in league. Our Government should put into operation Article 11 of the Covenant in order to get at the facts. It seems to me that we are slipping back almost insensibly into the evil of intrigue and secrecy which existed before the War, and which spread moral poison among the nations. The League of Nations was in tended to put an end to that sort of things, and to be used for open and fair dealing instead of what I have described. The League might be doing something, and it ought to be doing something to get at the facts. I suggest to the Government that both Poland and Russia should be asked to state their case to the Council of the League of Nations. Poland is a member, and she could not very well refuse to assent to that request.
§ Mr. BARNES
I do not know. My point is that, under the provisions of the Covenant of the League of Nations, any country, not only the countries directly at war, can in the interests of peace of the world themselves apply to the League.
§ Mr. BARNES
I am not defending Russia, but I am pointing out that under this Covenant, drawn up to preserve the peace of the world, this country has a right to invoke the aid of the Council of the League of Nations in order to get at the facts, and the ascertaining of the facts would be sufficient to stop the war between Poland and Russia. Therefore I make the suggestion, and I hope it will be passed on to the Prime Minister, that we should make an appeal to the Council of the League of Nations to institute some investigation of the circumstances arising out of the war between Poland and 1525 Russia. Of course Russia might decline. But we should have improved our position with our own people and with the democracies of the world.
§ Mr. BARNES
The Covenant provides that although not a member, a nation can apply to the League and for the purpose of that inquiry she becomes a member.
May I point out that only recently the League of Nations applied to Russia to allow a peaceful deputation to go there in order to understand the condition of Russia, and the Soviet Government refused.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BARNES
That is quite true, but I do not see the relevance of that point. I am dealing with the responsibility of this country in not operating the League of Nations Covenant in order to get an inquiry into the circumstances of the war between Poland and Russia. It is quite true that the Council of the League suggested the sending of a deputation to Russia and that the Soviet Government declined to receive it. The Russian Government may have some cause for that. I am not defending Russia. I have no love for either Lenin or Trotsky. I believe at the best they are a pair of doctrinaire fanatics who have got the people of Russia by the throat. I also know that at a very critical time of the War they turned the forces at their disposal in favour of our enemies and against us. I want to stop the war, and I contend that it is quite within the province of this country to take the necessary steps to put into operation this Covenant in order to see what can be done to stop this war. Let me say here that I have nothing to advance in favour of the present system of government in Russia. That is their business. Looking back on what we have done in Russia, I do not see anything to be ashamed of, except that we stopped there too long. We could not have come away when the Armistice was signed, as we would thereby have been leaving our friends in the lurch. Some time afterwards we decided to support Koltchak. When the White Terror followed the Red Terror, and was found to be a great deal worse than the Red Terror, it looked as if Koltchak was going 1526 to reach Moscow, and we had it in our minds that, by supporting him, we should avoid a repetition in Moscow of what had occurred in Finland. This has all passed. We are not now dealing with the policy of this country towards Russia last year; we are dealing with the actual state of affairs in Russia at the present time, and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) that something might be done under the operation of Article 11 to get Russia and Poland each to state their case to the League of Nations. It is no good waiting until the Russian Government is upset. As a matter of fact, the upsetting of the existing government in Russia has been predicted every other month for the last two years, and yet it seems to me that the Soviet Government is stronger now than it has been at any time. It may be a good or a bad government, but there it is. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, not that he should support the Russian Government, not that he should recognise it, but that he should recognise the bare fact that there is a government in Russia which has been in existence for two years, and which is at war just now with another country and that we should, under the operation of Article 11, make an effort to get the facts with regard to the war brought to light, and brought under the operation of the moral sense of mankind.
To my mind the League of Nations is the hope of the world. There are some amongst us who look askance at it. I believe Governments regard it as a competitor in the settlement of the world's affairs, and therefore pass it by and would like to shunt it out of the way. There are people amongst us who do not like the League of Nations. They look at it askance, they do not want it to succeed, because they do not want anything to succeed by any other method than violent revolution. There are many amongst us to-day who spend their time in fomenting trouble in the industrial world, not in order to get industrial improvements, but to use industrial grievances for their own ends. There are some, I believe, who would cheerfully do anything in the way of revolution in the hope or belief that something more to their liking might arise from the ruins of our present social order. By belittling the League I believe 1527 we are playing into their hands. By exalting the League we shall do something to help its cause forward. I have nothing to say against the League of Nations so far as it has done its part—obligatory or non-obligatory. We wish all success to the good work undertaken by Dr. Nansen. We wish it all good luck in what it is doing in the way of medical research for the benefit of the world. We do not, however, want it to merely concern itself with these comparatively unimportant matters. We want to try and use the League, to lay hold of it so to speak, and to use it for the primary purpose for which it is intended, to prevent a repetition of war with all its horrors and dangers.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Anticipating that very many members of the Committee wish to speak on this all-important question, I hope I shall not take part in the Debate for very long in endeavouring to express what I know to be in the minds of hon. Members for whom I may be able to speak on this side of the House. First, I take leave to say that the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council must by this time have passed the point in his long career of distinguished public service when he would be in the slightest degree moved by words of praise. I want on behalf of my hon. Friends, however, to record their very warm appreciation of the services which we are certain he has rendered to the cause of the League of Nations by his speech this afternoon. The second part of that speech particularly is a contribution of weighty arguments, and I am sure the cause will be far advanced by it. This House unfortunately, on a number of occasions in recent months, has had to discuss this question of the League of Nations, not on its merits, but in relation to certain acts of omission or commission on the part of the Government. Thereby, I fear, the League of Nations question has suffered. Members have been content to devote themselves, not to the merits of this supreme issue, but to its effect on the action of the Government and the statements which the Minister, under the circumstances, has been obliged to make. It would be for the good of mankind, I think, if, collectively, Members of this House could be absolutely free to fix their attitude and settle absolutely in their own minds what their course of 1528 conduct should be on the great question of the League of Nations itself.
It is bad for the League that we should be driven to mix up this great question with minor matters. I cannot feel that the course of this Debate has differed materially from the course of previous discussions, as the right hon. Gentleman has been obliged to import into it some of those very factors to which I have already referred. We are differing, not as to whether the League should act in a certain set of circumstances, or in a particular instance, but whether there should be a League at all; and I trust that those who take the view that the League is impossible, and that we ought not to maintain it or establish it, will address themselves in the course of this discussion to the second part of the speech of the Lord President of the Council. I do not want to appear to upbraid the House for its attitude on this question, but I cannot avoid seeing that there are many Members of it, nominally supporters of the Government, who have not given that encouragement and support to the Government on this question to which it is entitled. They have treated this matter too lightly; they have not addressed themselves to the possibility of bringing this great world-wide international organisation into being. They have, as the right hon. Gentleman argued in the course of his speech, exhibited a feeling that it is impossible for mankind to progress in this direction. Mankind does not expect progress to come of its own accord in this as in many other things. It must have an instrument for it, and in nothing more than this matter is progress more needed for the welfare of the human race in all countries.
I agree whole-heartedly with what the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Barnes) said—that this is not merely a matter of making machinery to prevent war. It is the creation of a new spirit and influence in the world's affairs which will make for peace and produce for us an absence of revolution and a guarantee against it. There are indeed influences at work, as my right hon. Friend said, deliberately seeking to frustrate the growth of the seed and to make it impossible, because it is well known that, given a consciousness of the absence of war and of the prospect of war all the world over, the people will settle down to look more effectively and harmoniously 1529 after their own interests, and we shall have this further defence against these harmful outside influences which have kept the world in a state of impoverishment and which keep us so far removed from that state of abundance without which we cannot have the economic, financial, and the other improvements and changes that we desire to promote. I say, without any intention of blaming anyone, that it is clear to those of us who observe the circumstances that too many Members have exhibited a lack of faith in the possibility of the scheme of the League. They are, I think, entitled to criticise the Government for what it has failed to do in certain specific instances. The Government might have been more active in the service of the League if there had ben a more unanimous, a more enthusiastic, and a more earnest backing of its action by the rank and file of its supporters. It is this absence of enthusiasm in so great a cause, together with the fact that the machinery of the League such as it is has not been sufficiently used when opportunities have presented themselves, that so far has failed to produce in the country that body of public opinion for which the right hon. Gentleman looked when he said that it was our business to produce in the country a spirit among the people that would give a moral backing and the necessary sanction to the work of the League of Nations.
I would like to submit to the right hon. Gentleman a point which I fear escaped him in the course of his references to the various permanent committees of the League. I want particularly to draw his attention to the question of disarmament and of the manufacture of armaments. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Governments concerned in the work of these Committees would have the services and advice of experts of great experience. I want to point out we must also have a definite policy on the part of Governments themselves on the questions of armaments and disarmament, because unless we have a definite and clear policy on so important a matter, it is not likely that the people will range themselves behind this or any other Government in any country. Vested interests, undoubtedly, have operated in the past as a provocation to quarrels which finally have culminated in war. How can the right hon. Gentleman expect a spirit of peace to be fostered, and a desire for 1530 disarmament to spread, when the Government supports a policy designed further to attract men to military service by dressing them more expensively, by taking them back again to that condition of attractiveness which existed before the Boer War? I cannot see how he can hope to create this spirit of peace by spending, as we are told, an additional £3,000,000 in making the service of the soldier more attractive than it has ever been. I am not, I hope, expressing a single word of reflection upon the soldier as such. No one has cause to do that. The military spirit, however, is not the spirit that we should try to raise behind the work of the League of Nations, and I trusted that something might be said upon this point in relation to the creation of the spirit referred to by the right hon. Gentleman. We are thankful for the information that has been given to us on the work of the League regarding such, not minor, but still not immensely great, matters as the Saar Valley and Danzig. These, however, are scarcely the big jobs which we expected that the League of Nations would make a great boast of. The big things the League of Nations has not yet taken in hand. The League cannot work by itself; it must have the inspiration and the prompting of Governments; and Governments must have a policy which will harmonise with the principles and objects of the League of Nations itself.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke at some length upon the dangers to which we are exposed because of the disease, sickness and death which follow in the train of war. We are some 20 months from the Armistice. The blockade was maintained against Russia long after Russia was anything like a combatant in the War. If we have a consciousness of the dangers of disease, and if, indeed, our policy now, as I gather from the figure mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman is to spend millions in sheltering ourselves against the risks of those dangers, what is the good of maintaining a policy and applying a blockade which in itself is certain to be a great contribution to the disease, sickness and death which, in their turn, produce the other consequences to which he referred? We cannot pursue the one policy and expect to be absolutely free from the consequences of that policy. I agree very warmly with what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the 1531 Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) on the subject of Poland, Russia and the League. As I have addressed myself to this point in previous Debates, I do not want to touch upon it now at any greater length; but I am sure the Lord President will agree that the point put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley demands an answer, and to what he said I would like to make a little addition. Our complaint has been that the aggressive action of Poland might very well have been arrested, and the difference between Russia and herself composed, had the machinery of the League of Nations been used fully and in a timely manner. I want to read to the Lord President the terms of the despatch signed by our own Prime Minister, by the President of the United States, and by three other Prime Ministers, on the 26th May, 1919, and I want to ask, after I have read that, is there any difference between the policy of our Prime Minister and the policy to which he set his hand on that date? It is the despatch that was sent to Admiral Koltchak, and it reads as follows:Fourth, that the independence of Finland and Poland be recognised, and that, in the event of the frontiers and other relations between Russia and these countries not being settled by agreement, they will be referred to the arbitration of the League of Nations.That is as clear as language could possibly make it. Why has the difference between Poland and Russia not been approached by this Government in the spirit of that policy? It might have failed, but at least it could have been tried, and the League of Nations would not have been weakened by such a trial I want also to express the pleasure with which I heard the references in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to the question of open diplomacy. I fear, however, that it is not quite in the spirit of his speech that the Government always treat the House of Commons in these matters of high foreign policy. We are all within the memory of pre-War conditions, and can recall the fact that we were then expected to ask for little information—at times for none at all—and to leave these matters of the world's affairs to those who had official responsibility in regard to looking after them. A new view has come, I think properly, into public life. It is that the masses of nations now have to go to war when war occurs, and, as they 1532 have to do the fighting on a larger scale than ever, they are entitled to be taken into the confidence of the Government and to know all the commitments into which different Ministers may enter. We pursued a policy prior to the War which inevitably cultivated the military spirit. Open diplomacy must inevitably tend to diminish the military spirit. If we are to return, in any degree whatever, to pre-War conditions, and desert the policy of the League of Nations, we shall be returning to a state which will cultivate the spirit of militarism upon which Germany armed herself and prepared for war so extensively. There is no halfway house between the policy symbolised by the League of Nations and the pre-War condition in respect of relationship between country and country. If there is, it has yet to be indicated. I doubt whether any member of any party in this House would dare to assert that the pre-War relations between country and country, and the manner of arranging diplomatic business between country and country, was good enough for the world and should be continued. I doubt whether any member would assert that it would be wise and proper for mankind to continue in the path trodden before the days of this great War. Therefore, those of us who support the League of Nations say that this alone is the policy which holds the field. Its success depends, so far as our country is concerned, on the Prime Minister and his Government receiving a larger measure of enthusiastic support for this policy than the Government has so far received. I believe, myself, that the ministers who have put their hands to this great document would act fully up to the faith of what is in it, if they could be sure that they have the House of Commons behind them, and the country behind the House of Commons, in carrying out this great purpose for the benefit of mankind.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down made, with his usual judgment and good sense, one remark with which I very cordially agree. He said that he proposed to discuss the general principles of the League of Nations, and that it was undesirable to bring in questions of the conduct of the Government, in one particular case or another, which would divert our minds from the general question before us. I am sorry that, as in the case of the right 1533 hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley, he fell into the temptation of adducing at least one instance in which he thought the Government had acted in a way that did not commend itself to him. Article 11 of the League, surely, contemplates a case where peace exists, and peace is broken, and arbitration is then called for. It does not, surely, contemplate a case where there are actual conditions of war; conditions where the power concerned is assailed by a ruthless adversary, and is taking measures which are, perhaps, offensive, but which it considers to be fitting. I am not going to be led into considering those definite cases. I think our general position is that of considering what the League of Nations really means, and what is the allegiance which it claims from each one of us. If this Debate leads to no other good than the speech of my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, I think it has done an immense good. I confess myself not as one of those to whom he referred. I am no lover of war. I have no idea that war is a moralising force. I have no wish to imitate those half scientific people who think that a sort of perverted Darwinism, a survival of the fittest, might be brought about by continuous war. I have, however, difficulties and misgivings which I am not ashamed to confess in all seriousness, and I am glad to have from my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council the statement which he made, and which, I confess, carried in many respects very strong conviction. I recognise that the League of Nations has, to use his own phrase, done good service to the amity of nations. I am glad that, as he also said, it has brought help to the cause of open diplomacy, in regard to which I cordially join hands with my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Clynes). I am glad that it has helped to put on the stocks the construction of the Court of International Justice, which will have the great advantage, beyond all other Conferences of the sort, of creating a body which will gradually obtain and exercise an influence over the world. I am glad that it is taking up seriously and earnestly questions of international finance, and of the dangers of disease, and I congratulate it on the advances that have been made.
I come back to the real question which is raising some doubt in the mind of the 1534 Committee. I have had the misfortune now and then to have differences on this point—I hope not fundamental—with one with whom I have acted cordially for fifteen years, and for whose high Parliamentary qualities no one has greater respect than I have—I mean my Noble Friend (Lord R. Cecil). I recognise his instinctive power of statesmanship, and I appreciate more than anything else the great service that he has done to the State and the services which, I am sure, he will do hereafter to the State long after I am gone. But he must acknowledge, notwithstanding the respect I pay to his ideals, that discussion of the difficulties, misgivings and points of doubt which may exist in our minds is all to the good. I am certain that some of the apathy with which the League of Nations is considered throughout the country generally arises from the fact that it has not been strenuously and logically discussed as a matter of business and of practical politics. We have had sermons, we have had meetings and appeals, we have had vague aspirations. These are all very well, but the matter is one of practical politics, and as such we must consider it. I assure my Noble Friend that it is no intention of mine to indulge in ribaldry or in laughter, or to deal with it in a mocking spirit. I am fully persuaded of its real advantages. I am only doubtful whether we may not sometimes by overlooking its difficulties lead ourselves into certain trouble in the future. I recognise that we fought for five years to make war very improbable, if not impossible. I recognise that as strongly as the most enthusiastic supporters of the League of Nations.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
That was our intention if it were possible. I further agree that so diabolical is the ingenuity of destruction that we can hardly without horror contemplate the possibility of another war with a great State. It is almost as certain as that we are sitting here that if a war broke out again, with the advancing resources of science, it would engulf the whole of civilisation in a vast abyss from which it would take centuries for the human race to emerge. But at various times in the past all the nations have striven in some form or other for 1535 something which would secure permanent peace. We are apt to decry and find fault with schemes and plans that moved other times than our own. It is possibly that they were all wrong, but at least we must admit that they had the same object before them, and that they believed, or professed to believe, that their schemes were such as would tend to diminish the probability of war. Take that much decried scheme of the balance of power. No doubt my Noble Friend will say I am a reactionary of the worst kind if I say a single word in favour of the balance of power, but I would only remind myself that that system of the balance of power was the very root of the whole policy of William III. in his contests with Louis XIV., that it was again the root of the policy of Lord Chatham and of the younger Pitt, and I believe it did tend to put off war and to check the evil intentions of certain ambitious Powers. But it had its disadvantages. It was, for one thing, a very delicately poised balance. Any aggressive Power might take advantage of what it thought a slight slip in one State or the other and make use of it. Besides that, it had the still greater disadvantage that if it maintained the semblance of peace it did it by maintaining an enormous, burdensome, expensive, crippling system of armaments, which necessarily grew from year to year. I admit that unquestionable evil. Then we had federations of various sorts, such as the Holy Alliance, from the 16th century onwards, attempts to remove the probability of the recurrence of war. They were pursuing precisely the same thing which we desire to be doing now. They fell very largely under dynastic influences, and that was very serious. They did not represent the wishes of nations so much as the dexterous combinations of different great dynastic powers.
Then we have had other suggestions. We have had various schemes of arbitration. They were all right in their aim, but we know now how flimsy they were, and how they disappeared in the deep-seated passions, ambitions and rivalries of nations which were brought to bear against them. They always laid themselves open to the suspicion, very often because they turned out to be the first offenders against proposals of arbitration, that they were contriving something for the purpose of cloaking their own ambi- 1536 tions, and of securing the apathy of those against whom these ambitions were intended to operate. Now the League of Nations is put forward in the first 26 Clauses of the Peace Treaty. I admit that it is a great advance on what has been done. I admit the distinctness of its aim, and that it prescribes more clearly methods of procedure, and that is an immense practical advance. I am glad to learn from my right hon. Friend really how far they have advanced—further, he rightly says, than many have expected. Let us examine some of the points about which doubts may arise, and see how these doubts may be removed. Remove them, and no one will rejoice more than those who entertain the misgivings and doubts. The League is to consist of a Council of the Allied Powers, with four other members to be selected by the Aseembly, for the present, Belgium, Brazil, Spain and Greece, and all are to be equal. The only objection I have, and it is a very serious objection, is, does it really correspond with the reality of things? Is it possible that it can? Will not greater responsibility fall upon certain Powers than upon others, and is it any good pretending that there is to be an equality which we know will not exist? I should like my Noble Friend to remove a doubt I feel as to an inconsistency on his part. In February, during the discussion on the Address, he said he would prefer that the League of Nations should be convened by the heads of each nation, and not by the permanent members of the League; but in April, or even later, he begged that the Supreme Council, which does consist of the heads of nations, should step aside, and give way to permanent members of the League.
I now come to the real practical question, what is the influence which this League is able to exert? The first point is the limitation of the power of mischief on the part of any individual Power by the restriction of its armaments. All the Council of the League can do is to recommend and to formulate plans for the reduction of armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations. It does not prescribe a limit of armaments. It only formulates a scheme by which that reduction can be obtained. Will not that give rise to endless disputes without really bringing force to bear to make these plans 1537 effective? I pass over the Articles 10–15 which particularise the steps to be taken to prevent aggression upon territorial integrity, and the stipulated pledges as to submitting to arbitration. These are all to the good, but we know how apt such pledges are to give way under the stimulus of ambition or of what is more likely fancied wrong. The really crucial point of the whole League comes under Article 16, which prescribes the sanction by which the League is to enforce its decisions. This Article must be read in connection with Article 15, which prescribes that a decision as to the right and wrong in a particular case before it leads to action must be unanimously agreed to by all the Members of the League other than the parties to the dispute. Otherwise,The members of the League reserve to themselves the right to take such action as they shall consider necessary for the maintenance of right and justice.That is to say, they reserve the right to act alone or in combination with others, if unanimity has not been reached by the members of the League, other than the parties to the dispute. Under Article 16, how are you to enforce this action? By two methods. First of all, by the severance of trade relations: by a universal commercial boycott. We have heard very strong denunciation in this House of the blockade. Would not this commercial boycott be open to the charge brought against the blockade, that it meant a certain amount of cruel starvation of innocent people, including women and children? Will not this resource leave itself open to the same charges which have been so vociferously made against the blockade. Certainly charges of that sort would be brought against it. If the boycott were not drastic and complete it need not exist at all. If it is drastic people will complain. Article 16 also provides that,It shall be the duty of the Council to recommend to the several Governments concerned what effective military, naval or air force the members of the League shall severally contribute to the armed forces to be used to protect the covenants of the League.That is only a recommendation. There is no absolute prescription. If pressed home it would virtually mean the issuing of orders to the different nations on a very vital question of national concern. Would it not inevitably lead to dispute? How are you to make the same recommenda- 1538 tions as to the contribution to the armed forces to be used to protect the covenants of the League upon a nation which has compulsory service and one which has not? Is it possible and is it just to do so? Will not differentiation be necessary and will not such differentiation necessarily involve a complaint as to interference and inequality of treatment? Article 19 provides for the abrogation or modification of treaties, and Article 21 excepts regional understandings like the Monroe Doctrine. May not other undertakings claim similar exemption? Do you think you will be able to curb the discretion of separate States in this way? Article 22, which deals with the mandatory system, is strangely varied, sometimes merely "advice and assistance"; in other cases the territory is to be administered by the mandatory as an integral portion of its territory. Under Article 23 the various nations are asked to entrust to the League various questions as to Labour conditions, traffic in drugs, control of disease, etc., which seem to trench dangerously upon municipal law. The whole fabric is a delicately poised one, which seems to imply the assumption of powers that would curb the freedom of each State. It is all very well if you can do this; but will it not lead to dispute and engender feelings of oppression by a League in which the disputing power may have little influence? If you can prove that our doubts are groundless I am only too ready to accept that proof. Meanwhile, be patient if we ask for explanation. I cordially wish well to the League; but I feel doubtful about rules and regulations which have an insufficient sanctioning power behind them.
I yield to nobody in my enthusiasm as to what the League might possibly accomplish. Meanwhile we must be patient. I believe that the real value of the League—and here some hon. Members may think that I am retrograde or reactionary—lies, not in all its stipulations, its recommendations, its machinery, and its councils, but lies in the hope that the Great Powers will in their strength, and bearing a responsibility corresponding to that greatness of strength, will rise to the occasion and make themselves the real leaders of right all the world over. I do believe that we in England, the great Anglo-Saxon race, have an ideal, which we have made real and practical, of un- 1539 selfishness in politics, and that we should bear that flag high, but we can only bear it high by virtue of our exercising our strength and our power. I believe that if the great Anglo-Saxon races of Britain and America, with our friends and Allies France, will rise to the height of their responsibility and hold up to the world a higher ideal of unselfish politics they will do more than all your schemes and all your stipulations by the respect they would gain from smaller nations. I would ask hon. Members to remember that great message from the Lord to Joshua:Only be strong and very courageous; be strong and of good heart.I believe it is that strength that will give us what Tennyson saw with the poet's eye:When the war drum throbs no longer, and the battle flag is furledIn the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world,When the common sense of most shall keep a fretful realm in awe,And the kindly earth shall slumber lapped in universal law.Yes, the kindly earth may slumber, but it will be no slumbrous time for the Great Powers for the two Anglo-Saxon races, combined with our friends in France, if they are to ensure that peace and that tranquillity which we all desire, and which we hope this League of Nations will establish.
§ Lord R. CECIL
My right hon. Friend has made a very interesting speech, but I am not quite sure that I feel very much encouraged by his holding up the polity of Joshua as the ideal at which we should aim. My recollection of the teachings of that great Christian captain is not what we should nowadays approve. My right hon. Friend made desperate efforts to escape from his natural sentiments, but he was gradually driven back to the profession of belief in the old doctrine of the Holy Alliance. He really thinks, in defiance of history, that we are to secure our desires by having an alliance of the Great Powers who shall impose their will upon the world.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I did not say that. I said that their aim professes to be the aim that we have in the League of Nations. I pointed out the serious defects of the Holy Alliance.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I was referring to the earlier part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in which he did condemn the Alliance. When he came to the peroration he returned to what he had previously condemned and advocated as a guarantee of peace an alliance between the United States, France, and ourselves which should impose our will upon the world. It may be a very hard saying, but that does not really differ in substance from the German view before the War. The Germans did really believe that it would be for the interests of the world that we should have a German organised world. We know that it would have been very much against the interests of the world and we were prepared to fight in order to back our opinion. That was what they contemplated—world domination. That really is what my right hon. Friend contemplates; though he does not like to have it put in exactly that way. That is his alternative suggestion. Therefore, I do not feel called upon to go into any great detail into his criticism of the Covenant, because if all that he has to suggest as an alternative to the Covenant is what he described, then I believe that the vast majority of his fellow-countrymen will reject that alternative. I may perhaps say this about his criticism of the machinery of Articles 15 and 16. I do not think that he has noticed that the real point of Articles 15 and 16 is to ensure delay and discussion. My right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, in his most admirable and interesting speech, correctly described the great fundamental conception on which the League rests. With all due respect to my right hon. Friend, they do not rest and cannot rest on the idea that the League will enforce its will by force of arms, but they do rest on the conception that you may be able to secure by general agreement, or you should be able to secure by general agreement, that period of reflection and discussion which shall enable the nations of the world to exercise the most powerful of all forces, namely, international public opinion upon the wrong-doer in any international quarrel. It is quite easy to point out this or that criticism of the provisions of the Covenant, and I am very much relieved to find that so acute an intellect as my right hon. Friend had not more to say than he did say. He 1541 incidentally regarded as very dangerous the closing Articles of the Covenant. There was no more valuable part of the Lord President of the Council's speech than that in which he described how in actual fact these latter provisions are already working. This is the one part of the Covenant which is working, and I am delighted to hear it from my right hon. Friend is working quite satisfactorily.
We have begun to put into operation the idea of international co-operation. That is a great achievement which has been reached in a period of six months. I do not want to underrate it. It is a matter of great satisfaction to me, because I had something to say in framing this Covenant, to know that these Clauses are in fact operating and operating successfully according to the judgment of a critic so very well qualified as my right hon. Friend. In referring to the actual work of the League, may I be permitted to express considerable regret that the international financial inquiry, to which my right hon. Friend refers, has been delayed so long. It was originally suggested, I think, last February, certainly some time early in the year. It was accepted by the Council of the League at, I think, the second meeting in London quite early in its career, and I have never been able to understand why it has not met already. The truth is that there is nothing more essential, even more essential perhaps on the other side of the Channel than here, than the due appreciation of what are the actual facts in Europe to-day. It is of the utmost importance. No judgment which will be satisfactory can be founded unless those facts are really appreciated. No instrument can be devised which would bring home to the peoples of the world more clearly and more authoritatively than the national financial commission of the eminent men whom my right hon. Friend describes if it could be put into operation as soon as possible, and I ask my right hon. Friend to use his great influence to see that no further delays take place in its meeting. Do not let us be told that it is waiting for the Spa Conference in December, or something of that kind. It is really essential that it should get to work. Every hour is of 1542 importance in the economic position, for no one can tell when Europe shall be plunged into financial catastrophe.
One thing which is provided for, and as to which my right hon. Friend did not reply, is the mandates. I hope very much that there will be no further delay about these mandates. It is really of great importance that the Council of the League should exercise its powers under Article 22, and lay down definitely the conditions under which the mandatory is to exercise his mandate. I am not merely referring to the case of Nauru, on which I expressed my opinion for what it was worth yesterday, but in Africa it is just the same. There are great territories which are not being governed legally at all, because they are to be mandated, and no mandate has been arrived at, and I am assured by those who know the conditions that this is producing a very serious state of affairs indeed. I trust, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will carry out that part of the Covenant as soon as possible. I would like to ask him one or two questions as to the future organisation of the League following on the first part of his speech. He had a dark and rather doubtful phrase about the seat of the League. I hope there is no doubt that the seat of the League is going to remain in Geneva. It would be a disastrous mistake if the seat of the League is to be moved away from that city. It is provided for in the Covenant. The Swiss were undoubtedly influenced very largely in their support of the League by the great position which they obtained by the honour of having the League in one of their principal cities.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I am not suggesting anything of the kind. The hon. Member probably does not know, but this was a matter which was discussed all over Switzerland; in almost every house you heard nothing but discussions about the League of Nations. It was the subject of a plebiscite or referendum in Switzerland, and among the other arguments that were used, and quite properly used, was, "Here is a great trust, which is to be used for preserving the peace of the world, and you are to have the honour of being the 1543 seat of the League. Are you going to reject that trust, and say that you are not worthy of that honour?" That was a legitimate argument which was used very largely in the referendum. The next question is as to the Assembly. I do not want to press this, but I hope that as soon as possible my right hon. Friend or the Government will tell us how the members of the Assembly representing this country are to be chosen. That is also a matter of very considerable importance, and I trust earnestly that my right hon. Friend or the Government will be able to assure us that certainly the ideal with which the Assembly was constituted, I believe, by all the members of the Commission, will be carried out, and that it will not be really a representative of Governments, but will be in some sense or form a representative of the peoples who constitute the States which are members of the League.
I am very grateful that some attempt is being made to give publicity to the proceedings of the Council. I cannot think at present that publicity is carried far enough. I have always hoped that sooner or later more use would be made of the weapon of publicity than is made at present. There is no doubt, if you can conceive it possible that any one member of the Council is acting in an unreasonable or unduly self-interested way, the threat or the knowledge that that will have to be explained before the face of the whole world in a public session of the Council, would, I am satisfied, be a powerful deterrent to any country that is anxious to occupy such a position. Therefore, I hope that publicity will not be lost sight of. I am sure that everything that brings before the peoples of the world the actual work which the Council is doing, is essential to the ultimate sucess of the Council, because it has been said often in this House and elsewhere, that upon the support of the nations of the world the success of the League must ultimately depend.
This is my last question. I would like very much if the Government will give us some indication of their policy with regard to the Supreme Council? I do not want to criticise the Supreme Council—it would be almost blasphemous to do so—but I do not think there is any room for two supreme international bodies in Europe, and as long as there is a body called the 1544 Supreme Council it will overshadow the authority of the Council of the League. My right hon. Friend seems to think that I am inconsistent, because I want to abolish the Supreme Council and obtain the presence of the Prime Minister occasionally at the Council of the League. On the contrary, it is part of the same conception. I want the Council of the League to be the authoritative body. I want the Prime Minister, not only this Prime Minister, but a Prime Minister because he is Prime Minister, to be a representative on the Council of the League in order to give it that authority which it ought to have to carry out its very critical and responsible duties. Therefore I hope that, before the Debate closes, there will be a statement as to the policy of the Government as to the Supreme Council, and further a statement as to whether we may look on some future occasion for the presence of a Prime Minister at the debates of the Council of the League. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will not think that I am saying that in a manner in any way distrustful to him. I am sure that he will be the last person to think that I should be guilty of so grave and so silly a discourtesy, but it is merely because for the moment he is not Prime Minister and somebody else is.
With the general principles which my right hon. Friend laid down as to the working of the League I do not wish to differ. At any rate, I think they are an aspect of the truth. I agree that we must not be impatient, that caution is necessary, that the present state of the world is not we hope what is going to be the normal state of the world, and no doubt the Covenant was framed with regard to its operation in a normal state of the world. I agree with all that, but still do not let us forget that the fundamental object of the whole conception is the preservation of peace. That is the object of the Covenant, and there is no use in telling us that the Covenant is working for peace unless it is also working effectively for the preservation of the peace of the world. Then of equal importance, since its whole success depends on the support of the peoples of the world, is that you must be able to convince the people that it is really and effectively working for the maintenance of peace. If they once believe that it is a mere futility, a mere fancy of a few academic people, they lose interest in it, they cease to support it and 1545 the whole hope of European civilisation is sacrificed.
My right hon. Friend referred to the case of the United States. We know how difficult it is to discuss freely the position in America. Still I feel absolutely convinced that nothing would encourage our friends in America more than to be able to say in controversy, "The League has already accomplished a great work in the preservation of peace. Do not let this question or that question interrupt that work. Are you really going to stand aside from this great work which is already in operation?" Therefore, I press those two propositions, and I am bound to say that I do agree very heartily with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley in his criticism as to the action which was taken by the Poles. I am not going to discuss that case at length over again, but to me, at least, reading the documents that were submitted, I have not the least doubt that in the beginning of the year there was a clear opportunity for the intervention of the League with every probability of success. I cannot doubt—I may be entirely wrong—if our representatives at the Council, our Government, had summoned a special meeting, as they were entitled to do, of the Council, at that time, when it was known that there was grave danger of hostilities between Poland and Russia, and submitted the case to the Council, thus giving as I think an opening in which to explain fully the danger that threatened Europe, that intervention would have been successful, and that the war which is now again desolating Central Europe would have been avoided.
I cannot tell the Committee how disastrous I think that war has been—I shall guard myself by stating that I say that not from any sympathy with the Bolsheviks. I think that war is intensely sad. I cannot see any exit from it which is not going to be a very serious injury to Europe as a whole. Apart from the actual disaster of the war itself, it will, I believe, greatly hamper us in our League policy. Reference has been made to the fact that the Russians refused to receive the commission we were anxious to send to Russia to inquire into the situation there. I do not know what the real motives of that refusal may be. They may have been all sorts of motives of a very reprehensible kind. The Soviet 1546 Government may have had in mind the fact of the Polish War, the fact that undoubtedly the Poles were not fighting altogether without assistance, and it gave them the opportunity of saying that they would not let the Commission into the country because that would mean to let the friends of their enemy into the country at a time when the Russians were actually fighting. Personally, I think the Russian Government acted very foolishly; in fact, they impeded the operation of what would have been an experiment of the greatest possible advantage to the whole of Europe. Look, also, at the Persian question. I wish to say again that I recognise the very difficult position in which the Council was placed, and I do not wish to criticise the conclusions at which the Council arrived. Everyone must have felt that there was a certain difficulty in dealing with the situation. When Russia was attacked the League did not interfere; when Russia attacked someone else the League did interfere. That is quite explainable, I admit, and we understand it, but this kind of thing does impair the reputation for impartiality upon which the whole success of the League must ultimately depend.
I regret very deeply the failure to deal with the Polish situation last January. I am not prepared to say whether or not you could now take any effective action. It may be so and I hope it is so. The difficulty is certainly far more now than it would have been then. I cannot feel happy that under these circumstances a course of action was taken which, if it is to be taken in regard to other questions which now threaten the peace of the world, will largely render the League useless and ineffective for its main purpose. There are questions already pending. There is a great dispute between Finland and Sweden. There is the dispute between Poland and Czecho-Slovakia. There is the vehement dispute between Poland and Lithuania. Is the League to stand on one side from all these questions? The Polish question makes it more difficult to interfere. On the other hand, here are questions arising, not directly out of the War settlement, arising out of the difficulties indirectly caused by the War, but not part of the Peace settlement. These are matters in which the League ought to be watching events with the utmost attention, so that the moment 1547 opportunity serves they may be ready to intervene as the guardians of the peace of the world. I recognise my right hon. Friend's great and legitimate fear lest fanatics like myself—I think that was what he really intended to say—should put too much on the League. There is no one who can give better reasons for caution than my right hon. Friend. But I hope he will not think me impertinent if I say I sometimes wish I could see just a streak of fanaticism about his intentions. I am sure that my right hon. Friend and the Government recognise fully the difficulty of the task in which they are engaged. It is enormous. A foreign friend of mine described what was desirable as putting on to an international plane the foreign policies of the courts of Europe, and he said, very truly, that that was a task of enormous difficulty. The change is enormous. We have got to scrap very largely our old diplomatic preconceptions. We have got to realise and to act upon the doctrine that peace is not only the interest of the actual countries who are endangered by war, but is the interest of every country in the world, and that each and all of them have a right to take such action as they can, through the League, to prevent an outbreak of war. We have no excuse now for leaving it only to the parties involved whether they shall fight or not.
My right hon. Friend spoke of the difficulties. He spoke of the enemies of the League; and he spoke eloquently and wisely upon both subjects. I do not think he exaggerated the power or the importance of the enemies. On the contrary, I should say he underrated them. In addition to the enemies he enumerated there are the whole of the forces of reaction, the whole forces of militarism and bureaucracy. They are all ranged against him. They must be against him from their very nature. [HON. MEMBERS: "The War Office!"] I must admit that I am not altogether without misgivings as to the attitude of the Government towards this question. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House complained yesterday that I entertained the belief that the Government is not sufficiently serious in its devotion to the League of Nations. I cannot deny that I have a misgiving on the subject, treating the Government as a corporate whole. Is it very unreasonable to have that view?
1548 I am not going back on the discussion of yesterday about Nauru, but I could not fail to feel during the whole of that discussion that the idea that the League was involved in that agreement and in that Bill came as a shock of surprise to my right hon. Friend. He had never thought of that at all, and he had no conception that the League was involved. My right hon. Friend still says so. It shows how widely we differ in our interpretation. I do not think it is doubtful that the Cabinet in this matter is not, I will not say united in policy, but not united in opinion. I do not doubt that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is genuinely a supporter of the League. I do not doubt that my right hon. Friends the Lord President of the Council and the Leader of the House are equally genuine and sincere. But there are some Members of the Cabinet who are at best luke-farm friends, and others who, I am afraid, may be, perhaps, described as partly concealed enemies. I cannot conceal from myself that this view, which I think must exist, is reflected in certain very influential organs of opinion, one of which has announced with great emphasis on two successive mornings that the League is dead, and the other of which has long rejoiced over its approaching demise. I am bound to add this, in the presence of my right hon. Friend, that not very long ago a conference of the Unionist Party was held at Birmingham, and that in the official statement of the policy of the party there was no reference to the League at all. In the speech of the Leader of the Party there was no reference to the League.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I know nothing about that. I was referring only to the party to which I belong. I do not make these observations in order to annoy my right hon. Friends, but in order to call attention to the fact that it is not enough to be just in favour of the League. The League is faced with an enterprise of prodigious difficulty, and for various 1549 reasons the responsibility for its success rests principally upon this country. It cannot be carried through by mere acquiescence. Its only authority is red-hot conviction. I am sorry my right hon. Friend thinks me a fanatic, because I know that that will discourage him from paying any attention to any observations I may make. But I do really and earnestly beg him and the Prime Minister to consider whether it is not really worth while to see the enormous possibility of the idea, to allow their imaginations to be fired by the greatness of the task, and to throw themselves heart and soul into this as immeasurably the first object of their policy. My right hon. Friend (Sir H. Craik) referred to the failure of other schemes. It is quite true that the Holy Alliance failed and that the concert of Europe was a very partial success. Those failures are a warning. We hope that in the Covenant we have done something to provide machinery which may prevent a similar failure of this effort. But those failures are also a great beacon. They hold up before us the passionate desire of mankind to find some way out. They are an example to all mankind, as admitted by my right hon. Friend, and they really think that this proposal does offer some chance of success, surely it is worth their while to cast every obstacle aside and earnestly strive to bring it to fruition.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I have already trespassed at considerable length on the attention of the Committee, and I must cut short any observations I have to make, but I think it is desirable that somebody should reply to some of the criticisms that have been passed. My right hon. Friend who has just sat down, I am aware, thinks—how shall I put it—that while we have given an exposition of views, which on paper are not inconsistent with the opinions which he himself believes, yet that the Government has been so cold and calm, that I am quite incapable of dealing with the subject which, in his view, can only be properly approached in a state of red hot zeal. [HON. MEMBERS: "Conviction!"] I do not undervalue red hot zeal. Fanatics are occasionally useful and even necessary elements in every great movement, but I am not sure that great movements have been best led by people who are always in a state of red-hot enthusiasm for those who insist on the point of doctrine and in a 1550 state of red-hot fury against those who find any cause for difference as to the main instrument on which they are engaged. Everybody who believes in the League of Nations must value the work which my Noble Friend has performed. In Paris, when I was there engaged on another branch of the tremendous international task on which we were occupied, my Noble Friend gave his time, his brains and ingenuity and threw the whole of his great ability into the framing of this document, and which, I believe, he has borne a very great part. It is a document which will stand as a landmark in the history of the evolution of civilisation. That is a magnificent performance to be put to any man's name, but, somehow all these transactions have left my Noble Friend in a frame of mind which makes me greatly doubt his judgment on certain minor aspects. He is in that frame of mind of semi-theological violence in which the smallest variation from the approved doctrine arouses wrath in certain temperaments quite out of proportion to the real differences of belief. I should have said that my Noble Friend and I on this subject, as on many other subjects, were in broad practical agreement.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
My Noble Friend said so at the beginning, but the impression left on the House towards the end of his speech was that it was a lamentable fact that this great cause for which he has such red hot enthusiasm should be left in such cold hands as that of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and myself. If that was not the impression I apologise. He really is, if I may say so, the most intolerant man on this subject I have ever heard. Nothing but abject submission, not merely to the broad principle, but to every practical detail of carrying it out will satisfy him. I can assure my Noble Friend however valuable that temper may be in moderation and in small quantities, although moderation is not the epithet that should be applied to it from any point of view, it really is not a temper in which you can approach dealing with 45 separate nations, each one of which has a veto on your policy. There is again in the Council a body of eight gentlemen, and each one of whom again has a veto on your policy. You must deal with human nature as 1551 you find it. While I entirely agree with my Noble Friend in all he says about the absolute necessity for the future of civilisation that this scheme, which he has done so much to create, should be carried through effectively, you cannot cut your way through with a hatchet. In that way you will only raise opposition where unanimity is not only desirable, but required, so to speak, by law, and you will not get unanimity by bludgeoning everybody who differs from you. I do not believe in that policy, and I hope my Noble Friend will not press it to extremes.
As to the question of Poland, it is a very difficult matter. It is conceivable that one or other of the courses actually taken was not the best, and it is conceivable that my Noble Friend may be right in saying that very good things might have happened if a different course had been pursued. My Noble Friend talks as if it was so obvious and so manifest that the whole League of Nations stands condemned before the civilised world because it did not take that course. Really that is an absolutely excessive point of view. My Noble Friend has admitted with his usual candour and love of truth that the conditions for which the League of Nations was created are not the conditions now prevailing in Europe. He has admitted that the League of Nations was brought into existence in order to deal with a world which, so far as human imperfections would allow, was more or less set right by the Supreme Council and the Peace Conference. That was the intention with which it was created, and that is the only intention, and it is obvious on every line of the document. There is a risk in using machinery made for one set of conditions, and insisting that it should carry out operations which are quite different. The conditions contemplated as to the League of Nations, although I do not say you might find a phrase saying this, was that where two nations were working up towards a quarrel the League of Nations were to intervene and say, "You are not to quarrel until some time elapses, and until all the machinery of law and of arbitration and all the rest are brought into play." That was the condition contemplated, but that is not what is going on in Eastern Europe. My right hon. Friend 1552 the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) seemed to assume that the War began after the League of Nations was called into existence; but that is not my reading of the facts. There really never had been peace. He assumed and stated specifically that the borders of Poland had been laid down by Treaty, but that is really not so. The western borders of Poland and Germany had been laid down by Treaty, but the eastern borders had not been laid down. It is true that a provisional boundary was fixed or arranged by the Supreme Council so far as the Supreme Council had power to deal with the situation, but the Treaty does not come in at all.
My Noble Friend says it is a monstrous thing our not rushing in and saying that the War must cease and that the whole case must be inquired into, and all the rest of it. I cannot conceive a more difficult and doubtful case, because you will observe not only was War going on, but it was a War with a Power unrecognised by any nation in the world. The Poles asserted, rightly or wrongly, that one object and one effect of their intervention was to free the Ukranians from the Bolshevist yoke, and that they were welcomed as liberators from Bolshevist invasion. To rush in on that sort of occasion is like rushing at a street fight and seizing the arm of one of the combatants, thereby, no doubt, putting him out of action, but leaving the other one free. We could not have controlled the Bolshevists. Therefore, the whole subject was surrounded by difficulty. Let me here observe that I think publicity will be useful if you can take a case in which, say, the great majority of the Council, perhaps all the Council but one, take a particular view, and that for reasons which may be selfish reasons or foolish reasons, but reasons which do not bear examination, a single member says, "I will stop all your proceedings." What is the remedy for that? There is only one remedy which I believe to be efficacious. When all the arguments are clearly on the one side and when those arguments are laid before the public, the Power concerned will have in face of the world to get up and explain why it stands alone against all the other representatives of the League of Nations. Does anybody think, if one of the eight Powers on the Council had said, "This is not a fitting occasion to use the League machinery," 1553 that that Power would not have been able to get up and make a most plausible defence, and would not have behind it a vast body of cultivated and uncultivated opinion, well-informed and ill-informed opinion, in every country of the world? I think they would. Therefore, though I do not dogmatise on the subject, though I claim no infallibility of judgment upon it, I am not sure my Noble Friend is really doing a service to the cause he has at heart if he takes this, in his own expression, red-hot view of the policy that ought to have been pursued. Supposing in this doubtful case the parties had not agreed, you would then have had to proceed by blockade. We have heard nothing but denunciations of blockade, and I think I heard some to-night by a right hon. Friend opposite, who seemed to think that typhus in Russia was due to our blockade, an error of fact, I think.
In the condition of the world contemplated by the League, the victims of blockade really would have had no sympathisers. You take a settled state of things, a settled community insist on going to war, the whole world turns against it and says, "Very well, we will cut you off from the community of nations until you mend your ways." I do not believe there would be any sympathy for the women and children of that community. They deliberately put themselves in the position of going to war, or threatening war, against the united view of the civilised world, and I do not think they would have any sympathy; but when the whole world is at this moment groaning under the difficulty of inter-communication, when the lack of means of communication, the lack of credit, the lack of rolling stock, the lack of everything which makes international life possible is the great curse under which we are suffering, then to say that the blockade is the proper way of dealing with the situation is a very melancholy thing to have to look forward to. Whether a country which can import so little as Russia would really be frightened by that is a question on which I have no certainty. My Noble Friend in his speech the other day said it would have a coercive effect. I am very doubtful about that, but at all events, it is a matter of speculation and I am afraid I must leave it.
I turn from Poland to the question of mandates, which was the next theme dis- 1554 cussed. My recollection of what occurred in Paris is this. Germany, by the terms of the Peace, was required to give up all her colonies conquered by the Allies and to hand them over, not to this or that country, and not to the League of Nations, but to the Allied and Associated Powers. Having handed them over to the Allied and Associated Powers, those Powers and the Peace Conference generally agreed that a system of mandates should be adopted, in the main with the view of seeing that the populations of those countries should not be used merely as subjects, but that their true interests should be looked after, and that they should be treated, not as mere spoils and booty of war, but as communities for which the civilised world had responsibilities. That great end, and I hope it will prove one of the greatest ends attained by the Pact, was to be obtained by mandates, but according to my recollection, while the terms of the mandates were to be determined by the Peace Conference, the superintendence of the use to which those mandates were put was left to the League of Nations. That is my view of what was intended at Paris, and I believe that view to be absolutely correct. In those circumstances, I think it is much to be regretted that the mandates are not ready yet, but I do not see that that is a matter for which the League of Nations can be blamed. I do not think anybody can be blamed. Everybody knows the negotiations have taken much longer than it was hoped or anticipated they would take. The League of Nations will come in when the mandatory powers have accepted the responsibility of carrying out the mandates, and will be required to tell the whole civilised world annually how it is they are carrying out the great trust which has been conveyed to them. Then the League of Nations will come in, and I hope they will do their duty. That is the general view which I take of the situation, and I believe it to be exactly in accordance with the facts.
I will now try to answer the other questions of my Noble Friend. He expressed great anxiety as to the permanent residence of the League. That is a question that is going to be submitted to the General Assembly of the League of Nations, and it would be premature for me to give any information on the point. He is clearly right in supposing that when 1555 the Pact was framed, Geneva was contemplated as the probable permanent seat of the League, and I have no doubt that if that is not accepted—and I have no reason to form an opinion on the subject—very strong grounds must be shown why the original intentions of the framers of the League should be departed from. Then my Noble Friend wanted to know how the Government or the Prime Minister were going, to select the three representatives which this country is entitled, like every other country, to send to the Assembly, and he particularly desired that they should not represent the Government.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I have never had an opportunity of discussing it. I have never, as far as I remember, exchanged a single syllable on this point with any one of my colleagues, and I have not the least notion what their view is, but I would point out that you must assume that the Government of the day in free countries represents the people of those countries. I do not at all suggest that the assumption is always accurate, but it is the assumption you must make, and nobody has ever suggested any better assumption on which one country can communicate with another. The second observation I would make is even more important. If you send people avowedly because they belong to different sections of opinion it is at least possible—some people would say it is probable—that when they come to discuss general matters at Geneva, or Brussels, or wherever it may be, they will not be of the same opinion. Very well, where will your country stand? It must be remembered that each nation is only entitled to one vote. How is that going to be arranged? Is it to be a majority of the three? The difficulties are obviously great. Is the dissentient member justified in canvassing against his two colleagues who hold a different opinion? I see the point of my Noble Friend, but I submit that to send three gentlemen representing one country, but of different opinions, is not improbably to weaken that country in the Council of the nations. My Noble Friend asked about publicity. I think I have explained how closely—I should have said how perfectly I agree with him in that respect, if I ever thought he would admit 1556 that I did perfectly agree with him—but at any rate I think I may say I very nearly agree with him on that point. My Noble Friend wants to get the Supreme Council out of the way in order to give the League of Nations a fair field. I entirely agree with my Noble Friend, if he will add a rider to it, which is that before the Supreme Council get out of the way it shall finish its work. I am not sure on which point we differ most, if we differ at all, but I really shrink from asking the League of Nations to carry out its most difficult and delicate duties in a world unprepared for its operations. I do not think it can be asked to prepare that world itself, and here I know I have got the assent of my right hon. Friend, the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith).
The League of Nations cannot do the work of the Supreme Council; it is only the Supreme Council that can do the work of the Supreme Council, and the sooner they do that work, the better, I am sure, the Prime Minister will be pleased, the better all his colleagues will be pleased, and certainly the better the British representative, whoever he may be, on the League of Nations will be pleased; but do not let us get rid of the Supreme Council until they have really made the world such as the machinery of the League of Nations can work in smoothly and effectively. I do not know if it is worth dealing with the point as to whether the Prime Minister of the day should or should not be in attendance on the League of Nations. At present my right hon. Friend has got an enormous burden on his shoulders, a burden rendered doubly heavy by the fact that, being a member of the Supreme Council, he constantly has to go abroad for that. If you are going to send him abroad, in addition to attend the League of Nations, you really will improve the constitution of the League of Nations, but you will break down the British Constitution, and possibly the constitution of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister himself. It really cannot be done, but when the Supreme Council is, as my Noble Friend desires, and as I desire, well out of the way, when, therefore, the present Prime Minister or any other Prime Minister has more time at his disposal, it may well be that on important occasions he should go and represent this country, as only he can represent it.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
Very well, there, at all events, I am happy to think that, whatever may have happened earlier in my speech, I am able now to sit down on a note of complete accord with my Noble Friend.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
The right hon. Gentleman who introduced this Debate referred to a country larger in area, I believe, than the United States, with almost double the population, not a member of the League of Nations, and now attacked by Poland. There was no indication in either of his speeches that any advice had been tendered by the League of Nations to Poland. There was no indication that Poland had been asked to refrain from attacking Russia. There was no indication that a nation ravaged by typhus, with one-third of its population disaffected, which has literally gone mad in a military sense, has been in any way approached or advised by the League of Nations. It is perfectly true that Poland was the aggressor. It is also perfectly true that when the frontiers of Poland were closed, a statement was made that they were closed for the purpose of stamping Austrian notes with the Polish stamp, when those frontiers were closed for the purpose of deliberately preparing an attack on Russia. I was in Warsaw at the time, and was told by a fairly well-known French politician exactly when the attack would take place, and what the bargain was. Whether he was right as regards the bargain, I cannot say, but certainly he was right as to the date of the attack. Three days before the attack he told me when it would take place, and that a bargain had been struck with General Petlura, under which Poland would give assistance to General Petlura on condition that part of the Ukraine was given to Poland. While all this was going on, there was no indication whatever that any advice of any kind was tendered by the League of Nations to Poland, and I repeat that Poland is a country ravaged by typhus, has no resources, has a disaffected population and has simply gone mad in a military sense. I remember Potsdam and Berlin in the pre-War days, but never in my life did I see militarism so rampant as I saw it in Warsaw just before the attack on the Russians. Clinking sabres, brilliant uniforms, thousands 1558 of officers in a country that ought to be devoting its energies to getting rid of typhus and building up its own stability. There has been no reference at all to any advice tendered by the League of Nations.
May I turn to the other great country of which I spoke, and to which only a casual reference has been made? There are two great holes in the League of Nations' scheme. There can be no League of Nations that can be really effective with the United States of America and Russia left out. It is very regrettable that the States should remain outside the League. Surely it is the business of the League not only to do what is humanly possible to bring in the States, but it is the duty of the League to do what is humanly possible to seek to bring about a settlement of the condition of affairs in Eastern Europe. There is an area greater, I believe, than the United States, with a population almost twice as large I am not thinking of Bolshevik theories of Government, but of 160,000,000 or 180,000,000 people cut off from the rest of humanity. I think a great deal can be done with Russia. I know, for instance, that Russia refuses to accept the delegation of the League of Nations. I know it, because it was told to me, along with others, by the Russian Foreign Minister, Tchicherin. Tchicherin's position is this: "So long as the different States will not recognise us, so long as they will not recognise that we are a sovereign State, it is below our dignity to permit their representatives to come to us. We insist on our right to recognition as a sovereign State, and we will not accept representatives from other States until that right is conceded."
That is the position with regard to Russia, and that is the determining factor why the delegation of the League of Nations was not accepted. I think, like the right hon. Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), that the Russians made a colossal blunder, that it was in their interest, as well as in the interest of the rest of Europe, that people should go to Russia and get to know exactly what the conditions are, and I can assure the House that, from a very short experience in Russia, it is perfectly evident that there has been a tremendous amount of misrepresentation, and that the condition of affairs in Russia cannot be described by an adjective. It cannot be said to be 1559 either good or bad. It is a most extraordinary mixture of the finest effort I have ever seen in my life, with a discipline, a rigidity and a militarism greater than existed in this country during the time of the War, and greater, I believe, than the British people would ever permit It is to me a matter of very much importance indeed what policy the League of Nations, and particularly this country as part of the League of Nations, adopts towards Russia in the future. The industrial population is half-starved. They attribute the condition of affairs, rightly or wrongly, to our blockade, and the attack of Poland and Wrangel to Allied capital. The people are working their way through semi-starvation. They are undoubtedly becoming imbued with a hatred of this country, to whom they attribute the sufferings through which they are going, and I want the House seriously to consider what that means. Assume that these people work their way through, in spite of blockade or refusal to recognise them as a State, there are 180,000,000 people being disciplined and trained in a military sense, occupying one of the richest countries in the world with natural resources, becoming imbued with a hatred of us.
I do implore the Government and the representatives of the Government on the League of Nations carefully to consider whether it is not advisable to make a free and an open statement, both on behalf of the League of Nations and the individual Government, as to what their policy should be. Is the hatred by the Russian people of this country to be wondered at, when in their hospitals day after day people are dying through want of medical supplies which they cannot get, owing to the policy of the Allies? Is it any wonder these people are getting to hate the very name of England? If it be true that there is no blockade, let that fact be deliberately and openly stated throughout the countries of the world; but if there is no blockade by ships, but through licences, let that fact be stated and not allow the people to run away with a false impression, deceived by an answer which is only half the truth. I do not know whether the statement be true or not. When I asked in Petrograd as to truth of the blockade I was calmly answered by the one to whom I put the question: "We will take you out to 1560 Kronstadt to-morrow, give you a pair of glasses, and you can see your own warships out on the water." A huge deputation of working men and women assembled before the hotel in which we were staying. One of the Russian workmen, a man who had returned from America, made a speech in which he said that the people of Russia, though they were not as badly off as 12 months ago, were still suffering intensely from the blockade, and if we could go back to England and get the blockade lifted we would be rendering the most valuable service possible to these men and women. The notion that in some way the present Government of Russia is being imposed with absolute rigidity on an unwilling population is, I believe, wrong.
I hold no brief for Bolshevism. The theories of Bolshevism are repugnant to me. I am still old-fashioned enough to believe that every man and every woman ought to have equal rights in the country. But I want to face facts, and I say that here you have a people who are hating us, and coming to hate us more, and who believe we are responsible for their sufferings. These people are fighting their way through. It is a very serious matter when you consider the geographical situation of Russia She is not only a huge country with unlimited natural resources, but she is in close proximity to other countries, and to certain parts of our Empire, where she could be extremely dangerous to the peace of the world, if the feeling of which I have spoken develops too much. I, therefore, think myself that anything that can be done now in the nature of lifting the blockade, would be done in the interests, not only of the whole of the nations of the earth, but of our own nation in particular. Surely there is no reason for the blockade? If we really are determined to see that the nation shall conform in its internal arangements to our standard of honour before we recognise it as a nation, and if we are going to use picturesque adjectives about certain men and their characters, let us not forget that we recognised Czarist Russia! The men who now protest against Lenin never uttered a word of condemnation about the knout, about the snows of Siberia, about the persecutions that took place for political ideas. They were silent then; now they are vocal! It is the merest humbug for men who did not oppose tyranny in the 1561 old days, now to say that the reason that we, as a country, do not want to recognise Russia is that there is tyranny in that country. If in the former times they had said we were not to recognise Russia because of the character of her Government, one could have understood the position to-day; but calmly to accept all the horrors of the Czarist régime, and then to pretend to lay down a creed for the present régime in Russia, is not exactly playing the game.
I have already said what I think about Bolshevism. But I also say that internal Russia can only be managed by the Russian people. I took the opportunity when there of meeting as large a number of people as I could, and as representative a set of people. In not one single case did I hear a word of sympathy with the position held by this country and the Allies. Mensheviks, Bolsheviks, and leaders of the working-classes were all agreed, and told me personally, and repeated it, that there would be no opposition to the Soviet form of government from them so long as the blockade and the Polish attacks went on. I was told by a Professor of Mining exactly the same thing. "Why," he asked, "does your country continue this policy?" I heard the same from persons of every shade of opinion. The unanimity was astounding. One would have thought that after what Russia has gone through that under no possible circumstances would it be possible to bring behind the Soviet government the whole of the people with whom one spoke. But this question of the blockade and of peace with Russia was the cause of their hostile attitude. Russia is unitedly behind the Soviet on these questions.
There is something very serious in addition. There is the feeling that the word of this country cannot be taken at its face value. I am sorry to say that there are what appear to be good reasons for that. It is possible for the Russians to assume, and justly to assume, that this country and France in particular must be behind Poland. The argument used in Russia was this: "Here is Poland, poor, disorganised; racked with disease, and internal problems: how can Poland conduct a great war without help: if she is getting help, whence does it come?" One is bound 1562 to admit that the evidence is strong enough from the Russian point of view to justify them in believing that we are helping Poland. It seems to be certain that ammunition made in England is now being used in Poland against the Russians. I spoke to one in authority. He volunteered, if I cared to go, to show me the actual ammunition being used against them. He also told me that English and French officers were fighting in the Polish army. My reply to that was that adventurer officers had been found in every army and in every war, and that a few French or British officers did not prove that their respective countries were implicated in the slightest degree. His reply to that observation was: "If you care to come with me to the front, I will show you the sort of officers we have captured, and then you will have an idea for yourself as to whether or not there is active assistance from the Government, or whether these men are merely adventurers, fighting for their own hand."
Russia will bear a tremendous part in the future of the world. There is that feeling there, and amongst some of us here. Because of that I appeal to the League of Nations and to this Government that as a minimum there should be a frank, open and public statement as to what is required from Russia before Russia is permitted to enter the family of nations. I will not say more on that point. I was talking to Tchicherin. He said that over 12 months ago he offered terms of peace to this Government on behalf of the Russians. He offered to pay every penny of British and Allied capital that had been invested in Russia. In addition he said he would make valuable concessions of land after peace was signed. The position of the Russian Government now is not the position of a year ago. I am speaking from what was told us by the Foreign Minister himself. The Russians are no longer prepared to offer those terms. Financial arrangements may be made. Certain concessions may be made. But the nation is not prepared to go the length she was 12 months ago even for peace. It seems to me there is growing up in Russia a determination to fight through in spite of us rather than to humiliate themselves in again asking for peace. The League of Nations might benefit humanity, and above all that portion of humanity which lives in these islands and in our Empire, 1563 by openness, frankness, publicity and by stating to the whole world what can be done in order to bring Russia into the family of nations.
It is impossible for a League of Nations to exist without Russia and the United States of America, and it is more than ever impossible when one realises what is the geography of the east of Europe. Is Austria quite satisfied at the present time? Does anyone dream that Germany as a country is quite satisfied? Does anyone believe that in the Balkans and in Turkey the people are satisfied? Here you have the possibility of making peace with a stable Government in Russia, which has proved its existence—whether its principles be good or bad does not affect the argument—it is a stable Government, and will the League of Nations do anything to avert the danger and to help the cause of universal peace? If the League of Nations is not prepared to work on those lines there is no chance of a lasting peace in Europe.
I have seen with horror the possibility of a development of a combination which may finally result in a war as destructive as, and perhaps more destructive than, the one from which we have just emerged. Picturesque phrases and denunciations of persons at the moment do not matter. What is required is not picturesque personalities but real statesmanship, which does not consist of violent articles in newspapers, but in getting at the truth and acting upon it in a common-sense way. Intoxicating phrases frequently blind men as to the true position. I have made my appeal to ears I hope that are receptive, and I would not have done so if I had not believed that England is running a very serious danger, and one which we ought not to run. I believe our policy is inflicting punishment upon 160,000,000 innocent people, for, whatever may be the crime of Lenin and Trotsky and Tchitcherine, it is the common people who are suffering, and who are only eating half of what is necessary to keep them in a proper state of health. I have seen these things myself, and I know from their own statements of the average amount of food they receive that they are only getting fifty per cent. of what is really necessary for their requirements.
Those are the people who are suffering, and, whether you like it or not, they are 1564 behind the Soviet Government, whatever we think of their principles. For these reasons I appeal to the League of Nations to carefully consider their policy with regard to peace in Europe and to put a check on their friend and ally, Poland, in order to restrain her inner madness and to persuade her to turn her attention to peace and get rid of her Jewish problem, and typhus, and clean her cities, and begin to build up her industries, and then more good will be done than by waging war for more territory than she can possibly administer. Here there are 180,000,000 people who might be our friends for ever if the right hand of fellowship is held out to them, instead of becoming our bitter enemy, determined to pay back old scores, and injure us as we have injured them. In Persia and India our own Government know already what the result of the quarrel with Russia has produced. Common sense, humanity, public interest, all of them demand an emphatic pronouncement, publicly made, as to the policy of the League of Nations towards Russia, and I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give consideration to a question which in my heart of hearts I honestly believe to be the most important question which is confronting our Empire at this moment.
Mr. L'ESTRANGE MALONE
I have listened with interest to the hon. Member who has just spoken, knowing that he was anti-Bolshevik, but I had some suspicion that his report of what he had experienced would not be biased. What he has said to us to night has been said with deep sincerity, and I would like him to have told us much more about the details, and I hope he will do this upon some future occasion. I think to-night the Government might very well take a lesson from the remarks which the hon. Member has made concerning the blockade. He has assured us again, if, indeed, it was necessary, that we have been grossly misrepresented and lied to concerning action between Poland and Russia. I hope the Government will appreciate that after all the best policy is an honest policy. It is best to be open and not to try and deceive the people whether in the House or the country, because sooner or later their sins will find them out. I am glad to hear that the Bolsheviks are moderating their peace terms, and I think we 1565 might say instead of the Government offering the Bolsheviks peace terms the Bolsheviks are really offering the Government terms of their own understanding.
I do not agree with the hon. Member who has just spoken that real peace will ever be possible between this country and Russia. No doubt an agreement would be possible on paper, that is, a trading agreement, but I cannot conceive that real, durable, lasting peace between a capitalist country or between capitalist countries and the Soviet Republic can ever endure. The two systems, the two principles are so fundamentally opposite that they will always be intriguing and fighting against each other and undermining each other. Even if trade and commercial relations are open, the countries surrounding Russia will practice sabotage on anyone attempting to trade with Soviet Russia. To imagine that the League of Nations can deal with the Russian question by bringing them all together round a table is to grossly contradict the elementary principles of human nature.
The Prime Minister in his speech last Monday week opened a great vista of peace with Russia. He was really only taking what I might say was the opportunist course. He sees the red light of the starvation of Asia which will spread all over Europe next winter, and probably to a greater extent in the succeeding winters. There are hon. Members who stand for vested interests, for property, and for financial interests, and they are the extreme right of the Tory party. They think rightly that peace with Russia with men who hold such long-established views is not possible. In my opinion, they are to some extent right. Lenin said very truly, and the statement was published a few months ago, "Continue to war against me, continue to support the Poles, continue the blockade, and you will have revolution in your own country. Commence to give us peace, commence to open up trade relations with us, and the spirit of the principles we are putting into practice in Russia will spread throughout your country."
I come to the question of the League of Nations' Delegation to Russia. Is it not absurd to think that the Bolsheviks will tolerate a mission from a body which is practically unanimous in trying to overthrow their Government? Everyone will see the point of view put 1566 forward by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Shaw). After the discussion to-night I do not think many of us will have any doubt as to the lack of benefit which will result to mankind from the League of Nations as at present proposed, and as we hear it discussed to-day.
It is very regrettable, it is very sad, to think of all the lives lost in the Great War. I suppose if it had been possible to take a consensus of the opinions of the men in the trenches or of the men at sea as to what they were fighting for, most of them would probably have said that they were fighting to establish a League of Nations, or to create some international organisation to prevent any further cataclysm of war. I am afraid, however, they were rather badly bluffed by the fine words used by Allied statesmen during the War, by men of every nationality who have given no real thought to what the organisation really should be or to the difficulties of setting up machinery to stop war. The fact of the matter is that no political movement can have any real foundation or true basis unless it is founded on an economic basis. This applies to all parties and all countries. Unless the League of Nations is founded on a solid foundation of financial economics, it must prove an empty myth. The League of Nations must either have a financial basis, it must either be really supported by international finance and have its own coinage, it must be supported by an international capitalistic organisation or it must be supported by international labour. It is not going to be supported by the great capitalistic interest. I admire the tribute which has been paid to-day to the hard work put into the creation of the League by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil). He is a Tory idealist, and I admire idealists, whether they be Tory or Bolshevik. But if we look at the Members who support this idea of a League of Nations, what do we find? We see that they are men quite dissociated from the hard, bare facts of life, men having no association with financial interests. We turn round to the other side, and we see a long row of profiteers, international financiers, and others, not a single one of whom has the slightest regard for the idea of the League of Nations. If the Noble Lord continues to pay tribute to the League of Nations, the best thing he can do is to come over 1567 to this side of the House and adopt an honest policy towards humanity.
In the opening speech of to-day's Debate we had an account of the Committees set up by the League of Nations. The first is to deal with disarmament. I have heard one or two remarks to the effect that these Committees are doing good work. But what has happened with regard to armament? We find the Admiralty selling battleships to small nations. We find America building a great fleet, and no attempt whatever being made to reduce armaments. Really these are very small matters compared with the real aim of the League of Nations. They constitute quite side issues, and even if these committees are doing good work that is no justification for this pseudo-League which has no existence at all. There was a conference in this country the other day of international delegates concerned with housing, and they paid tribute to each other, and especially to the Minister of Health. They were taken on special Cook's tours to see the thousand odd houses which are being built in various parts of the country. The most apposite remark was made by the Dutch delegate. He said, "What we want is, not principle, but houses." I hope his brother delegates will take that remark sincerely to heart. We have not heard anything about the work of the third Committee, which is dealing with transit. I think we ought to have some information about that. Then there is the tribunal of international justice. No action has taken place in regard to that. Really I cannot agree with the Noble Lord when he says a beginning has been made with the work of all the departments of the League of Nations.
The main point I wish to make is that the League of Nations will never be a real League unless it is based either on international capitalism or on the international Labour movement. We have had some figures presented to us lately with regard to the operation of capital, and we find that, in the years before the War, Great Britain was investing abroad at the rate of £200,000,000 per annum, France was investing at the rate of £100,000,000, and Germany at the rate of £60,000,000 a year. As long as you have countries which have to expand, and as long as you have the present credit system by which men put 1568 their money into foreign countries, you are bound to have encroachments into undeveloped territories. There is certain to be competition. No doubt many wars have been brought on for economic reasons. If one looks through the history of the last 150 years it will be found that the real root cause, the basic cause, of practically every single war has been an economic reason. It may have been disguised by religious or racial associations, but, after all, it has really been due to financial competition between nations. When I look at the ideas permeating the creators of the League of Nations to-day it seems to me they are trying to form an international trade union of international financiers and capitalists. The ramifications of finance are extending everywhere, and such extensions, with the consequent encroachments, naturally lead to war. They are faced with danger in the growth of the Labour movement, and really the League of Nations is nothing more than a League of anti-Socialists.
I am surprised at the support given to it by a large section of the Labour party. I feel convinced that they have not really studied some of the sections of the League. If the Germans had won the War, there would also have been a League of Nations, as we were assured in the frequent statements made by the German Government before the Armistice. We were therefore faced with the alternatives of a German League or an Anglo-American League. Probably there would have been differences in the methods of those leagues, but there is really very little difference in the principles of the two systems. There is little difference in principle between German Imperialism and Anglo-American Imperialism, or between the Imperialism of a reactionary monarchy and that of a so-called Liberal Republican democracy. The real forces of the world are quite independent of the League of Nations. It has no power whatever, and is not likely to have any power. The real power lies in the monopolistic banking interests of England, America and Germany, which are dominated by people who are not likely to give up their power to a new body of this sort. They will manipulate it, just as the same financial interests work the puppets in this House of Commons. The real world forces today are international capitalism and international socialism. The old racial 1569 differences between Germany and France, or between Germany and England, are being broken down, not for any sentimental reasons, but simply because the Conservatives in this country want to save their own skins. In connection with the revolution in Germany, the difference of opinion between France and England was not as to whether communism should be put down, but rather as to the method by which it should be put down. That is the policy which governs the Allied hierarchy to-day. That is why all this misery has been caused in Russia, and why the blockade has been continued, in spite of declarations to the contrary. They have waged war for two and a half years against these people, when they have no grudge against them except that they are socialists and support a political system which, if it succeeds, will undermine their own constitution. Talk about shaking hands with murderers—talk about atrocities; I venture to say that history will show that some of the right hon. Gentlemen on that Bench are as guilty as anyone in this respect. I am surprised that the Labour party pay such tributes to the League of Nations. It is not an elected or constitutional body; It is elected by the capitalists in the different countries. It has not even the so-called benefits of a Whitley Council; it has not even a 50 per cent. representation of labour. Even if its organisation were ideal, there is no provision in its constitution for democratic election. That is shown by the fact that the representative of the British section is a Noble Lord from another place. With all respect for his powers and capacity, he has no mandate to represent a single soul in this country except himself. That is typical of this democratic body which is supposed to be settling the future of the world.
Even if it were intended to be an ideal, democratically elected League, there is no spirit behind it to carry it into reality. We saw that in the Debate on Nauru Island yesterday. We see it in the oil-snatching plans to capture Mesopotamia, in spite of the fact that in the Covenant it is stated that there shall be free rights and free trade for all rationalities. There is no sympton of any effort to make the League a reality on the part of those on the other side of the Committee. Ministers pay it mere passing lip-service, and the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the 1570 Admiralty openly deride it. I would like to call the attention of the representatives of the Labour Party to the International Labour Section of the League. A Bill was before the House a few days ago called the Women, Young Persons and Children (Employment) Bill, and hon. Members who spoke upon it thought that this section of the League of Nations is going to benefit the working classes of this country. That, however, is an absolute myth. We do not know who represents Great Britain on the International Labour Section of the League. Up to a few months ago, it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorbals (Mr. G. Barnes), but since his resignation I do not think anyone has been appointed to fill his place. They are not elected, but are appointed by the League of Nations, which, to start with, is a self-elected body of international reactionaries. To imagine that they are going to try to benefit the Labour movement in this country is a false hope on the part of my hon. Friends around me. One of their outstanding measures was to the effect that child labour was to be limited to fourteen years; but in Russia, for instance, no children are employed under the age of sixteen, and as soon as this War is stopped they are not to be employed under the age of eighteen. With regard to the employment of women, again, in Russia, and for that matter in other countries, there are very much more generous provisions than there are in this country. This International Labour Bureau has no right to any association with Labour whatever, and the provision which Labour is getting from it are less generous than those which are given by the cruel Bolsheviks in Soviet Russia, who are guilty of such terrible atrocities and such terrible treatment of their children. What will happen when real disputes are referred to this body? It is little more or less than a trade union of international financiers, and we can imagine a date, not very far distant, when a big Labour dispute will be referred to it for its decision. That will mean endless delay. At present the pace is set by the most forward country. If a country has a highly organised Labour movement, if it sets the pace in a wages demand, or whatever demand it may be, that country is the forward country in 1571 Europe and other countries are quite able to follow that lead. We can see that under this organisation, if matters referring to Labour have to be referred to it, probably causing months of delay, the progress of the working-class movement will not be following the most advanced country, but will be put back probably to the most retrogressive country, certainly to the average pace of all the countries. Then, further on, even if this great international Labour Bureau of the League of Nations—a very fine, high-sounding name, as so many of these bodies are—actually produces legislation which is beneficial to Labour, there is a clause providing that nothing produced by this bureau shall be binding on the respective Governments. It is quite obvious what a betrayal the League of Nations is to those millions of lives which were sacrificed for the right in the great War.
The fact is there are simply two forces dominating the world to-day, and the League of Nations is quite powerless to affect those forces unless it works either with one or with the other. The two forces are international capitalism and international socialism. The Prime Minister was quite right when he started his campaign a few months ago to rally the forces against socialism. Whilst I do not agree with this side, I am inclined to believe that his diagnosis of the political situation was not far from the truth. Those are the facts as we see them today. The League of Nations, as long as it is dominated by the Supreme Council and as long as it is unelected, as a great many Parliamentary machines are, can only take the side of international capitalism, and there is no chance for Russia or any other democratic country to be allowed into the comity of those nations. The two forces will be fighting each other and intriguing against each other the whole time until one or the other is overthrown, however many Leagues we have, or however many commissions you set up to investigate conditions in other countries, or however many reports you have. Those are the facts as we see them to-day. If I wanted a Utopian ideal which was within the scope of practical politics, I am afraid I should have to look very much further than the League of Nations. I do not see any signs in the present League of Nations which would make me believe 1572 that that body will really produce much benefit to humanity or will really improve the conditions of the masses. I have no doubt at all that the League of Nations will be very beneficial to the concession hunters and oil-share mongers and dividend seekers. I have no doubt at all that a small minority will get a certain amount of benefit out of the provisions of the League of Nations, but as to the masses of the people in this or any other country getting any benefit whatsoever from it, it is ludicrous to expect it. If I look for any ideal within the scope of practical politics in the not too distant future, I should thing some international Labour organisation is the only means to prevent war. If war is to be stopped, and the crimes of wars and the massacres of thousands of men who are pitted against each other without a real knowledge of why they are fighting, simply for the whim of this or that group of financiers, I would far rather trust in the provisions in the scope of the third international than in this so-called League of Nations.
§ Captain LOSEBY
I have heard the hon. Member (Mr. Malone) make some interesting utterances, but I have never known him take a more amazing line than he has taken to-night. I must acknowledge that he has left me in a most depressed condition. I have come to the conclusion that there is not an honest man left in the House. His references to the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) cheered me. He referred to him as an idealist. I was glad to hear the words of praise that fell from his lips. But then I discovered that he was only a Tory idealist, and that even he was not completely honest. He could, however, prove his honesty by crossing the floor of the House and joining that splendid little mutual admiration society consisting of the hon. Member and, I suppose, those who sit with him. Even the League of Nations itself, which I had expected he would enthusiastically extol, he refers to as a trade union of employers and international financiers. Then, most amazing of all, he assures us that he is glad that his friend, the head of the Bolshevik Government in Russia, is now insisting upon harsher terms in regard to ourselves. An amazing line! I really find it difficult to believe the hon. Member is serious. I presume he agrees also with the latest of their terms. I understand a year ago they were prepared to pay 1573 some portion of their debt. That debt has now been repudiated again, and that is enthusiastically applauded by the hon. Member. The truth of the matter is, and he knows it, that if there were a single country in Europe which was at anything in the nature of enmity with this country, it would get his enthusiastic applause. Of that I have not a passing moment of doubt.
I have not risen, however, to endeavour to follow the hon. Member through his tortuous line of argument. I wanted to endeavour to put the point of view not of the intellectuals, but of the common or garden man in the street, and more particularly the man who went through this War and who has some difficulty in regard to this particular problem that we are discussing. I want to express some of our difficulties, and I want to warn the Committee against some of the dangers that appear to me to arise out of this scheme. This is no new idea, this League of Nations. It is no particularly brilliant conception. It occurred to every "Tommy" during the War and to every officer. It was uppermost in the minds of all of us. I remember one particular illustration that impressed itself very much on my mind. We were in an attack. I do not think there were more than 70 yards, certainly not 100 yards, between the German barrage and our own. We advanced between that double curtain of fire, and it looked as if at any moment the little part in which one was might be crushed out of existence, as so often happened on these occasions, some elementary thoughts occurred to my mind, and I turned round to an officer near me, and said, "What do you think of this whole business?" His reply was: "What inconceivable folly!" That was always in our mind. What was always impressed on our minds and always present to our minds was the madness of war. Whatever there may have been in the minds of people sitting at home, we, who were right in the thick of the fight, felt no anger in our hearts. We might have stimulated anger, but we felt no real anger in our hearts against the Huns. On a very similar occasion I heard one soldier, at a very critical time, say, "Thank goodness this is the last war." I said, "Why the last war"? and his reply was, "If it is not, then the world is bankrupt in Statesman- 1574 ship." I am sure that 19 soldiers out of every 20 felt that.
So long as the War was on and until the job was completely finished and the mess cleared up, we were all prepared to go on with it, but we know, or we believed, that the havoc was so colossal, the misery so tremendous, that when the world came to its senses again something would be devised, some machinery would be devised, some league of nations would be established to bring the nations together, and we felt that it would have firmly behind it the young men who had seen war and who knew what it meant. We realised as we never realised before that we still lived in a semi-barbaric age, but we felt that we should evolve from that, and we knew that the nations would come together under some scheme and that they would agree to support one another by force against any wanton disturber of the peace. On the other hand, I do not think that you will get the average man in the street to assent to the proposition that you must commit your safety to any half-formed machine, however great your hopes of that machine eventually may be, and however determined you may be in regard to the eventual perfection of that scheme by means of your enduring energy and perseverance. Our feeling is and our feeling was that you must clear up the mess of Europe. I think, and the average man thinks, that it is not cleared up yet. I do not suggest that you should delay getting on with your machinery. It is obvious that you must get on with it, and in due course the mentality of the world will recover from its stupor, and will then be in a position which it is not in to-day to go on and complete the job.
What has agitated my mind and made me wonder if I was more stupid than other people, has been what appears to me a confusion of ideas in regard to the functions of the League. Let me give an illustration which has been so often given, namely, the case of Poland and the intervention of the League in regard to the affairs of Poland. I have never been able to understand what machinery it is intended that the League should make use of by those hon. Members who advocate that the League should intervene in the affairs of Poland. I have never been able to understand how it is suggested that the League should inter- 1575 vene on behalf of Russia in favour of the only country that is the aggressor. Surely Poland would reply, "Do you guarantee us, on the other hand, against attack? By what force are you backed? What is your sanction? "They would make the obvious retort that the offensive is the best defensive. The League of Nations cannot possibly hold the arm of Poland behind her back unless the League or the Allied nations—call them what you like—were prepared to take up arms on behalf of Poland if Poland was attacked. In other words, until the League has adequate sanction behind it, it is not an effective machine. If the League had intervened on behalf of Poland, the aggressor, it should also have intervened on behalf of General Denekin and Admiral Koltchak on the defensive. It is obvious, as has been stated this afternoon with regard to this particular war, and with regard to the operations already announced, that it is impossible for the League of Nations adequately to exercise its functions at present.
I really rose to express the feeling that is in my mind that this Committee should not be tempted to take up the type of attitude that was taken up in 1914 in regard to armaments. We are told—inspite of the fact that we have gone through a devastating war brought upon us largely by our own inconceivable folly, and more by the politicians than by the general community, but all are to blame—that we must put our trust in an untried machine which we know perfectly well is not adequate for the protection of the world to-day. We are told we must neglect the ordinary precautions with regard to our own safety. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) has done me the honour—I felt it to be an honour of which I was not worthy—of denouncing me with the utmost violence because I humbly asked him whether, in spite of the League of Nations, we were entitled to ask for ordinary security, and he told me that security was the great bug-bear that had been raised, and that had brought about all this misery to the world. It was not "the great bug-bear of security" that brought the horrors of this War upon the people of our country. It was political intellectuals, who were not prepared or could not look at the facts in the face.
1576 They did not see what was facing us. The great terror of Germany to the world was growing up before our eyes; their Navy and Army were growing against us; but we were too busy with our party politics to take the ordinary and most elemental of precautions. Just as hon. Members have said in these Debates, when they referred to Bolshevik Russia. It has absolutely betrayed us, and yet they are never tired of stirring up Bolshevik Russia against the people of this country. It was the same in 1914, when we were told that if we had an Army which was anything more than the tiny little Army of that time we were militaristic, and were threatening other people, or, at any rate, that we should be thought to be making threats against the great power that afterwards tried to crush the life out of us. I want to say a word, and this is my conclusion, on behalf of the ordinary common or garden man, who sees all the horror of the War, and who hopes from the bottom of his heart that something will come from this League of Nations and will do everything in his power to assist any body, political or otherwise, in his encouragement of it, but he is not prepared for that very reason to neglect ordinary precautions in regard to the safety of the people of this country. We know that we shall be accused of being militaristic and all kinds of other foolish things by the intellectual "high-brows," but I am perfectly convinced that we have, notwithstanding that, the mind of the people of this country behind us.
§ Mr. T. A. LEWIS
I think the House will be gratified at the course which has been taken by this Debate to-day. I am sure the country will be more gratified. It has to a large degree cleared the air, and the authoritative pronouncements that have been made to-day will be welcomed on that account. It is not easy for us to forget the passionate welcome that was given to the idea of the League of Nations when first brought forward. I am sure I am not exaggerating when I say that there were moments during the great struggle when serious-minded men almost despaired of the future of the world. At that time of gloom the proposal for a League of Nations alone illuminated the future with a ray of hope and promise. One hon. Member said in this Debate that he thought that at one time that the allied War aims were all 1577 included in the conception of a League of Nations. The general feeling was that everything was possible with the League of Nations, but that without it nothing was worth doing. During the Peace Conference the outstanding achievement, in which we are all very glad that Englishmen took so prominent a part, was the Covenant of the League of Nations. There were people who said that, however good the Peace might be, it was no good unless the League of Nations was part of it, and, however bad the Peace might be in its details and material arrangements, it would not be too bad if there came out of it the League of Nations. We are told, we read in the Press, and we hear from the platform, all manner of fine promises in connection with the League of Nations. I have been afraid sometimes that it might share the fate of those of which all men speak well. It has been criticised, it has been praised, it has been eulogised to the skies and fiercely denounced. It has received everything except what it wants most—namely, work to do. I know there are difficulties. The Supreme Council has not completed its labours—war is not over—the glowing embers of the great struggle burst into lurid flame daily in some part of Europe. There is as yet no settled peace, and it is impossible in these conditions to expect the League of Nations to make progress.
It is exactly as if you sent a ship on its maiden voyage on to what is known to be a mine field and consigning it to your certain knowledge to irretrievable disaster. I know that there is a great deal of truth in that, but very ardent spirits of whom there are some in this House, whom we might almost call the red-hot enthusiasts, will say that this delay is very dangerous. You may say that it is a bad thing to precipitate the League into all this difficult work, that it is bad tactics, bad judgment, or any of those conventional errors which prudent diplomacy would eschew. But it is well to remember, as many in this House and outside it will, that the League of Nations is not an ordinary body, and therefore ought not to be judged by ordinary standards. It arose in no ordinary way, amid no ordinary circumstances. I do not know that it is depreciating the part which so many prominent foreigners have taken in the conception of the League of Nations to say that it really did not originate in any of the 1578 Chanceries either of the New or of the Old World. I think that in a very real sense the League of Nations was born out of the outraged consciences of serious men and of the suffering common peoples of the great countries of the world. Therefore it is well on all occasions to remember that it is an extraordinary body with extraordinary opportunities. In any case it is an heroic expedient.
I remember the Secretary of State for War early last year, when industrial troubles were harassing us and pressing the nation very hard, declaring that he deplored very much that the nation had come down so quickly from its high pedestal and had thrown over soon the heroic mood that had carried it through the War. There are plenty of us who share that regret to the full. If there was ever a time when the quotation which all of us have used was profoundly true—There is a tide in the affairs of menWhich taken at the flood leads on to fortune—this was such a time in regard to the conception of the League of Nations. Another point which is always cropping up in this House is that the credit of public men and institutions as we know them to-day is at stake. Ordinary common people, myself among them, have believed statesmen when they have declared in overwhelming perorations that the League of Nations was to become a reality. They would do well not to disappoint those people, who are to be counted by the million in every land in Europe to-day. They are not direct actionists, and they are not Bolsheviks, but they are the very backbone of order and progress and all the forces that make for enlightenment throughout the world. You will do well not to disappoint those people. If you do, they will begin to think that indeed the wine of the new times is too strong for the old bottles of the pre-War world.
One argument running through the whole course of the Debate is, that you must not give the League too difficult work to do at the beginning. I may be wrong, but that seems to me rather to mis-conceive the whole object and existence of the League. It was called into being, in the first instance, by the stress of a task which had become almost unbearable. If the League of Nations is alive to-day, it is because the outraged conscience of the people of the world called 1579 it into existence to do work which everybody else had failed to do, that is, if possible, to devise means to prevent in future anything like the great catastrophe which we have gone through. Therefore it would be well in future if we turn the argument rather the other way and say that if the nations who united to undertake a difficult task by their determined co-operation were able to do it well, it would give the League the prestige and authority which would be a very good augury for the League.
It may seem that I have criticised the Government in what I have said, but this matter transcends far the functions and authority and capacity of any single Government. Some of the critics in this House, and out of it, sometimes show anything but the spirit of the League of Nations in the criticisms which they have directed as to the performances of this or any other Government. I think they are underestimating the forces that are required. This is a work, not for a Government, but for the whole civilised world. Indeed, I am afraid that there is a general underestimate of the changed mood which has to take place in all the people of the world before the League becomes a success. We must have a metamorphosed public opinion, and the sooner it begins the better. Old Members of this House, who have heard more frequently than I, from the Treasury Bench, and have read in their papers, repeated arguments, about the time of the year when the Army and Navy Estimates come to be presented in this House—Estimates would be a little more swollen than ecomomists approve of—criticism would be met in advance by the dictume that, after all, "the best guarantee for peace is preparation for war."
§ Mr. LEWIS
I have heard it many times, and, judging from the cheers, other Members have heard it also. But I am afraid they have not heard it in quite the same sense as I did. If ever there was an eloquent comment on this theory, it was the Great War. High explosives blew it sky high. I hope that nobody on the Treasury Bench or any other Bench will have the hardihood to bring that forward again, while the booming of the guns is still ringing in 1580 the ears of the present generation. Is not it a better doctrine that the only guarantee of peace is preparation for peace? There may be some idea abroad that peace will come like a thief in the night, and that all we legislators and Ministers have to do is to sit down passively and go to sleep and await patiently the coming of the golden age. I am afraid that, unless the world and this country are prepared to spend as much money, talent, ability, enthusiasm, persistence and ceaseless effort in inculcating and enforcing the doctrine that you have to work hard to attain peace, the chance of world peace and the promise of the League of Nations are very much less than most of us hope that they are.
One point more, which I hope is not controversial. If the idea of the League of Nations is to prosper, it must inform the whole internal economy of every country. You cannot work it in patches. You cannot bring it out on great State occasions and parade it in show conferences to be held here and there on the Continent. Every nation must begin at home. It must permeate every branch of the national activity. For instance, it must affect our political controversies. I hope very much that I am quite wrong when I say that there is something in this Debate which shows an inclination, or rather a lack of disinclination, to use the League of Nations as a football in party controversy.
If the League ever comes down to be an issue between parties here, that is the beginning of the end of the League. I hope that nobody in this House, least of all prominent and distinguished Members, will give any colour to that suggestion. The spirit of the League must enter our industrial spheres also. During the War there were men who called themselves pacifists. They never ceased to preach against all military aggression and preparation, but during the War and since the War, night and day they have done nothing but foment discontent, strife, dissension, and tumult. That way lies the short cut of the return journey to the old world. Unless we can get the spirit of the League to enter our political affairs and our social and industrial spheres, it cannot be that power which we hope it will be in the future. The Debate has rather tended to show that the Committee at any rate want the Government 1581 to do one thing—to give the League a good start and to give it prestige. Everybody is agreed that there is one thing this country must do for the League, and that is to send the most prominent and the most powerful man in the country to attend at its Council. I join very heartily with the many appeals that have been made to the Prime Minister, that if he can see his way to do so he should represent this country on the League of Nations Council. Recently we have heard the criticism that we want a League, not of Governments, but of peoples. You can get something worse than a League of Governments, and that is a League of minor Government officials. If the Prime Minister can take this matter in hand and give it the benefit of his powerful presence and unparalleled record, I think it will be agreed that this country and the cause of human liberty will owe him an unforgettable debt, and that he will thereby add a still more glorious service to an already long record, by helping to make the League what it was meant to be, the greatest international instrument working for peace and righteousness that the world has ever seen.
Lieut.-Commander HILTON YOUNG
The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council referred in his interesting speech to the man of the world, to the fanatic, and to many other categories of critics. The incompleteness of those categories is exhibited, I think, in the speech of the hon. Member who has just spoken. Such views as the hon. Member has expressed cannot be called fanaticism, and they do not fall into the classifications of the Lord President of the Council. As I listened to the policy as it was advanced by the right hon. Gentleman, it seemed to me that I could summarise it in this way: that it was the League yesterday and the League to-morrow, but never the League to-day. I am a believer in the League to-day. That, I imagine, is what the right hon. Gentleman would call being a fanatic. Of such fanaticism I confess myself guilty. All through that very long—not too long—and most interesting account which he gave us of the secretarial activities of the League, listened to, I am sure, by every Member of the Committee with gratitude for what has been achieved and with confidence from those achievements 1582 in what was to come as regards the secretarial work of the League, there was yet, I think, this feeling felt by some of us—what is the character of all these works that are accomplished by the League? They share in common the character of being secretarial works of the bureau. The feature absent from all of them was the feature of influence, of operation in the political sphere. Is that all the League which we desire? What we were looking for was the League which was to be a guarantee against war. With all these activities, great and beneficial as they are, we as yet see no sign of that greatest work which we hope the League is to do. We believe that it is possible for the League to begin that work at once. Against that we have the argument set, that the League was not invented in order to deal with Europe as long as it stays in the disturbed condition left by the War. It can be granted, certainly, that the League was not devised with that intention. The hope of those who drew up the scheme was that Europe would more rapidly resume a state of peace. But have not those who devised the scheme builded better than they knew?
What is the alternative? A continuation of the present system of international control, exercised through the Supreme Council. Being less experienced than the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil), and in consequence, no doubt, less responsible and more rash, I feel, perhaps, inclined to speak of the Supreme Council in terms of less respect than those he allows himself. It appears to me as if the results of the exercise of international control by the Supreme Council were, to say the least of them, not satisfactory. Europe shows little signs of settling down; the members of the Council show all too many signs of not getting on well together. Is there any hope that Europe can be led back into the path of stable peace by the exercise of international control through the small group of Great Powers? I believe none whatever.
If the hon. Member will wait his turn he can state his view. If there is a reason why this system cannot be successful, I believe it is this: the other nations of Europe, who, are not represented and do not take part 1583 in the deliberations of the Supreme Council, will not look upon its views as expressing authority. The Supreme Council shows time and again that these nations which still have the war habit will not be influenced by such decisions, for the reasons which we all know so well, that a Council of the sort which exercises dominion and does not owe its influence to consent, is not trusted and has no authority with those over whom it seeks to exercise authority. Is there any hope of establishing an authority which will be accepted by those over whom it seeks to exercise it except upon the principle of consent? Where else can you find any such authority as that but in the organisation of the League? Where is the alternative? The Supreme Council is failing to keep peace and restore peace. It is failing because it is seeking to impose authority. No authority can succeed which is not accepted as exercised by the consent of those controlled. No body to exercise such an authority can be found except in the League. When those who are opposed to the League now are only in favour of the League to-morrow, and say that you must wait until Europe settles down before you can safely impose political authority on the League—
They say until you get a stable peace you cannot get the League into working order. It is no good saying you must not go into the water until you learn to swim, because you cannot learn to swim until you go into the water. Let me turn to the account of the actual work of organisation, of international co-operation, to which we listened this afternoon. Where so much was encouraging, I feel it is almost ungracious to suggest any hint of disappointment, but I could not avoid feeling a sense of disappointment even in the direction of the bureau and secretarial work of the League. When the right hon. Gentleman dealt with the activities of the League in the region of international finance, he held out to us again the hope of the Conference at Brussels. The most notable thing about that conference is that it has not yet met. Those who are interested in its possible deliberations and in the work that it may do, have been noticing, I will not say with impatience, but with a sense of slight disappointment 1584 at least, the apparent difficulty which has been experienced in the assembly of that Conference at Brussels to deal with international finance. We hope there may be useful deliberations on the part of the Conference, because the region of finance is that in which the greatest influence can be exercised on the European position, and therefore it is natural that it is in this direction that those who desire to see the League working would desire to see it given its head. There are two great questions which await decision. There is, first of all, the question of the establishment of something in the nature of an international standard of currency which might enable depressed and semi-insolvent nations to overcome their difficulties as regards the extra depression and extreme variability of their exchanges. Some believe that by the establishment of such an international standard it might be possible to avoid worse hardships. The matter is one which is ripe for discussion and on which the League might be expected to arrive at a right decision.
The other matter is perhaps the most important, and that is the question of a loan of working capital for the ruined states and districts which have been devastated by war and for the new States which find it impossible to start in their financial careers without assistance. Much, no doubt, has been done in that direction by granting credits to private firms and so forth, but much still remains to be done by an international loan of working capital which will take precedence of all other liabilities. Is it not possible that the League should be given more activities and more work in this financial sphere. Let me refer to the present state of affairs in Austria. Extremely good work and work of most extraordinary ability and practical utility is being done at the present moment in Austria by an international body for the restoration of the industrial and economic conditions there and for redemption from the hopeless hardships into which Austria has been thrust through the catastrophe of her unsuccessful war. By what body is it being done? It is being done by a branch of the Reparations Commission. To the ordinary hon. Member who is uninstructed in the subtleties of these matters, that may seem curious, since the Reparations Commission we understood was established in order to extract money 1585 from those countries, rather than to put money into them. The work, as I say, is being done as far as the ordinary individual can judge, with extraordinary skill, and high public spirit. I do not mean to suggest that the League of Nations would do it better, but I think it could do it as well. The question suggests itself, why is this work not given to the League of Nations to do? It is a disappointment to find that instead of giving such work to the League, when another course presents itself, that other course is taken. It is a disappointment to anybody who tries to believe in the words of encouragement and hope which are so often spoken from the Government Bench as to their belief in the future of the League.
In this matter as to whether or not the League is to be made that immediate and practical success which we hope and believe it must be in order that Europe may return to peace and contentment, like other hon. Members, I seem to see before myself two, at least, practical tests of whether or not the back of the Powers of the world is being put behind the League. There is, in the first place and particularly, that question of the representation on the League. There again is a question which is entirely in the region of principle and has no reference to any question of personality. At present it presents itself to us strongly that the best practical proof of any government that it will get its work done through the League is whether it connects up the organisation of the League with the high personnel of the Cabinet itself, and whether on all questions of first importance the Prime Minister attends and whether on all other questions it is the Foreign Minister who attends the League. If that is not done, what hope is there that the League will ever be looked upon by any practical man as an effective body? None whatever! It is a difficult argument to advance, because no doubt admirable work has been done by every individual who has been attending the meetings of the League. Everybody desires to recognise that and to applaud the spirit of helpfulness, of co-operation, and of optimism which, as we understand from the records, all those who have attended and advanced the proceedings of the League have shown; but still, what attention can be hoped for to the meetings of the 1586 League when you find a large number not even of Ambassadors or the first representatives of the Powers, but comparatively subordinate diplomatic representatives? Of course, no attention is paid to it, and, of course, everybody knows that the seat of power is really elsewhere, in the representatives on the Supreme Council.
That is one test, and the other vital test for the future is whether or not those Powers which are interested are going to press on with the Assembly. Here we are told that we must wait for the United States. If the other great Branch of the Anglo-Saxon race will join up with us, then the result will be incalculable good, but our hopes can be attained not so well, but in a practical form, even without the co-operation of the United States. If the other branch of the Anglo-Saxon spirit, tradition, history and blood is going to make the great refusal in this matter, then so be it. The injury will be great, but not fatal. We can still continue, but before we can go on to the practical Assembly, work remains to be done. Is it being done or not? The man in the street does not know. He goes so far as to know that the most vital thing in the constitution of the League is the constitution of the Council, and so far as he knows it has not been constituted yet at all. He wants to know whether that is being thought about and what the Council will consist of, and he wants to know that those who have the fate of the League in their hands are pressing forward to that practical consideration of the Assembly.
There is another great question, but obviously forethought will be necessary on it, and that is the question of the admission to the League at some time or other of Germany and Russia. I do not want to argue it one way or the other. I only suspect that if no consideration is being given to that question at the present time, it is a sign that those who are withholding that consideration are not taking the League seriously. It may be said in reply that these are matters in which the influence of Great Britain goes no further than her own particular work which she would have to do, but I think that is not quite the whole account of the matter. The influence of Great Britain in this matter obviously goes a great deal further than that. The hopes of the future are in the League, and the hopes 1587 of the League are in Great Britain. Her victory has given her the position, inevitably thrust upon her, of leader in these matters. It might have been otherwise At one time it seemed as if that position of leadership would have been on the other side of the Atlantic, but that is not to be so, as far as we know, and that casts the burden of responsibility back upon us. Knowing that, it depends upon us to realise those hopes which will be the sole adequate reward of the War for every man and woman who has taken an active part in it, not only for our own, but for the people of the whole world.
Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY
I believe it to be the case that this is the first full-dress Debate on the League of Nations which has taken place in any of the Parliaments of those countries which are associated with the League, and in so far as that is the case, I think it is a landmark in the history of our debates. I think it is also a matter of satisfaction to those of us who are supporters of the League to have heard the majority of the speeches that have been delivered during the course of this Debate. There have been one or two speeches, particularly that of my hon. Friend below me (Mr. Malone), full of gloomy pessimism with regard to the prospects of the League, also that delivered by the hon. and gallant Member for Bradford (Captain Loseby), who suggested that those of us who support the League propose to give up any security that we maintain at present and substitute for it the shadowy myth of the armaments which the League has not the means to possess. I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that that is not so at all. Those of us who support the League, desire to have sufficient security until it can be shown that the League can substitute anything that may be necessary in the way of national security.
I do not propose to enter into the friendly controversy between the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council and the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), but if I had to choose on which side I am in that controversy, I am on the side of the fanatics. I think the fanatics so-called—although I do not believe in being a fanatic in the sense suggested by the Lord President of the Council—are those 1588 who are going to win through in the matter of the League of Nations. The hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) delivered a very interesting speech on the question of Russia. If I recall his speech rightly, the hon. Gentleman suggested that the moment would come when the Government would have to recognise the Soviet Government of Russia. All I wish to say with regard to that is that it does seem to me that the word "recognition" is in many senses a fetish, and I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman and the Government that they do not allow themselves to wander into a quagmire in the case of Russia as they did in the case of Mexico. For a considerable period of years we refused to recognise the Carranza Government of Mexico, for certain reasons upon which I do not propose to dwell. But I do hope the Government will not allow themselves to be borne away by similar reasons in respect of the recognition of the Soviet Government; otherwise, so far as one can see, the Greek Kalends may arrive before we have any settled relations with the country of Russia, with which it is in the interest of this country we should resume trading relations at the earliest possible moment.
I should like to ask the right hon. gentleman what is the present position with regard to the question of Shantung? I do not propose to refer to that portion of the Peace Treaty negotiations which deal with the question of Shantung, but I do hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to inform the Committee what is the position now as between China and Japan on that particular issue. Whilst in that quarter of the world, may I also say that the question of the renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance is, I believe, shortly to come before this Government, if indeed it has not already been discussed? Does the right hon. Gentleman hold the opinion that alliances of that nature are compatible with the League of Nations? I suggest that they are not, and I do earnestly hope that the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, if it is not too late, will not be renewed; but that if it is renewed—and this is distinctly apposite to the Covenant of the League—it will be for a very short space of time. The Lord President of the Council, in his eloquent speech earlier in the afternoon, deplored the absence in the Council of the League of Nations of a representative 1589 of the United States. It is not for us in this House to discuss the reason why the United States have not become a party to the League of Nations, but I do earnestly agree with the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin when he said that it would be a great encouragement to our friends in the United States of America if they saw some active work on the part of the League of Nations which, whilst showing to them that there was no desire on the part of this country or of Europe to entangle them in European difficulties, would at the same time show that the League was an organisation which was earnestly desirous, and indeed capable, of preserving the peace of Europe and safeguarding us against war. For that reason I would support the noble Lord the Member for Hitchin and others who have spoken in regard to the representations that have been made in regard to Poland.
It was said by the Lord President to the Committee: "How can the Supreme Council go out of being until its work is finished?" But is that work going to be finished? Will he tell us that, and when? Has the Supreme Council to continue in existence for some indefinite period until, for instance, the end of fifteen years, at which time the plebiscite in the Saar Valley takes place? I suggest that the Supreme Council, as we know it, for various reasons has lost the confidence of the people of this country, and the sooner it goes out of existence, and gives place in our international policy, in so far as that is affected by the League of Nations, to the Council of the League of Nations, the better will it be for the world. There seems to be no reason at all why the work of the Supreme Council could not be carried on through the Ambassador's Conference in Paris, by the Prime Ministers from time to time meeting, if necessary, or by the ordinary methods of communication between the Governments in Paris, as there used to be prior to the War.
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said in his concluding remarks that in the matter of the League of Nations Great Britain had taken a leading part in its creation, thanks very largely, as we all admit, to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, and particularly to the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin, and that it was the duty of this 1590 country to lead the way in showing Europe, and the world, and our cousins across the Atlantic, that the League could prove to be a living organisation for the preservation of the peace of the world. I do earnestly hope that the Government and every Member of the Government will show by their actions in the future that they really have the League of Nations at heart. In this Debate hon. Gentlemen have spoken who have been through the mill—if that is a Parliamentary term to use—in the trenches, in France and other portions of the battle-front. I agree with what was said earlier, that all of us who went through all those experiences did hope and feel that something must be done when the War came to an end, and by whatever means, some machinery must be created, in order to save future generations from the calamitous disasters through which this generation has passed.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
There are a few points in the speech made by the Lord President of the Council which require some consideration. The right hon. Gentleman said that the terms and conditions under which the various mandates are to be exercised were to be decided not by the League of Nations but by the victorious powers who signed the Peace Treaty. That to me is a new idea. I do not quite see how the right hon. Gentleman reconciles that statement with Article XXII. of the Covenant which provides thatThe degree of authority, control, or adminstration to be exercised by the Mandatory shall, if not previously agreed upon by the Members of the League, be explicitly defined in each case by the Council.The right hon. Gentleman comes down here and says that the terms of the mandate are to be decided not by the League of Nations but by the victorious powers, and that the League is merely to exercise supervision over the carrying out of the mandate. The League is to have no hand whatever in the drawing-up of the mandate, but it has simply to tell the world once a year that what may possibly be a nefarious transaction is being carried to a successful conclusion. That is to be the only duty of the League of Nations in regard to the mandate. I do not see how the Government can reconcile their action with Article XXII. of the Covenant which specifically lays down that terms of the mandate shall be decided by the Council of the League of 1591 Nations. I hope the Lord President of the Council will tell us where we stand in this matter, and make some slight effort to reconcile the actions of the Supreme Council with the Treaty to which they have put their signatures.
I wish to say a word or two upon the question of the continued existence of the Supreme Council. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to infer that we desired the Prime Minister to attend the meetings both of the Supreme Council and the Council of the League of Nations. There is no reason why the eminent Statesmen, including the right hon. Gentleman who now represents this country on the Council of the League of Nations, should not transfer their activities to the Ambassadors' Conference while the Prime Minister is acting as a member of the League of Nations. I think the time has come when the League of Nations should occupy the centre of the stage. The League was not designed merely to be a nonentity, functioning in times of peace It was designed to meet difficulties. Many hon. Members have urged with some force that an instrument or machine which is never used must in time lapse into inutility. I know that the attendance of the Prime Minister at the Council of the League of Nations would entail on him a great deal of extra trouble and work. We all admit that hole and corner meetings in seaside villas are much less trouble, but they do not inspire the same confidence in mankind, and they certainly do not satisfy the aspirations of those who fought to wipe out this state of affairs. They do not in any way meet the desires of those who believed that they were fighting to do away with a condition of things in which eminent men met in back parlours and took serious decisions by which the fate of nations was decided. There is another point which is causing very great disappointment to the men of this country, that is the continued existence on the Continent of those great conscript armies which were so largely responsible for the recent catastrophe. I am advancing no new views. These views have been advanced far more clearly and effectively than I can express them by the Prime Minister himself, who, on the 11th of December, at Bristol, said:If you want peace you must put an end to the conscript armies on the Continent of Europe …. The first thing to do to 1592 prevent a repetition of the blunders of the past is to make it impossible for these conscript armies to exist in the future, and, if anyone goes to the Peace Conference feeling that this cannot be done, then he is not fit to go there as a representative.I realise that the Prime Minister in carrying out that pledge would have encountered vast difficulties in Paris. I submit that the time has now come when he should proceed to make some effort to give effect to his pledge. After all, we find ourselves to-day in the somewhat anomalous position that countries who are heavily in debt to us are asking and almost demanding financial assistance to relieve them of the necessity of imposing an adequate system of taxation; yet they are still maintaining large conscript armies and scarcely any reduction has been made in their pre-War standard. In view of our relative financial positions, they are practically enjoying these luxuries at our expense, and, at the end of five years, we find ourselves in the paradoxical position of paying for the maintenance of the very system on the Continent of Europe to abolish which we have sacrificed thousands of our best lives and spent millions of our treasure. It is the prerogative of this country, through the League of Nations, to call attention to the existence of these inflated armies on the Continent. It is a perfectly legitimate action for us to take to say that if there is no reduction of these armies there can be no financial assistance. It is absolutely our duty to humanity at this juncture to remove these weapons from the hands of these countries before some irresponsible statesman seizes them and again causes the youth of Europe to pay the penalty for the follies of the past. History repeats itself. Throughout history, with its long sequence of war, of provocation followed inevitably by retribution, the victor has snatched the torch of militarism from the hands of the vanquished and carried it until him self overthrown. I fear that certain Continental people, with whom we have been closely associated to our mutual benefit, have not noted the lessons of history and are in danger of incurring the retribution of the past. It is only through the exercise of our unparalleled position in the counsels of Europe to-day, through working in harmony with those who think with us in the League of Nations, that we can effect a change in 1593 this order of things. I noted with some alarm this morning an article in a morning paper which hailed the failure of the League of Nations on the ground that its breakdown would leave only one alternative, which, as I understood it, was the Third International of Moscow. This morning the failure of the League of Nations was hailed with acclamation by the organs of high finance and by the organ which, on occasion, claims to voice—I will not say represent—the views of the Third International of Moscow. Clearly that shows where we are drifting; on the one hand reaction, on the other, Bolshevism. A great wave of world opinion has been generated by the cataclysm through which we have passed. That wave must flow into some channel, and the stream is every day sapping the barriers of reaction which are set up against it. It is for us now to dig a channel of world organisation and of progress to prevent this great flood of opinion, this great reaction against the War, from submerging yet another epoch of civilisation. I hope the Government will prove that they really are in earnest about this matter, and will set about using all the material advantages of the power at their disposal to effect a reduction in armaments. That is the first prerequisite of European safety I hope that, in addition, they will do their utmost to enhance the prestige of the League of Nations, will lend weight to its counsels, and set up an authority, superior to the narrower national vanities and jealousies, to which we may look as some safeguard that stands between us and the disaster which I, for one, feel threatens us to-day.
With a great part of what has been said by the hon. Member who has just sat down I find myself in complete agreement, but I think he is a little exacting to imagine that the League of Nations could have sprung, like Athene, fully armed from the head of Zeus. I think he, perhaps, does not quite realise that its progress has beep more or less normal, considering that it has only been born something like four months. I cannot conceal my opinion that the subject of this Debate is by far the most important which this House of Commons has yet been called upon to discuss, because it is an international matter. Therefore it is eminently fitted to be discussed by the British Parlia- 1594 ment, which has become in a very real sense an international Parliament. It has to deal with international issues, and those, in the state of chaos in which the world finds itself after a great war, are, obviously, the most important. There was one part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) with which I did not find myself in complete agreement. He defined the sanction that was necessary to make the League of Nations effective, if I understood him aright, as a purely moral sanction, at least in the first instance. Is it not really necessary to have some rather stronger sanction than that behind the League of Nations in the first instance? Let me drive home my point if I can by reference to the question of the substitution of the League of Nations for the Supreme Council. Why is it that the Supreme Council still exists and to my mind usurps the functions which properly belong to the Council of the League of Nations? It is surely because the Supreme Council is the only body in Europe to-day which has clearly, to the eyes of all men in Europe, a force behind it which can enable it to impose its will upon recalcitrant nations. I suggest therefore that really it will be necessary to have some stronger form behind the Council of the League of Nations than merely a moral force in the first instance. When I say that I do not wish to be thought to feel that the function of the League of Nations is not eminently an educative function. If the League of Nations is a failure it will be a greater catastrophe to me personally than I can say, because I felt during the War that I was fighting in a War to end war, and I still believe that with all my heart and soul to-day.
It may seem to be preaching to the converted to set up arguments against the League of Nations and then merely knock them down, because in this House I have yet to see a really able advocate of the case against the League of Nations. The arguments of such advocates as there are seem to me to be reducible to this, that you cannot change human nature. That appears to me to be a very great failure. If the War has proved anything at all, it has proved, or it ought to have proved, that human nature is exactly the thing which you can change. The German nation could, and did, by intensive national effort change its nature 1595 in the period of 40 years—just over a generation—and surely the fact that we, all unprepared as we were, actually won the War proves that human effort, provided it is sufficiently intense, sufficiently concentrated and sufficiently continuous, can accomplish anything and everything it cares to think about or to imagine. It is because I believe that that my hope for the future rests upon the League of Nations becoming a reality, and it seems to me that those who do not believe in the possibility of the League of Nations becoming a reality are reduced in logic to one alternative. They can only imitate Schopenhauer, and Schopenhauer was reduced to going outside and shooting himself. If there is any meaning in the word progress it is impossible that the world can contemplate a renewal of the past horrors, and if any man has so profound a distrust of human nature that he imagines a repetition of such horrors to be possible, then suicide is the only logical proceeding. I want to say a few words on the subject of armaments, and I am led to do so by a remark which fell from the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik). He seemed, in spite of his subsequent denial, to have some little leaning towards the old doctrine of the balance of power. I do not think I misrepresent him in saying that. What did the balance of power imply? It implied the forging of two instruments, one against the other. It is impossible to forge an instrument unless you put it to use, and if you forge a military instrument sooner or later you will have to put it to use. That is why I agree so distinctly with the remark of my hon. and gallant Friend opposite when he urged the Government to concentrate all their endeavours upon the one supreme task of inducing the nations of the world to reduce their armaments. But I would point out to him this fact, that the Government have been so far sincere in their endeavours to reduce armaments, that not only have we alone of the belligerents returned to the voluntary system, but our Statesmen have forced voluntarism upon our late enemies, and to my mind the greatest tragedy of the Peace Treaty is not what is in it, but what is not in it, namely, the compulsory institution of the voluntary system in France and America.
The Committee knows what my hon. Friend is. He is a political aborigine. He has one crude nature, and one which he is pleased to call common sense. But common sense does not postulate the absence of ideals, and if he tries to get along without ideals he will find that he will not get very far. I support what has been said in urging the Government to put all its energies behind the League of Nations, and in particular I would reinforce that appeal by declaring my heartfelt conviction that if we can only show to the people of the world some concrete action which the League of Nations has achieved, and which no other agency could have achieved, that will be a great educative force in the winning of public opinion behind the League. The League can never, never be a reality if there is any considerable body amongst us which is half-hearted about it. It is such an immense edifice that it needs the hands of all of us to build it, and unless we all of us set our hands to the task of building it it will never be built. My last word to the Committee is this: if you do believe what was said during the War, if you do believe in the reality of human progress, and if you do believe in the eradication of the vices of human nature, then get behind the League, work for it; fight for it, and, if necessary, die for it. Then, and then only, can the League become a reality.
§ Mr. BILLING
I have listened to many Debates which have confused me less than this one. The hon. and gallant Member (Captain Coote) has told us—and I think he put it into a nutshell—that we must fight for the League and, if necessary, die for it. That is what we were doing for our country in the War. The Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) told us practically the same thing. He spoke of the fact that the advocates of the League of Nations lacked that passionate fanaticism without which no body of this kind can be accomplished. I admit that that is so, and because they lack it they will never accomplish that which they are out to do. What has struck me in the whole of this Debate is the lack of reality. Idealism is a very wonderful thing, but it finds no place in politics; it never has done. What then, without it, is the League of Nations, assuming that it is 1597 a reality, but an enlarged House of Assembly? You will find just as little idealism, just as little truth, just as little veracity, and just as little sincerity in their accomplishments, their work, and their efforts as you will find in this House. I do not say that in any offensive spirit, but does anyone who has listened to these Debates, and who has listened at Question Time and realised the bitterness that is put into these Debates, think it would be possible for anything to be accomplished if you relied upon a majority vote of this House? The Leader of the House knows as well as I do that if the Government relied on a majority vote in the Cabinet they would never come to a decision.
§ Mr. BILLING
Thank you. The hon. and gallant Member corrects me. I should have said "unanimous vote." Is the Minister for War in agreement with the Government in this matter? I very much doubt it. No, the League of Nations was abortive in the first instance. To whom do they look for their parentage? To an American President who dropped it on the doorstep of Europe and deserted it. Do hon. Members think that any League of Nations can be a reality without America, or China, or Japan?
§ Mr. BILLING
Well, let us assume that China is in it. Where are the democrats in this House—where is the Labour party—who believe in the majority vote? If China be in it, what chance has Europe? I would beg this Committee to come down to the reality. It is a beautiful thing to speak about what the world should be, butEast is East and West is West,And never the twain shall meet.We seem to overlook geography and climate. Picture for one instant what this House would be if we had Esquimos there, Red Indians there, Frenchmen here. [HON. MEMBERS: "And Bolsheviks there."] Do you think—I am speaking quite seriously—that these various countries, each with a national character, will ever agree? It is so easy to stand here and talk. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Perhaps hon. Members will allow me to finish. It is so easy to talk platitudes; it is so easy for us in these 1598 islands to say, "what right has France to have a conscript army," but are we going to defend France again, or are we going to ask France to defend herself in the future? It reminds me of the bruised and battered drunkard on the morning after the fight when he is never going to drink again. There has never been a war after which the bruised and battered nations have not come together and said. "We will never do it again." Wars were fought before history was written, and wars will be fought again. So long as we possess the nature that we do possess and so long as the world possesses as many national characters as it does possess, each with its own peculiar opinions, so long will there be war.
Is there any hon. Member who would suggest that we should sell our fleet or scuttle it and disband our Army and rely on the unanimous vote of some nebulous League? Is there any man so lost to all sense of responsibility to this country? Are we all internatalists? Personally I hate the internatalists with all sincerity. Natal pride is only the aggregate of family pride, and a man who is not proud of his nation can never be proud of his home. I may have a small mind. I may not be able to see the wonderful visions which hon. Members have seen in this Debate. The wordsThe Parliament of man, the Federation of the worldwere quoted this afternoon. They are the words of a poet. A poet is very useful for our hours of ease and may possibly inspire us to great and bold efforts, but he is no use in practical politics, and the League of Nations is just as much a matter of practical politics as the government of the country.
Many Members have attacked the Supreme Council. There are two differences between that body and the Council of the League of Nations. The first is, we have tried the one and have not tried the other. When we do try the other I expect we shall find that it is equally futile to bring peace. The second difference is that the Supreme Council represents only those people who fought and suffered in the endeavour to bring peace to this world, and not those who stood out of the fight and let others profit by it. Surely the nations who did make the sacrifices to win the War and allowed the League of Nations to come into 1599 existence have a greater right to decide, having proved that they were idealists by the very blood which they spilled in fighting for their ideals, how to bring peace to the world than the League of Nations, which has among its members neutrals that were so neutral that they did not mind who won the War.
To me it seems hopeless that we are debating this question to-day when in twenty years we shall have the old militant spirit throughout the world. It is now a little sore and bruised. We feel that we do not want a war to occur again. Immediately after the South African War I swore that I would never again have anything to do with war, but in August, 1914, I thought otherwise. Thousands of men in this country say to-day that they have finished with war, but if the wardrum beat again in another five years those same men would be the first to come to the colours. It will always be the same. The League appears as an artificial edifice built on foundations that cannot stand the strong passions of humanity. Even the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) became passionate in his attack on the Lord President of the Council, and the latter rebuked him, and rightly so. If we feel that we have suffered injustice as a nation or as individuals we want to assert our rights.
Finally, I would ask, if the League of Nations is to be a reality how is it to enforce its decisions? By a gang of international police. Is France going to allow England to enforce League decisions, or is England going to allow Germany? No. There will be a gang of internationalists, men who will take up the sword and the rifle for the reason that Germany took them up—for the sheer love of Prussianism, or killing, or call it what you like. Men will be called to the banner of the League as pure mercenaries. If the League becomes a reality, it will be a capitalist monopoly, because capitalists can buy public opinion, and public opinion will influence the elections of the League, just as it influences elections to this House. I know that Labour is bitter against capitalism.
§ Mr. BILLING
If ever we get a League of Nations, if ever we get its will en- 1600 forced by international police, they would be the parasites and the satellites of international capitalists. I want to see Labour delivered from that, although Labour may not imagine I think so well of it. I do not want to see the national spirit die out. At question time to-day it was amazing to see hon. Members jumping up and attacking the Secretary of State for War for taking away the national dress of Scotland and for proposing to disband the Scots Guards and the Irish Guards and the Welsh Guards. What do those regiments stand for? For national ideals. Those men are willing to die, not for international policy, but for national ideals, for what they honestly believe to be true. Unless the world came into it—it never will—and unless it can be governed by greater ideals than it has ever been my lot to see in the political world in my time, I am afraid the League is abortive and a fallacy. America is laughing at us to-day. The Americans are essentially a practical people. Are we to disarm the whole of Europe and be the slaves of an armed American nation? America is building ships and arming them to-day. "Be prepared" is the motto of the Boy Scouts in this country and in other countries. It is a very fine organisation which teaches chivalry.[Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh—
§ Mr. BILLING
I do not propose to allow the interruption to prevent me saying what I wish to say. The national spirit has a real meaning. Hon. Members who plead the cause of any nation but their own are not confined to this side of the House. The show we are making out of a total of 770 Members is surprising on this full-dress Debate. I appeal to Members not to be led aside to wasting further time on what will never be a reality, no matter what we may wish. Let us, after these six years, try to get to reality. In a thousand years there will still be nations. I think we should give a little more time to getting unity in our own Empire. If we cannot rule Ireland, will the League of Nations or a Chinese mandate tell us how to do so? Idealists tell us they would welcome Germany into the League of Nations, but 1601 if Germany wants to prove the failure of the League, she could seize it by becoming a member and by giving a minority vote on all occasions and thus checkmate the League on every occasion on which it wished to come to a decision.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I have listened to the exposition of realism by the hon. Member (Mr. Billing), but if he had not told us several times we would have taken it for something else. I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) and I wondered whether that speech had made the same effect on the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench as it had on the rest of the Members of the House. That speech coming from a Member considered to be of the right wing, is more significant than it may appear to be, and when read tomorrow will have considerable effect upon large numbers of moderate-minded men who have hitherto been held from some of the more direct ways of dealing with questions. In the case of further military developments, I sometimes ask myself, where this country or any other country can get the men to face that position. The hon. Gentleman says that directly the drum beats the men will be there, but I can assure him that that may have been right in the case of the number of men that were active in the Boer War, but when you consider that the whole of the nation was concerned in the last War—and I did not rise to be a brigadier-general, but I attained the full rank of a driver in the artillery—I want to point out the significance, even now, of the fact that in order to get soldiers the Secretary of State for War thinks it necessary to trick men out in red coats once more as an attraction. He can trick them out in pink if he likes, but he will not get soldiers with the prospects held out by the hon. Member. I wish the hon. Member could come into some of our meetings in the villages and small towns; he would find there that some of the men who are most active in supporting internationalism are those who were prepared to suffer for their nation. The exposition of internationalism given by the hon. Member is romantic in the extreme. It does not signify that, because a man believes in international organisation, he does not love his nation or that he is not proud of his 1602 country or even of the town in which he lives, but I want to point out the significant fact to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) that more and more as the reality of the League of Nations becoming a concrete thing recedes into the distance men are relying upon international labour organisation as the only hope of the world. Very shortly the miners will be meeting on the international field; they are cementing that organisation. Ex-service men are doing the same thing; whichever way you turn men are relying upon the international labour organisation. They are prepared to give their support to the League of Nations in so far as it proves itself worth while, and they are prepared to use what ability and strength they have to make the League of Nations a living reality, but at the same time every failure of the League of Nations to create the spirit of peace and to build up a real organisation in the world strengthens the tendency to an organisation which may have other effects than those that some of us desire. One hon. Member spoke of the Labour party's attitude towards the League of Nations, but I am sure my faith in the League withstood the shock of his speech, even with his direct attack on labour, but I scarcely survived the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite who supported it.
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.