§ Mr. ASQUITH
The successive stages of this Bill have always been regarded as the appropriate and constitutional occasions for Members to ask the House to pass in review whatever may be, for the time being, the outstanding features of administrative work. I wish to ask their attention for a very short time this afternoon to one or two aspects which seem to me to be of special urgency and importance in the domain of foreign policy. I shall purposely leave on one side for the moment, Russia and all questions connected with Russia. From many points of view her position and her prospects may be said to be at once the crux and the key of the international situation. But for to-day I am quite content to confine myself to the expression of a hope that the proposed Commission of Inquiry under the auspices of the League of Nations, which has been or is about to be constituted, will not delay proceeding to discharge its all-important functions. Nor will I say anything about the position of things in Germany, for reasons which I think are obvious, except to ask the Government for any information they can now give us as to the inner meaning and the probable results of the recent revolutionary movement, and whether they can hold out to the House and to the country, and indeed to the world, a prospect there, so far as one can forecast, of the establishment of a stable governmental régime. The points to which I wish to draw special attention are two, the first the re-arrangement and the future government of what used to be Turkish territory, and next, the condition of Austria and the Central European States.
First, in regard to Turkey, we shall all agree—I daresay that it was nobody's 640 fault—that there has been what has proved in fact to be the most regrettable delay in the peace negotiations and in the attainment of something like a final conclusion in that part of the world. I am well aware that there is no part of the international sphere in which the work of settlement is more difficult. If that be true, it is equally true that there is no part of the world in which the continuance of unsettlement is more pregnant with trouble and even with danger. I believe that there are one or two propositions in regard to the Ottoman Empire which in this country meet practically with universal assent. The first is that the continuance of the Ottoman Government as an effective administrative and governing machine in any part of Europe has become an anachronism and danger. The next is, and I believe that this is common ground, not only here, but among all the Allied and Associated Powers, that the control of the Straits, upon which the commanding position, strategical and otherwise, of Constantinople in the long run depends, is no longer to be in the hands of the Ottoman Government. It is, as I understand, to be internationalised; whether directly or indirectly under the League of Nations, I do not know, and for the moment I do not inquire, but it has become a matter of international interest and concern. Further, I think it is an open secret that His Majesty's Government for a long time, almost up to the end, were in favour of the actual expulsion of the Turk from Constantinople itself. They have yielded in that respect, not perhaps from any conviction based upon the expediency or the policy of the case, but they have yielded to the expression of sentiment, religious sentiment, traditional sentiment, on the part of our Moslem fellow-subjects in India.
I should like, if I may, to say one or two words upon this point. We have had in this country a delegation purporting to represent, we do not know with what degree of real authority, Moslem opinion in India. They have circulated a memorial, which I suppose has been in the hands of all hon. Members, and I myself have had the privilege of an interview with them. The conclusion to which I have come, both from reading their memorandum and from the interchange 641 of ideas which took place, is that, from the point of view of Moslem sentiment in India, the future of Constantinople, though not without considerable interest to them, not without affecting their religious and traditional susceptibilities, is, after all, a matter of secondary and subordinate importance. Their case is of a much wider, and of a very different kind. It, briefly and crudely, but, I think, accurately, stated, amounts to this, that Moslem sentiment and religious sentiment would not look with indifference upon, but, indeed, would contemplate with repugnance and alarm, the assumption by a Christian Power of direct sovereignty and authority over any part of the territory that used to belong to the Ottoman Empire, which comprises the sites of the holy places and the holy shrines of the Mohammedan religion. After all, the connection of the Caliphate with Constantinople is a comparatively modern matter. The Sultan as Caliph has not been there for more than about three or four hundred years. The Caliphate in days gone by has had a site, first in Damascus, then in Baghdad, and then in Cairo, none of which are regarded in India, in the technical and religious sense, as comprised among the holy places. Constantinople certainly has no better claim than any of those famous historical towns to such title.
The pretensions which are put forward, the larger pretensions to which I alluded a moment ago, I do not hesitate to say, speaking with all deference and respect for the religious sentiment of our Mohammedan subjects, are entirely untenable. What would they amount to? They would amount to this, that the Sultan who joined the Central Powers in this War without justification, and indeed without provocation, and who has sustained with them disaster and the well-merited disaster of a common defeat, that the Sultan, while Germany is dismembered, while Austria is dismembered, and while all the other belligerent Powers who took that side are suffering more or less, and righteously suffering for the part that they took, in virtue of his religious position as Caliph, is to go out practically scot free. You cannot wage wars in these days, even if you are a Caliph, on the terms of limited liability. I am glad to know that Arabia, Syria, Palestine, and Mesopotamia, all of which contain the sites 642 in one part or another of these Holy places and Holy shrines, are regarded by the Allied Powers, and indeed by the common consent of the civilised world, as not to be restored to the direct or indirect authority of the Ottoman Sovereign. As regards Constantinople itself, I quite realise the difficulty, and now that the announcement has been made throughout the Mohammedan world that the Sultan is not to be expelled from Constantinople, I think it would be very difficult, and indeed from a political point of view impracticable, to recede from that position. If that meant that the Sultan was to be put back into Constantinople in his old position with the opportunities of intrigue, playing off one Christian Power against another, of which for thirty years Abdul Hamid availed himself to the full, with disastrous effects both to his own Empire and to the world at large, I should say that it was an intolerable solution. I cannot imagine that to be within the contemplation of His Majesty's Government or of any great Power. I confess, for my part, that I am inclined, and the more inclined the more I consider the matter, to regard the best experiment—anything you do must be in the nature of an experiment—and most hopeful experiment, I put it no higher than that, to be what has been called the "Vaticanising" of the Sultan. The word is not my own invention; it is, I think, the invention of M. Clemenceau.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Lloyd George) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
Well, we will not quarrel about the authorship; the moaning is perfectly clear. Let him be there with all his spiritual and religious attributes, let him go to his Mosque and perform whatever functions properly belong to the Caliphate in the Mohammedan faith, but, at the same time, let it be clearly understood and clearly provided that he is there in that capacity and that alone, and, so far as responsibility for Government and for policy is concerned, it is no longer in his hands, but in the hands of the great Powers, and, indeed, as I should prefer to say, of the League of Nations. If, as I said a few moments ago, you neutralise and internationalise the Straits, to which you have agreed, the strategical importance of Constantinople is almost immeasurably diminished, and I cannot myself see any 643 reason why the Sultan remaining there in this "Vaticanised" neutralised position should be a serious menace to the peace and good government of European Turkey, or of Europe at large. Indeed, there is a good deal to be said for keeping him at Constantinople under those conditions, for if you let him loose in Asia, which is the only alternative, he is out of range of surveillance and effective control, and he is much nearer the scene in which the worst misdeeds of his Government have been and are being practised, and I am disposed to think, and it is a growing opinion, that Christian Europe, however embodied in an authentic organ like the League of Nations, will have less effective control to counteract the ineradicable tendencies of a Sultan Government than if he remains under the limited conditions that I have described on this side of the Bosphorus.
That is all that I have to say on that part of the Turkish question, but there are two other aspects of it upon which I think it would be desirable that we should receive further information from His Majesty's Government. The first—in some ways it is a question perhaps of the most poignant interest, though not so far as we are concerned of permanent importance—is the future status of Armenia and the Armenian people. I am not going into one of the most vexed of all geo graphical and ethnological questions, namely, what are the precise boundaries and areas of Armenia? It would be, for instance, a very interesting, but a very difficult, problem to say how far, in Cilicia, where those recent massacres have occurred, there is, in point of number and religion, a preponderating Armenian or Christian population. What is wanted—and this is a point on which I would ask my right hon. Friend to give us any information he can—what is wanted, in my judgment, is a liberal extension westwards, and perhaps south-westwards, of the present limits of the new Republic of Erivan; and at the same time, though I am afraid it is not in a position to stand entirely upon its own legs and to live entirely upon its own resources, the provision for that Republic of more effective means of self defence. It has been suggested, and I think with reason, at any rate with plausibility, that that might be effected, or at 644 any rate very largely helped, by the despatch of European officers to train and organise the native forces on the spot. That is a matter of the greatest urgency it admits of no delay; and why? Because, so long as Mustapha Kemal and his forces are at large, and the Armenians are left with an inadequate provision for self-protection, the recurrence of massacre and outrage is only a question of time In the prevention of such terrible events as those of 1915, supplemented, as they were, by the events of January and February of the present year, I conceive the honour and conscience of the Christian Powers of Europe are involved. I hope we may receive some assurance that this is a matter which has not only been lost sight of, but is receiving urgent and practical consideration.
The other part of the Turkish Dominion in Asia, on which I think the House is entitled to some more explicit statement of policy than we have yet received, is Mesopotamia. In a sense we are there, as a nation, even more directly concerned. We are maintaining there, the Secretary of State for War told us a few nights ago, an army of over 60,000 men, of whom, I think, something like 18,000 are white troops. The Secretary of State told us, in the Debate on the Army Estimates, that he hopes, before the close of the next financial year, that that force may be reduced by one-half, or something like one-half, I earnestly share that hope, but, at the same time, I am confident that the only way of realising it is to curtail and contract the area of our responsibilities. Let me remind the House of the history of this matter. I myself was very much concerned with it in its early stages. Our original occupation, which, I think, goes as far back as October, or at any rate the late autumn of, 1914, extended only to the area of the Vilayet of Basra, a thoroughly defensible strategic position, which has the double advantage that it controls the lower waters—all-important for this purpose—of the Tigris and Euphrates, and that it commands the head of the Persian Gulf. For reasons both military and political, we were driven, I think inevitably and legitimately, during the War, to advance to Bagdad, and subsequently to Mosul; and I think we have been even further. We have had to encounter from time to time, and, I suppose, are encountering still, the sporadic attacks of Arabs and 645 Kurds. Mesopotamia is proverbially a vague and indefinite term. Mesopotamia, as a geographical area, has really no natural frontier, and, although I am quite prepared to believe, and, indeed, to maintain, that those advances, first to Baghdad and then beyond, were dictated by adequate military and political considerations, I am equally sure that, if we remain in that area, and upon the scale of our present force in our comparatively recent operations, we should be driven, sooner or later, by inevitable necessity, to advance to that which is really the only natural boundary of this vaguely defined geographical unit—to the shores of the Black Sea or the Caspian. Those are responsibilities which we have no obligation to undertake, and for which, I do not hesitate to say, in the present state of our national resources, we have no adequate means to provide. I earnestly trust that the Government will be able to tell us to-day that they have a settled policy in this matter, and that it is a policy of withdrawal and concentration. I should like, myself, to hear it announced that it has been or will be—it must be a matter of slow degrees, I admit—possible to confine our direct obligation to the zone of Basra, where, as appears from the report of Sir John Prescott Hewett—a very admirable and interesting document—by far the larger part of the very heavy expenditure which we have made in that part of the world in the course of the last three or four years, from which any remunerative return can be expected, has been incurred. That, I am satisfied, ought to be the aim and objective—I do not say it can be at once attained—of our Mesopotamian policy.
I pass now from those matters to a sphere of policy which, although remote, is still somewhat nearer home—I mean that of what used to be called Austria, and of the Central and Eastern European States, once members of the Austrian Empire, which are now struggling, and rightly struggling, into independent life. I doubt whether, in any part of Europe, the economic dislocation and the acute misery and suffering which are the legacy of the War are so appalling and so widespread. There was a despatch, which has been published, I think, as a Parliamentary Paper, from Sir William Goode to Lord Curzon at the beginning of January in the present year, 646 which gives a perfectly explicit and un-coloured—and for that reason, perhaps, a still more impressive—account than anything I have seen, of the condition of things in that part of Europe. It is summed up, and, I think, quite accurately, in two or three sentences which I will read from the Journal of the League of Nations Union of the present month These are the words:The despatch conjures up a vision of incredible economic and financial chaos—wagons where there are no locomotives, locomotives where wagons are non-existent, coal with no vehicles in which to transport it, oil with no oil tank wagons—accompanied by so much human suffering that the mind can hardly believe and can hardly conceive it.I may add to that, as regards Vienna itself, and the great towns, or what were the great towns, of the Austrian Empire, you have, and have had now for months, hospitals without drugs, homes without fuel, children without food; and all this is aggravated by the policy, I cannot help thinking the misguided and shortsighted policy, which those States are pursuing among themselves. In the first place, you have in Austria, so I am told, I believe on, the best authority—in what remains of Austria; I am speaking of Austria proper—something like 200,000 officials, whose main occupation' appears to be to obstruct and counteract one another. You have, as this summary of Sir William Goode's dispatch quite accurately points out, Czecho-Slovakia, with a sugar surplus, unwilling to sell to famine-stricken Austria; you have Jugo-Slavia, one of the few central European countries with a surplus of food products, desirous to sell its crops to countries where it can obtain the credit which it requires to purchase wool and cotton; and, as a result, Austria itself, with these two adjacent States, both of which once formed constituent parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire—Austria itself starving, while her neighbours are selling their surplus produce in distant parts. That is a state of things which is really a reproach to the statesmanship—I will not say the diplomacy—of Europe, and, I think, to the conscience of the civilised world.
What is to be done? There are two obstacles to what I may call the initial stages of economic reconstruction in that part of the world. The first is one to which I have already referred—the barriers 647 which they are setting up one against the other. In regard to that, as I ventured to say a fortnight ago, speaking on another matter, I earnestly trust and hope that the pressure of the Allied and Associated Powers will be brought to bear to bring it to an end. The second obstacle, and perhaps the more important one for practical purposes—and it is upon this that I wish to elicit, if I can, the opinion of His Majesty's Government—to even the rudiments of reconstruction, is the need of credits to restart and enlarge the scale of production and to provide adequate and workable machinery for transport and distribution. "What is the great difficulty in the way of removing and improving that state of things? Surely it is the existence, under the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles and through the operation of the Reparation Commission, of an indefinite mortgage on the resources of the Austrian people. It is a floating charge, undefined in amount and possibly of immeasurable duration upon the whole of the industry and enterprise of the country, and so long as that charge exists in this nebulous, but at the same time crushing and paralysing form, it is impossible to obtain credits, and through the credits the raw material and the other resources which they need for the re starting of their national industry. I said something before upon this matter in regard to Germany. The case of Ger many also requires reconsideration, but in the case of Austria the difficulty is even greater, and the need for change is even more urgent. It is quite true that the Separation Commission have, under the Treaty, the power, certainly in the case of Germany—I am not quite sure whether that power exists also in the case of Austria—
§ Mr. ASQUITH
That can easily be ascertained—I will assume it does—it certainly exists in the case of Germany—to vary the rate of interest and to postpone or even cancel payment. In the case of Germany it is a power which can only be exercised by the unanimous vote of the Reparation Commission and if it exists in the case of Austria also, I presume it is subject to the same condition. That is a very unnecessary and I think most 648 unworkable provision, and I would earnestly appeal to the Government to use their influence with the other Powers—they cannot act independently—in the first place to define once and for all the position and determine what is the total extent of the possible burden upon Austrian industry and enterprise, and in the next place to give to the Reparation Commission as I should hope—and I express this hope not only in regard to Austria but in regard to Germany also—in time at any rate—reinforced by representation from the countries which were lately our enemies, so that they may have not a preponderating voice but at any rate a voice in the deliberation and determination of matters which after all are of vital importance—that the Reparation Commission, possibly so reinforced, but whether so or not, should not be paralysed in matters of this kind unless it can give a unanimous vote. I cannot see anything which is not demanded by justice or which is inconsistent with fairness in a proposal of that sort. I know very well the sensitiveness, I might almost say the soreness of feeling, which exists among some of our allies as to anything which wears the appearance of tenderness or relaxation in regard to what these Powers have agreed to pay for reparation and indemnity. One ought to use very guarded language in these matters. I can understand very well what are the feelings, say, of a Frenchman or a Belgian who sees his own territory deliberately despoiled, and despoiled during the last year of the War when a German and Austrian victory was impossible. What was done, I will not say only from vindictive motives, but in order to render impossible the restarting of profitable industry in these countries. I have been there and I have seen it and upon no one has it made a greater impression than it has upon me. We can always understand the state of feeling that exists, but this is a question which is not of tenderness or sentiment but of sound policy and expediency. Till you get these countries restarted on something like normal lines for the development of their productive industries, you have no chance of receiving from them anything in the nature of adequate reparation for the injury they have done. The plainest commonsense seems to me to dictate to the Powers of Europe and of the world that every step possible should be taken in the general interest— 649 not in the interests of humanity alone, but also in interests of those who have suffered the most by the War—to remove obstacles and to provide facilities for the reorganisation of productive and profitable industry.
I hope the Prime Minister will be able to give us some satisfactory assurance on these points. I myself should like very much to see—I agree it may not be possible to do it at once—not only a remodeling of the Reparation Commission, but I should like to see it become a part, perhaps informally and indirectly at first, of the larger machine of the League of Nations itself. These seem to me exactly the sort of matters in which the common interests of all the nations of which the League of Nations has now become the authorised experiment and organ should be dominant. I do not say it would tend to remove ill-feeling. I am not putting it on that ground at all. But it would be in the general interests of the whole civilised world. I hope a large and a liberal view will be taken by the great Powers, and that this terrible spectacle, so dishonouring to our statesmanship, so offensive to the ordinary sentiments of humanity, which is presented at this moment, sixteen months after the cessation of hostilities, over a large part of Central Europe will cease to obtrude itself upon the attention and conscience of mankind. An hon. Member interjected the remark, "it is their own fault." I am not going back on the past and I have not said a word in extenuation of the crimes against humanity which those countries committed. They have to pay the penalty and it is just that they should. No one says they should not. But I am speaking from a wider and a larger standpoint. I am not speaking in their interest, but in the interest of the world at large, when I say that from that wider point of view nothing is more urgent than that we should provide the means and the machinery at the earliest possible moment for reorganising and bringing into profitable operation all the productive forces of those countries.
§ Mr. CLYNES
On many points in the earlier part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech we find ourselves in wholehearted agreement, and we await with 650 interest a statement from the Primo Minister on the points which have been raised and in the hope that this statement will be given in the form and in terms of the definite and settled policy for which we have so often appealed. It is useless to try to answer those who present this case with the statement that our late enemies have brought their troubles upon themselves, for the continued disturbance of the whole of Europe, including to a great extent our own country, remains unimproved, and it is in no way diminished by the statement, true in itself, that the Germans and their associates have brought their troubles upon themselves, and we can now only continue to make them suffer severely at the cost of making ourselves suffer also. This disturbed state of Europe must therefore be dispassionately considered, and if possible, remedies discovered and applied in order that we ourselves should be saved even in the effort that we may be driven to make to save our late enemies. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman wholeheartedly in denouncing, if we need do it at this time of day, the wanton, wicked destruction in which Germany indulged at the time when she was being driven out of allied territory, and when she was no longer able to offer anything like either attack or defence. But that destruction ought not to blind us to the indirect and ruinous destruction which countries like France and Belgium still continue to suffer because of the disturbed state of the enemy countries.
That disturbed state, particularly in Germany, manifested itself in a new and dangerous form only a few days ago. Symptoms of revolution have manifested themselves in different forms in different stages of history. Revolution is impossible in any country where there is general contentment, and provision for general contentment. Germany is suffering because its trade is ruined, because it is not yet restored to conditions of economic and diplomatic relationship with other parts of the world, because of food shortage and of the shortage of material for the conduct of its trade and business. The people are so severely suffering that mischief-makers have their special opportunity, and the militarists of Germany within the past few days took the very daring but not surprising step of trying to restore their authority and to resume 651 their dominion over the people, for the very reason that the people are in such a divided, suffering and discontented condition. They saw their special opportunity in the grievances from which the people cannot escape, for the reasons which I have tried to describe. The people are the prey of these rival and contending factions and forces, particularly in Germany. It was fortunate for the German people that that effort at militarist dominion was defeated, and I refer to it as one of the symptoms of the exhausted and distracted condition of that country.
After this long interval since the signing of the Peace Treaty, and particularly since the Armistice was entered into, we are entitled to ask for some better result from the handling of the situation by our statesmen than has been provided so far. Our soldiers did their work, and offered their lives in service, but the statesmen have not followed up the service of the soldiers in the manner which I think the soldiers naturally expected. The Treaty contains within its full terms provisions for its own modification; but there has been no haste in arranging to modify those parts of the Treaty which it was well understood would have to be modified before Europe could settle to anything like a contented and prosperous and economic state. If those of us who entertain views of this kind on this side of the House are not to be seriously regarded, may I refer to the parting message left to us by General Smuts? His patriotism and wisdom in these matters will scarcely be questioned. He approved the Treaty, or rather signed the Treaty, not because he agreed altogether with its terms, but because it was essential to bring the War to an end, and to hasten as speedily as possible more composed and settled conditions in Europe with regard to its economical life. I find an utterance very closely akin to this statement of General Smuts delivered in Rome by the Italian Prime Minister, and I would like to read part of it. The whole speech of the Italian Prime Minister was couched in the spirit of this paragraph, and I commend it to the Prime Minister as the kind of utterance of which he might take note as the head of our State, and try to instil some of it in the minds of the great personages and people 652 of influence who have far greater authority in these matters than any of us on this side of the House can claim:Russia, the reservoir of raw material, and Germany, the reservoir of labour, have both almost ceased to work, and Europe can only regain equilibrium by putting them both on their feet again. There ought to issue from Parliaments and peoples a powerful and human voice urging sympathy and clemency for the vanquished.That statement would be regarded by some people as no better than sentiment. It is sense. It is the deepest wisdom, for we cannot re-establish ourselves or guard ourselves against the prospect of rising trouble within our own shores until we have assisted the defeated enemy, the defeated countries, to restore themselves and, as the Italian Prime Minister said, to "put them upon their feet again." Owing to the very severity of their defeat, and owing to the fact that trade is world-wide, and that we are all intermingled in the discharge of business and commerce, it is impossible for them to accomplish these great feats themselves, and there is all the greater urgency and need of assistance from these shores in view of what we want from them. No one more than the Prime Minister has offered to the country prospects of indemnities or of reparation, presented in the form of money in substantial amount, from the enemy countries. Can the Prime Minister this afternoon hold out the slightest hope that any of us will live long enough to get from these enemy countries any sum which we have demanded in discharge of the wrongs which they have committed, unless these countries are assisted to get back to something like the pre-war condition of trade and business and international economic relations?
What step has yet been taken by the Government to modify the economic parts of the Peace Treaty in the direction of assisting these countries to get upon their feet in respect of trade and economic conditions? We have had questions in the House this week asking the Government to give us some hope through the machinery of the League of Nations. The Prime Minister was questioned as to when the assembly of the League would be convened in order that these larger and economic and world problems might be considered, but we were left absolutely without hope of any time or any idea when an international organisation of 653 that kind would begin to act. We are not of opinion that all the work in which we wish the Government to take part can be undertaken or completed by this Government itself. We did much when acting with our Allies, and most of this work must be accomplished, if possible, by endeavouring to act with our Allies. In what way has the Prime Minister so far sought to reciprocate the sentiments of the Italian Prime Minister? What has he said or done to spread throughout the world, and particularly Europe, that sentiment on which alone we can build this re-constructed Europe? The Prime Minister, if I may say so, appears to be specially active in trying to arrange a league of political parties for internal political purposes in this country, and I have been at times not a little distresesd at the absence of more vigorous support from this influential quarter in respect of the work and purposes of this greater League, the League of the Nations of the World. Whether the Prime Minister understands it or not, if this Government has any regard for the deep-rooted sentiment of labour in this country, that sentiment is whole-heartedly in favour of making the League of Nations work, not as a league of some nations, not as a league of conquering nations, but as a league both of victors and of vanquished, for the purpose of hurrying forward that great work of reconstruction which it was said the various nations of the world would immediately have to undertake at the close of the War.
I welcome heartily what was said by the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), with regard to every step being essential to restore the relations as between country and country, and to get that conference which it was said would be called to consider the purposes of an international loan or any other effective steps that would bring back something like confidence and trading conditions to these distracted countries of Europe. It is in this spirit alone that we shall find economic and industrial prosperity. No one now would think of trying to get a vote by talking about hanging the Kaiser, or exacting from these beaten countries those enormous indemnities of which we spoke so loudly 18 months ago. We know now that they are impossible. We know that by any continued crushing or repression of these other countries it is impossible to get back into this country 654 what we are entitled to. What should we think of that kind of agriculturist who tried to improve his milk and meat supply by starving his cattle? That is literally what has been attempted by the policy so long pursued in relation to those beaten countries. Again I repeat that I am not speaking in terms of compassion for them, but rather in forms of hastening our own internal betterment here. At the worst, something can be said for that section of the enemy countries in no way to blame for the steps taken by those countries during the War. Millions of children, millions of the youth of these countries have bitterly suffered, and are innocently suffering now, because the condition of international relationship has not been restored. The figures are common property and well known. The state of the hospitals, the state of the public institutions, the state of the homes, the graves that have been filled in their thousands by children starved to death in these countries, surely present some evidence to invite the clemency of which the Italian Prime Minister has spoken. Therefore, whilst we may indulge in justifiable condemnation of the male grownup population of the enemy countries, we must not forget that there is this large number of women and children suffering the most severe pangs of privation through the policy which is being foolishly pursued.
It will be a wise thing on the part of the victors to hasten this more composed condition. We ought not to regard ourselves as absolutely immune from the effects of events in Germany, Austria-Hungary, and even Turkey. These events can travel far and travel swiftly. Therefore not in their interest, but in ours, in order that our own trade and business shall be improved, that our own economic condition and our state of finance shall be made to balance, that our own high prices shall be reduced, it is essential that these steps shall be taken without any further delay. I trust, therefore, that this afternoon we shall not be put off with any talk of this being only mere humanitarian sentiment, or the with vague and general assurance that some time or other some step will be taken by the Government, but that a definite and absolutely clear statement of policy will be made. It is the least which is due to this House, as it is about to rise for only a short time, and in view of the urgency 655 of the conditions which have been created and the need for an immediate cure, I trust that the Prime Minister to-day will be able to give us a more reassuring message.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I will do my best to answer the searching and very important questions which have been addressed to the Government by my right hon. Friend. I think that the best thing I can do is to take each of these questions in turn and give to it such answer as his Majesty's Government can possibly afford to give, having regard to the fact that the Peace Conference is sitting and that any declaration which is made is a declaration not merely of British policy, but of allied policy as well. That, of course, is one of the limitations under which a Minister is speaking when dealing with circumstances that are not purely British, but are inter-allied in all their ramifications. I trust that the House will always bear that in mind. The first question put to mc by my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) referred to Germany. He very properly, if I may say so, did not ask the Government to enter into a detailed examination of the position there, because the situation is not clearly defined. The only thing that is perfectly apparent is that the militarist party in Germany attempted a coup d'état, that it failed, and that it had the usual effect of driving people into another—I will not say extreme—direction which was far more removed from the militarist position than ever they went before. The government which has been set up is a government which, so far as I can see, leans much more to the left than the late government. The news, so far as the Spartacist risings are concerned, is, I think, on the whole, reassuring, but we have no definite information. The information which we get comes from governmental sources, and they very naturally take a more optimistic view of the situation than anyone else. But in so far as we are able to judge events there it seems to me that order is being restored gradually, that the counter revolution has been a complete failure, and that, so far as the Spartacist movement is concerned, the government have been able to make terms. That is the most recent information which we have on the subject. There is nothing very clear, but it is a matter 656 of congratulation, not merely for Germany, but for the whole of Europe, that the militarist plot has failed. That is very satisfactory, but it is very difficult to conjecture what will happen next. I should not like to do so.
I now come to the series of questions which have been put to mc about the Turkish Empire and Austria. With regard to the Turkish Empire, I will just say one word about what was said by my right hon. Friend as to the regrettable delay in establishing peace with Turkey. I quite agree that the delay is very regrettable, but I am sorry to say that it was quite inevitable in the circumstances. I have repeatedly explained to the House of Commons what those circumstances were. We had hopes that the United States of America would share the burden of the oversight of Turkey. It would have made a great difference if they had done so. The supervision of the Turkish Empire will strain the resources of the Allies to the utmost, especially having regard to their other obligations, anxieties and duties nearer home, but if the United States had been ready to come in they might have undertaken the protection of the Armenian population, not merely in Armenia but in the province of Cilicia and some of the adjoining provinces. We also hoped that the United States of America might have undertaken the mandate for the Straits and possibly for Constantinople, and with their seat at Con stantinople might have controlled the activities of Turkish officials throughout the whole of Asia Minor.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No, I have not the right to do so, but the House may take it from mc that I had good reason for coming to that conclusion, otherwise I should not have stated it. It would not be fair to go beyond that. At any rate, we were asked not to proceed with the Turkish scheme until President Wilson had had an opportunity of consulting the United States of America, and we were led to expect that he would be in a position to give us a decision in that respect by the end of August or, at the latest, by September. Difficulties arose in the United States at that time in reference 657 to the negotiations for the German Treaty. A good deal of political bitterness and antipathy was excited. That is a very good lesson for us—not to rush these partisan conflicts. That is certainly not the way to restore peace in Europe or anywhere else. The result has been that we have not had any definite indication as to the attitude of the United States of America in reference to the Turkish Treaty. We thought that if we had not given time to America to make up its mind our action would have given rise to a feeling; in America that we were anxious to settle the Turkish question without their intervention.
Supposing that we settled the affairs of Turkey with mandates given to France and other countries in respect of different parts of the Turkish Empire, without even affording the United States of America the opportunity of considering whether they would participate in this responsibility, I have no doubt that it would have been said that we were anxious to partition Turkey among ourselves and elbow out the United States of America. Nothing could have been worse than that. The delay has undoubtedly aggravated unrest in Turkey and has intensified the whole of our difficulties there, but I think that it is better that we should face that and work our way through, than that we should create suspicion in the United States of America that we were quite willing to take United States help, but that whenever there was any question of dividing the mandates over these undeveloped territories we instantly took advantage of some little political difficulty in America in order to divide the whole thing among ourselves. That would have been a great political blunder which might have resulted in very unpleasant consequences. We have waited in order to afford America every opportunity to come in, and it was only when America stated definitely that she did not intend to take part in the conference that we proceeded to come to definite decisions with regard to the Turkish Peace. I think that it is due to the Allies to make that explanation.
With regard to the other questions put by my right hon. Friend, as far as I can see he is in general agreement with the Government in regard to the control of the Straits, and certainly not very far removed in the view which he has taken as to Constantinople. It is urged that 658 there is a great deal to be said about putting the Turk's head in Chancery. If he misbehaves we shall be able to deal with him. It has been said that "Vaticanising" the Sultan at Constantinople means that we would have shut him up in Stamboul and given him a palace and a certain yard in which he could exercise, that he would not be allowed to go outside, but was to exercise all his spiritual functions from there. I am told that that does not really show a very clear apprehension on the part of Christians of what the spiritual authority of the Caliphate really means, that it is not comparable to the spiritual authority of the Pope, but that it is a different thing in essence, and that therefore to "Vaticanise" the Caliphate is something that would not in the least meet the necessities of the case. Besides, what would happen in Constantinople? Who would govern it? Who would administer it? Would the administration be in the hands of the Allies? If so, there is no doubt at all that it would add enormously to the Army expenditure of the various countries which undertook that responsibility. We were anxious to avoid that if we could possibly do so. However, my right hon. Friend did not differ essentially from the attitude we took up. He realises that in questions of this kind, in the first place we are only one out of three or four Powers, and he also realises that it much easier to deal with a Sultan and his Ministers at Constantinople, where they are within reach of the Allied Fleet, than would be if they were allowed to roam at large.
I have, therefore, very little to add in that respect. I will only call attention once more to the statement made in this House, that if it becomes quite clear that the Sultan at Constantinople exercises no authority over his officials in Asia Minor, and that as a matter of fact they do just as they please, and that the mere fact that he is there under Allied supervision weakens his authority, and does not give him the necessary control, then the Allies are perfectly willing to reconsider the whole position. I have hopes that that will not be necessary. The Allied occupation of Constantinople and the action we took there is, I think, having a very good effect. It is too early yet to say what the result will be.
I now come to the question of Armenia I do not know that I have anything to add to what has already been said in 659 this House, and I certainly do not differ in the least from any of the observations made by my right hon. Friend on this subject in so far as I can carry those in my memory. The difficulty about Armenia is that the Armenian population is scattered over several provinces. There is only one part of Turkey where you can say that the Armenians are in the majority. By no principle of self-determination can you add to the Republic of Armenia territories like Cilicia. In Cilicia they are in a minority, and a very considerable minority. I rather think that the Mohammedans there are in the proportion of three or four to one.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It is very difficult, when you come to deal with Turkish statistics, to know whose statistics to accept. I do not believe anyone really knows. The Armenian statistics and the Turkish statistics are quite irreconcilable. Here are the figures: Moslems, 548,000; Armenians, 130,000; Greeks, 36,000; other elements, 18,000. So I was not far wrong.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
All I can say is that I agree with my right hon. Friend that when we put Moslem and Christian statistics against each other it is difficult to get at the truth. All I mean is that it is not conceivable that the population is in anything like that proportion.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I can only say that these are statistics which have been furnished to me and which to a certain extent have been checked by British officers who are there. They have not taken a census, but they have been in occupation of the place for a considerable time, and if these figures were hopelessly wrong I think they would have pointed that out. I do not think my right hon. Friend denies that the Armenians are in a minority there and the Christians in a minority. If they were not in a minority there would be no difficulty at all in dealing with the situation. In fact, we have considered it very seriously, and our trouble is that if you grant self-government to Cilicia without some strict control the situation of Christians there will be perfectly hopeless.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
You are quite right. That is why I said I did not disagree with my right hon. Friend. There are some who seem to imagine that you can somehow or other include the whole of the Armenians in a self-governing State. That is exactly what you cannot do. That province presents a very great difficulty. Cilicia has a Mussulman population in the main.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
Is the right Gentleman speaking of the population of Cilicia as it is now or as it was before the massacres? Is he recognising the majority created by the massacres? The figures are not at all admitted, especially in relation to the time before the massacres.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
We must take the facts as they are. I have no doubt that the horrible massacres upset the balance of the population. If you grant self-government it is the people who are the survivors who will exercise it.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Quite right, but what is the alternative? Who is to control? That is the difficulty which has arisen owing to the fact that America has failed to undertake what I regarded as her share of the responsibility. If America had accepted the responsibility for controlling Armenia the French, who, under what is called the Sykes-Picot Agreement, had Cilicia assigned to their control, were quite willing to hand it over to American control. The British, French, and Italians are quite agreed on the subject, but we have not yet seen a sign. We have only received telegrams from America asking us to protect the Armenians; we have had no offers up to the present to undertake the responsibility. Who is to do it? It is a very large tract of territory, it is an undeveloped territory—not very developed in roads, hardly developed at all in railways. It is a mountainous wild country. To protect these 200,000 Christians over the whole of that territory involves very considerable responsibility. We are hoping that France will undertake that responsibility, but it is a good 661 deal to ask of her. We have also got our responsibility, and we cannot take too much upon our own shoulders.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I agree that we have a certain responsibility in the matter, but, with every desire to assist, we really cannot police the whole world. We have used the British Fleet very freely. We practically policed that country for a year or two and policed it successfully, but it cost a very considerable sum of money and we cannot undertake that liability indefinitely. It would not be fair to the British Empire to fasten that burden on its shoulders. That is the trouble with regard to Cilicia. If, by exercising pressure on the Central Government at Constantinople and by a free use of the accessible power of the Allies, we can control the irregularities, we shall be quite prepared to do so, but beyond that I do not believe that Great Britain can undertake any wider responsibility in that sphere. There are Christians scattered over the whole of Asia Minor—an enormous tract. For us to give any pledges which would look like undertaking that we would send armies into Anatolia is something that no Minister has a right to do. I am glad to think I have the assent of my right hon. Friend there.
With regard to the Republic of Erivan, which is Armenian, it depends entirely on the Armenians themselves—whether they protect their independence. They must do so; they must begin to depend upon themselves. They are an intelligent people; they are an exceptionally intelligent people. In fact, it is their intelligence which gets them into trouble sometimes, from all I hear. That is what is so obnoxious to the Turks. I am told that they could easily organise an army of about 40,000 men. If they ask for equipment we shall be very happy to assist in equipping their army. If they want the assistance of officers to train that army, I am perfectly certain there is no Allied country in Europe that would not be willing to assist in that respect. That is far and away the best thing for themselves. It would increase their self-respect. It would make them a manlier and more virile people. Instead of always casting themselves upon other 662 countries and sending supplications and appeals, let them defend themselves. When they do so the Turk will have too much respect—not for them, but for himself—to attempt any more massacres in that quarter.
The next subject of interrogation is Mesopotamia. Here I must say I was not in agreement with my right hon. Friend. As I understand his view of Mesopotamia; it is that we should confine our effective supervision to the province of Basrah, and that we should practically abandon any attempt to supervise the provinces of Bagdad and Mosul. I think it would be a mistake to abandon those territories. Basrah undoubtedly is a fairly well cultivated province, but it has not the resources of the country higher up the river. You might abandon the country altogether—that I could understand. But I cannot understand withdrawing partly and withdrawing from the more important and the more promising part of Mesopotamia. Mosul is a country with great possibilities. It has rich oil deposits.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
And if you are going to undertake the expense of administering Mesopotamia it is right, at any rate, that the country should bear that expense.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It is for the good of the people. They were misgoverned. This was one of the richest countries in the world. What is it now? It is a wilderness. It contains some of the richest natural resources of any country in the world. It maintains a population now of a little over 2,000,000. It was at one time one of the great Empires of the world. Is it not for the benefit of the people of that country that it should be governed so as to enable them to develop this land which has been withered and shrivelled up by oppression? What would happen if we withdrew? Does anyone imagine that, if we withdrew, there would be any improvement at all? If we did not undertake the task probably some other country would, and unless some country were to undertake the task. Mesopotamia would be exactly where she is 663 to-day, or probably much worse. I say that, after incurring the enormous expenditure which we have incurred in freeing this country from the withering despotism of the Turk, to hand it back to anarchy and confusion, and to take no responsibility for its development would be an act of folly and quite indefensible. I cannot therefore agree with my right hon. Friend with regard to Mesopotamia. What would happen? You have not at present got there the material for forming a cohesive government. You have got a considerable number of tribes there which own no allegiance to each other or to anybody else, except the Turk, and if the Turk disappears the country would, unless you constitute some central government, be in a state of civil war and strife and confusion. You have no right to do that. If you take away the only central government they have, you must put another in its place. They have been consulted about their wishes in this respect, and, I think, almost without exception, they are anxious that the British Government should stay there. They are very divided as to the kind of independent government they would like. It is not proposed that we should govern this country as if it were an essential part of the British Empire, making its laws. That is not our point of view. Our point of view is that they should govern themselves and that we should be responsible as the mandatory for advising, for counselling, for assisting, but that the government must be Arab. That is a condition of the League of Nations, and we mean to respect it.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That is a view that is accepted by the whole of the Allies, and, I am perfectly certain, by every Member in this House. We will respect the solemn undertaking which we gave to the Allies in November, 1918, upon that subject, but it would be fatal unless some country undertook the responsibility, the supreme responsibility, of constituting this Government and advising it. What other country will undertake that responsibility except Great Britain? To hand it over to anyone else would be contrary to the wishes of the Arab population there. They absolutely agree that they do not want Turkish rule again. They 664 are also agreed that they want the British Government and British supervision. When they come to consider whether they would have a member of the Shereefian over them, or somebody else, they are hopelessly divided, and that is one of the difficulties. We have no right to talk as if we were the mandatory of Mesopotamia, when the Treaty with Turkey is not yet completed. When that has been finally decided, and the question of who the mandatories are has been settled, we shall certainly claim the right as the mandatory Power of Mesopotamia, including Mosul.
I come now to the question of the position in Central Europe. When my right hon. Friend, the Member for the Platting Division of Manchester (Mr. Clynes), talks as if we were responsible for the wretchedness of Austria and Ger-many he seems to have forgotten there has been a war, a war provoked by them. The enormous devastation and the great burdens and great losses have caused a good deal of damage and of suffering and of misery in other lands, but naturally the vanquished suffer most. He says, "Eighteen months have elapsed since peace was made, since hostilities ceased. What is that in face of terrific devastation of that kind? Does the right hon. Gentleman really imagine that we can in eighteen months reconstruct the shattered countries I How can he expect it? Look at what is happening in Germany. He talks about credits. There is a revolution there and you cannot get credits for a country when there is revolution. It is, first of all, essential that they should have settled government. He suggests, and I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley rather suggested also, that the reparation we demanded had something to do with it. What has it got to do with it? I should like to know what this really means. Does it mean we ought to abandon reparation? If not, what does it moan? Does he mean to say "the suffering of Austria is due to the demand for reparation and the suffering of Germany is due to the demand for reparation—therefore, give it up?" Is that what the right hon. Gentleman wants? Does lie suggest we should give it up? Let him look at France. France has a debt which is about equal to the War Debt of Germany, and with a population of 665 about 40,000,000 against 70,000,000 in Germany. In addition to that, France, through the action of Germany, has a liability for repairing her devastated territory which probably will cost her three or four thousand millions sterling. What does that mean? It means that, in the case of France, which is the victor, France which was not in the least responsible for the War, France which has lost more of her children in proportion to population than Germany, France whose industrial provinces are devastated in a way that no country has ever been destroyed before, every Frenchman will have to bear per head twice the liability for the War which they have won and for which they were not responsible, than that borne by the German people. Add their War debt to the cost of reparation, and to the cost of reconstruction, and take the population of the two countries into account, and you will find that unless France gets something from Germany, every Frenchman will have to pay two pounds for every one pound that will be paid by the Germans, for a war for which France was not in the least responsible. How could we go to France and say to her, Give up your reparation, surrender your claim, think of humanitarian principles? That is a claim which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman, if he were in my place sitting at the Peace Conference, would not have the heart to make. Therefore I take it from him, although he is silent when I ask him the question, that he does not ask France to abandon her claim for reparation.
§ Mr. CLYNES indicated dissent.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I understand the right hon. Gentleman is not asking that. Very well, then let us find out exactly what he does mean? Is it to be suspended until Germany is on her feet and until Germany is able to pay? I agree that at the present moment Germany cannot pay when she is unable to feed her population, and we are taking that into account. My right hon. Friend does not know what the facts are. We have repeatedly allowed Germany credits which come in front of reparation in order to enable her to get a start. My right hon. Friend, the Member for Paisley, said, and I hope ho will correct me if I am wrong, that the time has come for revising the Peace Terms. There is no need 666 for revision—none. Germany, under a clause of the Versailles Treaty, can estimate the damage and can estimate her own capacity and make her own offer. She has not done so. If Germany wants a loan, which will not come after reparation and therefore be impossible to be placed on any market, let her make her case. She can make it to the Reparation Committee and to the governments. I agree that until Germany is enabled to start her industries she cannot pay. It is not merely in the interests of Germany, but it is in the interests of France, of Great Britain, and of the world that she should start. But let her put her case. There is a great difference between that and saying, "We are going to let her off, that she is not going to make up that loss of this terrific devastation which she has wantonly inflicted upon a perfectly innocuous neighbour in order to destroy her neighbour's industries." That is something that justice would not tolerate for one moment. It is, therefore, for Germany to carry out that part of the Treaty, to assess herself what she regards as her liability, to make her proposals as to how she is going to pay. If she says it is quite impossible for her to begin unless she is able to purchase raw materials, and that in order to purchase raw materials she must get credit, let her make her case. It will be considered fairly. My right hon. Friend said that there is one absolute barrier to any fair consideration, and that is the fact that the Reparation Commission must come to a perfectly unanimous decision. I do not believe that is going to be a bar. I do not believe that France—which is naturally the most sensitive in this respect because she has suffered more than anybody else, or Belgium, which has also suffered—will stand in the way of a fair and reasonable proposal which is put forward in order to enable Germany to meet her legitimate responsibilities. In fact I am certain that France will never take up that attitude, but there must be a definite, clear indication that Germany means to discharge her liabilities. If there is, I am sure she will be treated fairly and equitably and in the spirit of the statement of the Italian Prime Minister, with which I completely agree. But there must be first of all a clear intention indicated by Germany that she really means to carry out her treaty to the utmost of her resources.
667 Up to the present she has not been able to do so, but it is a mistake to assume that Germany and Austria are the only people who are suffering in consequence of the War. French industries are suffering. I think it was yesterday, or the day before, that there was a deputation from Paris of Ministers and others who came over to this country to beg for coal for France. They told me that the French industries had only 37 per cent. of the coal which they had before the War. We are short of coal in this country, and certain industries here are going short time, but there is nothing comparable to that here. But why is France short of 63 per cent. of her coal? It is because her coal mines were deliberately destroyed by Germany, I am not in the least speaking in a vindictive spirit towards a vanquished foe. That is not the British temper. The British temper is lather, when a man is beaten, to offer one's hand and almost forget; but there are certain things we must not forget, not in order to nourish vengeance—quite the reverse—but in order to do justice to a neighbour that is suffering at this moment. Our first duty is to see that France gets fair play; not to trample on Germany. That policy would be a stupid policy which would excite and prepare fresh war, of which, Heaven knows, we have had enough. The world surely does not want war again, with 10,000,000 of young people slaughtered and all this horror which has been described by my right hon. Friend in Central Europe. We do not want that, and that is not why I am talking in this sense. It is not because I want to see Germany punished, it is not because I would not say she thoroughly deserves it, it is because I want to see that, at any rate, justice is done within the limits and the possibilities of the case. You do not prevent fresh wars by making the victim, the man who is not responsible, suffer more than the man who is responsible, and that is all I wish to say in that respect. I am all, and more than all, for seeing that Germany is not crippled by the way in which reparation is levied. I am all for entering in a judicial spirit into the claim which is made against her, and into her capacity for payment. I am against exacting anything that would be beyond the fair possibilities of the 668 case, but I think she must make up the damage she has inflicted upon these countries, and in order' to enable her to do so the representatives of this country will always support any fair and reasonable proposal which is put forward on behalf of Germany, that credits should be raised in order to enable her to re-establish her industries. Beyond that I do not think it is possible for us to go.
My right hon. Friend wanted to hand over the question of reparation to the League of Nations. I think that would wreck the League of Nations. The League of Nations consists of a very large number of countries, great and small, some of them that were neutral in the War, neutral from fear, and it is putting them in a very invidious position to ask them to adjudicate between two, three and four great Powers who are their neighbours. I think a far better plan is to trust to the sense of justice and to the wisdom and to the statesmanship of the countries that are directly concerned. Unless you carry with you the sense of France and of Italy and of Great Britain, what good will it do to the League of Nations? You must make those countries feel that fair and reasonable treatment is meted out to them. That, I think, would be much better done by Germany making a direct appeal to them, and not trying to get round them by, I will not say intriguing with other nations on the League, but by engaging the sympathy of other nations, working up parties amongst other nations, over-riding the sentiment of France and of Great Britain and of Italy, by getting a majority of other countries behind them. That would be fatal to the goodwill of the League of Nations, and it would be the beginning of mischief and not of good. This is not one of the questions which I should like to see handed over to the League of Nations. I am firmly confident that by wisdom, by forbearance, and, above all by a demonstration on the part of the German Government of a real desire to carry out the Treaty, by their manifesting an intention to do it, by their doing their best to carry out the Treaty, by their demonstrating clearly where they have failed to do so, that it was owing to no reluctance on their part, but purely for reasons over which they have had no control, the German Government would get reasonable treatment. I believe they 669 would get generous treatment, and it is in that way that the peace of Europe will be restored and goodwill maintained amongst the nations.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I should like to say a word about Armenia. I am a little troubled by the exact attitude of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the Cilician position. My right hon. Friend said that the position of Cilicia was made very difficult by the fact that the Turks shot down so many of the Armenians that there no longer was a majority or even an equality between the Armenians and the Turks. I agree, but at the same time it was quite plain that we cannot possibly hand back Cilicia to the Turks. That would be a fatal policy. If we did that it would be almost an invitation to the Turks to complete the work that they had begun and put an end even to the Armenian minority in Cilicia. I do not want to ask my right hon. Friend any questions, but a telegram appeared in the papers as having been sent from the Supreme Council to the League of Nations when it was sitting in Paris. I do not know exactly what was in the telegram because a very imperfect account of it was published in the papers, but there was apparently a suggestion made that the League of Nations should in some way or another take over the responsibility for Armenia or at any rate for the Armenians in the Southern district. What the exact proposal was I do not know
§ The PRIME MINISTER
We have done so, but the League of Nations, I under stand, are reluctant to take it over, and I think for very strong reasons. They say "Yes, but what is cur sanction, what about the customs, what ports should we have?" Of course, if the League of Nations have no objection to undertake the protection of the Armenians, we shall be very glad indeed.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I did not really wish to provoke my right hon. Friend to make any answer. What I was going to suggest to him was, I hope, the influence of the British Government, and the British representative on the League of Nations, will always be exercised to induce the League to take up responsibilities rather than reject them. The second thing I wanted to say was this; I quite agree the difficulties 670 are enormous, but it is possible that the League might be able to find some means of supplying the needs of the Armenians, provided the money were found by the whole of the nations of the League. That would be a conceivable policy. At any rate, what I do wish to press very strongly upon my right hon. Friend is the great disaster, not only to the League, but to the whole world, if we really have to say we have no means of protecting these unhappy people in Cilicia. I am sure that is a position which my right hon. Friend, when he considers it, will see it is quite impossible for us to take up. We cannot do it. We have pledged ourselves over and over again in this House and elsewhere to stand by and protect the Armenians. Let us not desert them now. My right hon. Friend appeared to contrast the great advantages we should obtain if we remained in Mesopotamia with the great difficulties if we remained in Cilicia. I am sure this country would rather forego the advantages in Mesopotamia than fail in our honourable and humanitarian duties in Cilicia. There is a second part of the telegram which appeared in the papers which seemed to show that minorities in Turkey should be taken under the guarantee of the League of Nations in the same way as in Poland and elsewhere. There, again, I think that is a most hopeful and interesting suggestion, and I trust our representative on the League will support it to the utmost of his power. I quite see the difficulty, but no one can talk to the Greek authorities, for Instance, about the condition of affairs along the Pontine Coast without seeing that something of this kind should be done. The people have not been quite as badly treated, though nearly as badly treated by the Turks in the recent war as the Armenians, and that in defiance of the fact that when in a position to do so, they voluntarily protected the Mussulman population in their hands. I think they have quite as strong a claim upon us as Armenians elsewhere, and I do hope some means may be arrived at to give them adequate and effective security under the League of Nations.
I should like to say a word or two about the position of the Central Empires. No one disputes what my right hon. Friend said, that the French claim to reparation is immensely strong. I do 671 not deny it. It is so strong that I am sometimes afraid that it disturbs the balance of the judgment of some eminent Frenchmen. It is very natural—no one would criticise it for a moment—that people who suffered, and who have seen their countrymen suffer to the extent they have, should say that these Germans must pay, and that becomes an obsession so overwhelming in their minds that they do not always reflect that, if you try to insist on enormous sums to repay them, the only result is that you will lose all possibility of any substantial repayment at all. I was very glad to hear all my right hon. Friend said. He will allow me to say that I think it very unfortunate that we are put in the position we now are by the enactment in the Treaty of the Clauses dealing with the indemnity. I think they were disastrous. I always thought so, and have never concealed my opinion. They always appeared to me to be absolutely indefensible. You were going to tie round the Germans and Austrians an undefined and an enormous weight of debt. They did not know what it was to be, but you were going to say to every Austrian and every German, so long as that was undefined, "Every time you work the produce of your work is going, not to your country, but to your enemy. Every farthing got, beyond what' is actually consumed in the country, is to go to the enemy." The Reparation Commission had even power to overlook every single expenditure, and to see that nothing whatever was being spent which could possibly go to the Allies. That was to put the whole population in a position of absolute hopelessness.
I know there are some Members of this House who regard me and those who think with me as humanitarian fools. I cannot help it. I hear from everyone who comes back from Germany and from Austria the same account—the absolute hopelessness, not of the rich people, but of the poor people. I saw a woman—a relative of mine—who arrived two nights ago, and the first word she used, without my suggesting it, was the hopelessness of the situation. I have seen many others who have recently returned. My right hon. Friend has had the same report from his officials, and there are many admirable officials in Germany at this moment. While the people are left in that position, it is impossible for them to get on their 672 legs again. You must give them a hope, or otherwise they will not be able to exert themselves. Take the present disturbances in the Ruhr district. I do not suppose my right hon. Friend knows what is going on there, but we see in the papers that that is where the greatest disturbances are taking place. I am told that reports were received as far back as July as to the position of the Ruhr district, and it was then pointed out that the position was hopeless, the population almost starving, unnourished, and unable to work. The whole world is Starving for coal at this moment, and the Ruhr district is one of the great coal-producing districts. So long as the disturbances go on in that area, it means a further increase in the want of coal in France and the whole world. Every day that it goes on, every day work is stopped there, it means the death of so many more babes and invalids. That is no exaggeration. It is true, and I venture to say to my right hon. Friends upon the other side of the House that I hope they will very seriously consider that aspect of the international problem before they rush rashly into an industrial fight, however right they may be. I know nothing about it. This is a tremendous position in Europe, and everyone who interferes with the coal supply of the earth at this minute is taking a terrific responsibility.
I have said that my purpose in rising was not to criticise my right hon. Friend, but to make the position clear. I most heartily welcome what he said. I hope ho is not optimistic. I hope that the German Government will read most attentively what he has said, and will come forward with a serious proposal to fix this amount. I am sure that is a practical proposal. I hope he is not unduly optimistic in believing there will be no difficulty in arriving at a reasonable, fair and equitable amount. For, after all, the position is exactly the reverse of what is was before the Treaty was signed. Until the Treaty was signed, we were in the position of saying that, unless we got terms which we thought fair, we could not sign the Treaty. We have now to convince everybody—not this country merely, but every single one represented on the Reparation Commission—that the proposal is fair. If they do not think so, they can reject it. I hope my right hon. Friend is not unduly optimistic in thinking he will be able to persuade all the 673 Allies of this country. Certainly, I most fully accept the general principles he has laid down to-day. I trust they will be persevered in by the Government relentlessly, and without any vacillation or alteration, and then there will be, for the first time, some hope of reconstruction, for without reconciliation in Europe reconstruction is impossible.
Colonel LAMBERT WARD
I have listened with the greatest interest to the remarks which have been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Platting Division (Mr. Clynes), and what I should like to ask them, with regard to the remarks they made about Vienna and Austria, is whether they have been there to see those things with their own eyes, or whether they have been basing their statements upon official reports which have reached this country. If they have been there, I can only say they have viewed the situation through anything but rose-coloured spectacles, and if they have been basing their statements on reports, I would like to suggest, although it does not become me to suggest anything to two such distinguished statesmen, that reports in these days only too frequently subordinate truth to political propaganda. I think there is misunderstanding in this country at the present time with regard to what is actually the position in Austria. I know that the impression I had some little time ago proved to be absolutely wrong. When I visited Vienna and Austria generally, towards the end of last month, I had formed an impression which I believe was shared, and is shared, by a large number of people in this country. I did not travel to Vienna by the Entente train. I travelled slowly across Germany and entered the Austrian Republic at Passau, and then travelled down the Danube to Lienz and Vienna. I travelled by ordinary slow train, and very slow it was, conversing with the people I met, and generally endeavouring to get an impression of the true state of affairs of that country. When in Vienna, I lived at a small hotel right away from the centre of the town in an unfashionable—I might almost say in a poor district. I kept myself especially free from official associations, because I wanted to see for myself what things were, and I did not particularly want to see what the officials wished to show me. I expected to find 674 Vienna a city of the dead, a city deserted, streets unlit, and the only inhabitants a few famine-stricken, shivering people in shawls and rags at street corners: possibly even a few dead still lying un-buried in the gutters. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I had been driven to 17 hotels and I was told only at the seventeenth that I could find accommodation, I began to come to the conclusion that there were still some people who had not suffered from the famine, the cholera, typhus, or the various other horrors about which we read in the papers. To toll the truth, at the present time Vienna is indulging in an absolute orgy of reckless gaiety. It is crowded to an extent which makes London appear almost empty. The theatres, the concert halls, the cinemas, and the restaurants are all in full swing, and more crowded than ever before. Streams of English electric cars run in every direction, taxis, motor-cars, carriages, and cabs all add to the general confusion.
Food is to be had in plenty, but at an appalling price. There was apparently no coal to bring the necessaries of life to the city, but there was plenty to run the electric light and the trams all day and most of the night. Money is being lavished on luxuries to a perfectly appalling extent. On Shrove Tuesday a ball was given at the concert house—one of the many given that night in the city. That concert house is a huge building about the size of the Albert Hall. It was blazing with electric light from top to bottom and from dusk to dawn. Ten thousand people certainly were there, each of whom had paid for admission a price a pre-war equivalent of which would have been £4 per ticket. The only drink served was champagne. In the present value of the exchange champagne costs between £20 and £30 per bottle. But underlying all this extravagance there is no doubt a very largo amount of severe and hopeless suffering. The working classes have had their wages raised, not doubled or trebled as here, but thirty or forty times, with the result that they are in much the position they were in before the War. The middle classes, the professional classes, and the people with small incomes are practically starving. I must say I did not see any great signs of suffering in the streets, although I looked for them. The people were apparently well fed and they were well clad. At any 675 rate, in the larger thoroughfares 50 per cent. were better dressed than I am, which perhaps is not saying much! There was none of that hopeless misery in the faces of the people that one used to see amongst one's own men in the early days of the War in France. The population of Vienna is certainly not in that pitiable condition in which the French and Belgian refugees were in the early days of the War. Personally I could see no reason for the heart-breaking accounts as to suffering in Vienna which had appeared in the English newspapers, and I can only conclude that there is some scheme of subsidised propaganda at work designed, perhaps, to discredit the Treaty of Peace, and also to soften the hearts and loosen the purse-strings of the Allied peoples.
The death rate in the city is low. Infant mortality is high. But I think I am right in saying there are certainly three towns in England where it is worse. Children between the ages of one and five are suffering severely from lack of milk, and will, no doubt, feel the effect of that suffering for the rest of their lives. There are two hospitals in Vienna crowded with sick children. But if we were to sweep London from end to end, as is being done in Vienna, and collected all the serious cases of tuberculosis, malnutrition, and rickets, I think we could show a hospital full of sick children as distressing as anything there is to be seen at the present time in Vienna. At the present moment there is no actual or acute want. The prospect for the future is hopelessly black.
To understand the condition of Vienna to-day one must compare the position now with the position which Vienna occupied in the life of Central Europe before the War and the position she is likely to occupy in the future. Before the War Vienna was the centre of a rich empire of something between 50,000,000 and 60,000,000 of population. That empire possessed everything necessary for human life and comfort. There was coal in Bohemia. There was oil in Calicia. There was any amount of corn from the rich arable plains of Hungary. There was every kind of mineral wealth. In the centre of it crouched Vienna, a gigantic spider, a gigantic parasite stretching out its tentacles, and sucking up the blood and the riches of these various provinces. Everything 676 went to Vienna. Everybody went there to spend his or her money. The rich Bohemian manufacturer, the big Hungarian landowner, all had their town houses or their flats in Vienna. The others, less well off, went to stay at the big luxurious hotels. Vienna lived on catering for the amusement of all these rich people. It was a parasitical industry. I think there was hardly a trade in Vienna which was not of the luxury order. Its jewellers and leather workers were amongst the most skilled in Europe, and every Viennese manufacture was of a very high-class and expensive order. In addition to that, Vienna provided the waiters, cooks, chauffeurs, amusements, bands, and every kind of vice that is known to civilisation. The whole of that wealth and of those supplies have, so to speak, been turned off the tap.
Gone are the coal mines of Bohemia. Gone are the oil-fields of Calicia. The rich arable plains of Hungary no longer belong to them. The rich Bohemian manufacturer no longer has his house in Vienna. If he had money to spend, which he has not at the present time, he would not be allowed to go there, but would be compelled to spend it in his new country. Worse than that. The area of the arable country in the modern Austrian Republic is very limited. It is a pastoral rather than agricultural country. The Danube, which higher up in Bavaria and lower down in Hungary, runs through magnificent arable valley 20 to 30 miles wide, in Austria is a narrow rapid river running between steep banks—at Passau the hills close in on the river, and they do not open out again until after Pressburg, and all that way the valley is narrow and the banks are steep, and provided with a very small amount of agricultural country; in fact, so small is the amount of arable land, that the agricultural communities will be hard put to provide food for themselves. In addition to that they have Vienna, a gigantic city of some 2½ million inhabitants, accustomed to every luxury and every extravagance.
Worse than that. The population of Vienna do not appear to realise that their future existence is in danger. They seem to think that they are merely passing through a cycle of bad times which will disappear in due course automatically and without any effort on their part. To put the matter bluntly, and in plain language, 677 Vienna is spending her substance in riotous living, and is appealing to the Allies to provide her with the necessaries of life. I have already alluded to the atmosphere of luxury and extravagance. Everything both private and municipal is run on the same lines. The policemen directing the traffic at the cross-roads was so gorgeously attired that I hesitated to ask him the way. It was only after consulting a civilian as to whether this gorgeously attired individual was a policeman or an officer of the new army—and being assured rather abruptly that they had no army officers now—that I ventured to ask the way. The stationmasters and the assistant-stationmasters at every wayside station were wearing a uniform the cost of which must have been at least 50 first-class fares from one end of the country to the other. Consider how it would be if every Stationmaster in England was wearing uniform the cost of which was 50 first-class fares from London to Inverness, and I think the pathetic account of transport difficulties of which we hoard yesterday from the Minister of Transport would be vastly increased.
Electric cars are running day and night in every direction, although not one in a hundred thousand of the millions of people is engaged in any real productive work The banks and offices are crowded. The only business going on is speculating in the rise and fall of values and gambling in the various exchanges. The establishments have done a big business, and have sold most of their stock. But some of the people have spent the money on riotous living, and others, who have saved it, now find that the purchasing power has been so diminished by the action of the Government that it will no longer purchase anything at all. The Government have printed so much paper money to pay enormously increased wages that it no longer has any purchasing power. I think until something is done in that direction there can be no hope of any improvement or any stabilising of the exchanges. The people of Vienna at the present moment are attempting to live by taking in each other's washing. They know of the scarcity of food which exists, because the leading articles in the papers and the paragraphs deal with the amount of food that may be expected from the Allied countries. In spite of that no one is putting a hand's turn to endeavour to 678 increase production. On Sundays the whole of the able-bodied population sit in cafés, smoking and playing chess and billiards, or walking up and down the middle of the street. No one does anything towards increasing the food supply. Men are at work in the public parks planting flowers and shrubs. It does not occur to anybody to attempt to grow potatoes. There is waste land in plenty, but no one makes any attempt to cultivate it. I was told that the working classes had allotments in the neighbourhood of the city, but it took me a considerable time to find them, and it was only when I got among the peasant proprietors some distance from Vienna that I found work was proceeding. The peasants, indeed, are working hard, but the horses which they should have to assist them to till their fields are driving people to dances and concerts in Vienna. Across the frontier in Bavaria the peasants are attempting to plough a thousand acres with one horse and an ox, and a largo portion of last year's stubble is still untouched. Surely it would be possible to convert some of these motor and taxi-cab drivers into drivers of the plough. Attempts have been made to ration the foodstuffs, but the efforts of the authorities are defeated by the illicit dealer, largely on account of the absurd maximum prices which are often fixed below the cost of production. Government action with regard to maximum prices has alienated the sympathy of the peasants, and this does not tend to in-crease the amount of ground cultivated, and the result is that they restrict their energy to producing simply what they require for their own immediate use. It is perfectly hopeless to suggest that anything may be done to improve this appalling and hopeless situation. It is notoriously difficult to help people who will not help themselves, and so far the Viennese and the Austrians have made practically no efforts in that direction. In my opinion, other than the indemnity clauses, in regard to which I entirely agree with what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), I think it will be useless to attempt to modify the Treaty, especially with regard to territorial limitations. Jugo-Slavia, Czecho-Slavakia, Hungary, and Poland have now been freed from Austrian domination, and to attempt to force them to return would 679 mean instant war. They hate the Austrians, and they have for the Viennese that contempt which an agricultural population always has for a population of mountebanks. On one occasion I had to act as interpreter between a party of Hungarian peasants and a railway official. They spoke but little English and not a word of German. They told me that they were well on their way back to settle in their native country. That is the spirit which pervades not only Hungary, but Czecho-Slovakia and Jugo-Slavia. The Austrian Empire never was homogeneous, and it was always an ill-assorted community of nations forced into a semblance of unity by the pressure of the Turk, but that danger no longer exists. For the last 50 years they have only been kept together by the prestige of the army and the personality of the late Emperor. The one is now shattered and the other is dead. A common danger may once more compel them to unite, but this can never be done by treaty. As I said before, the problem of what to do with Austria and Vienna is a hopeless one, and, in my opinion, the continued existence of Austria in its present condition is an anachronism and an impossibility.
If we are prepared to accept the people of Vienna, and to a lesser extent Austria, Poland and Czecho-Slovakia, as our permanent pensioners, well and good, but we must remember that so long as they continue their present policy there will not be the least improvement in two years' time. They are clamouring for coal, credits, and raw material to get their industries going, but if we give them the raw material—I do not know where we are going to find it—it by no means follows that there will be any market for their manufactured goods, because Czecho-Slovakia, Hungary and Jugoslavia are already shut on by a wall of hostile tariffs, and I do not think hon. Members on this Bench would consent to Austrian-made goods coming to this country.
At any rate, it is no use providing Austria or Vienna with credits to get their industries going and at the same time introducing Dumping Bills into this House. If we give large credits, the only immediate effect will be to improve the purchasing power of the community, and that would lead to further gambling with the exchange. However large our credits, 680 they will only enable the Government to indulge in further extravagance. The exchange will rise first, and then fall until it is not of the value of the paper on which the notes are printed. This is suggested at a time when we need capital and credit here in the reconstruction of our own industries, and I think we should hesitate before we pour out British capital to be wasted in Viennese extravagance. I wish to say in conclusion that, other than a humanitarian interest, I have no interest whatever in Austria, and they are welcome to dance and dine and carry on just as they like, and they may gamble in every currency under the sun. All that is no concern of mine, but I fail to see why this country should provide the wherewithal to do it.
§ Lieut. - Colonel MOORE-BRABAZON
My only justification for taking part in this Debate is that I have returned from Germany so recently as to include one or two days of the revolution. There are many conditions in Germany which we are quite unaware of in this country. I will try and deal with one or two of the items of that peace which has been described as one which passeth all understanding. There is one point which is of very vital importance to Germany about which they feel very strongly, and it is the size of their army. There is a demand for a bigger army from two parties in the community. One demand comes from the Military party, who frankly fear Russian Belshevism, and their point is that now that the Allies have taken away Germany's powers of resistance from the point of view of invasion, for that reason we are morally responsible for the defence of that country should an invasion come from the East. When we examine that position I think there is no proof that such a concentration is taking place in Russia, but there is a very great deal to show that the military party wish for as big an army as possible in order to put themselves in power again. For the reasons I have stated, I think that demand for a bigger army from the military side may be dismissed.
In the second place, there is also a demand for a bigger army from the middle classes. They want a bigger army to keep order, and from our point of view it is of the essence of the problem that order in Germany should be kept somehow, because, without order, there is no chance of the Peace Terms being 681 carried out, and there is no hope for anybody in the country. Their fear is of Bolshevism from within. This problem of Bolshevism should be investigated apart from any strong feelings that we may have about Bolshevism in Russia. We must discriminate between Soviet government and Bolshevism in the same way as we discriminate between a republic and the guillotine. At one time, those two thoughts were intimately associated, and to-day we are rather inclined to fall into the error of associating Soviet government with atrocities, but they are not necessarily mixed together, and if Germany should decide in favour of a Soviet government, and if they can get it in a constitutional way and without disorder, then it is not our business in any way to interfere. Under Bolshevism, as we look upon it to-day, we have seen atrocities and cruelty which almost pass our belief, but we must not put that down as an ideal of Bolshevism, but more as the result of conditions outside, that of hunger, misery, helplessness, hopelessness, and political oppression. Those are results which lead to atrocities wherever a revolution has taken place.
What we must ask ourselves to do is, are we by our action imposing on Germany such conditions that will lead them to the same fate as Russia. I do not think I can be accused of being in any way a pro-German. I was elected, as so many others were, on the ticket of "Hang the Kaiser and make the Germans pay." What I wish to point out is that at the time we were elected we were extraordinarily ignorant of the position of Germany. We thought even when she was beaten that she was still a very powerful nation, and we hated her because we feared her, and fear is the basic principle of hatred. But to-day we have to realise that Germany is not only beaten, but as a Power she has disappeared off the map, and does not exist. Therefore, from the point of view of fear, as far as Germany is concerned, we might as well be afraid of an invasion of the Isle of Man.
I am afraid that a recitation of the conditions would probably bore this House. We know that on account of the absence of raw material the Germans cannot produce a single ship for another ten years, and they have no possibility of getting an adequate coal supply. In Germany clothing is so short that the working man has 682 no underclothing at all except that which is made of paper. Potato bread is eaten everywhere, and you cannot get ordinary broad unless you pay something in the neighbourhood of 500 marks for a loaf Milk is unprocurable for women and children, and we ought to know, although we do not, that the mortality among the children is enormous to-day. I maintain that these conditions cannot go on very long without some cataclysm occurring. The whole of Germany seems to be living on a volcano. The people are groping in the dark for support and guidance. They are surrounded by bitter, vindictive enemies. It is not unnatural that they turn to England, not with any great feeling of hope, perhaps, but at any rate believing that this country will be just to them. One ought to record here the fact that, during the many meetings that took place at the outbreak of the revolution, it was proposed by many speakers that the English Commission should take over the government of Germany until such time as they could have an election. That does not show hatred at any rate, and it is an enormous tribute to our soldiers in Berlin and in the occupied provinces, because such an expression could never have come from the Germans had our soldiers been a lot of swaggering bullies, as they are sometimes represented by certain hon. Members here.
Let me mention some of the pin-pricks—some of the causes of complaint on the part of the Germans. One of them is what they described as the open wound from Basle to Holland. That is a difficulty which wants to be seen to be appreciated. One cannot be surprised at the strong feeling of the Germans when, under the existing conditions of high food prices and difficulties of exchange, they see the food they so much require going out of the country in a way which really means death to their country. I am sure some of our Allies are not so short of food as really to need to take what little food there is in Germany to-day, and I should like to see some action taken by ourselves to prevent this export of food from Ger many. Then, again, there is the question of the guns and shells. All these have been melted down for raw material, and I am certain it was never the intention of the Allies that that raw material should be carted out of the country. That seems an unnecessary penalty to impose upon the Germans. Another thing is coal. We 683 know, of course, the arrangements which have been made about coal in Germany. It is perfectly right, no doubt, that they should have been made, but in addition to that, the Germans have had to surrender an enormous amount of rolling stock. Much of it has been delivered to our Allies and has been found to be too heavy to go over their bridges. The wagons are consequently standing idle in rows, while in Germany coal is accumulating at the pit mouth simply because there is no means of transporting it. That seems to me a most preposterous situation, and one productive of good to nobody. Then, of course, there is always considerable feeling about the "unknown indemnity." If they could only get that settled, if they could get some sum fixed, however big, it would stimulate them to start to pay it off. I do not think it would be politic at this moment for mc to deal with the occupied areas, but I should like to get a declaration from our Government that the areas we are occupying will always be occupied by ourselves and by nobody else. I think that would be very much appreciated, for instance, by the people of Cologne.
We have declared very often here that we are not out to wage war against the German people, but only against German militarism, and I say here that if German militarism springs up again in Germany, I would be in favour of doing everything to secure its absolute destruction. I would use the blockade and every other form of repression in order to defeat it. I do think, however, that recent occurrences in that country go far to show the real feeling of the Germans towards these people. The object of the revolution was to enable the militarists to got back their régime; they had all the weapons and the guns, and yet the people in Berlin turned them out, and did so notwithstanding the fact that they had very few arms. They shed their own blood in doing it, and there could be no greater test of sincerity than that of a people being willing to give up their lives for such a purpose. I want to impress upon the House the extraordinary dislike there is throughout the middle and lower classes for the militarist régime and for the Kaiser. If the Kaiser had died in battle, there might have been some affection for him; but in the time of his country's need he 684 ran away with as much money as he could collect, and he will never be forgiven for that. The people will never have the militarist party back in power. We ought to look upon Germany, therefore, in a rather different way. We should remember that the militarist power formerly had control of the people, and could make the whole country do as it chose. If we had had a bad Government during the War, with a similar military machine, it could possibly have got our people to do exactly as it desired. But now that is cleared away, and I venture to say there is a sincere desire among the German people to start again from the bottom and, not to work up to a great Imperial Power, but to become a working Germany, because what they really need to-day is enough food to live on. If we are to get that reparation we have heard spoken of to-night, the only chance of ever securing it is to see that some cataclysm does not happen. The feeling is, in fact, that, as long as we can keep them fed and working, they will endeavour to meet the obligations they are under to us.
§ Captain ELLIOT
I intervene only on the grounds of personal experience, because 1, too, have not long returned from the countries of Central Europe around which the Debate has turned this afternoon. There is no doubt, as my hon. and gallant Friend opposite said, that the propaganda which has gone on throughout the whole of the War has brought the mind of the average man to a condition which can best be described by what a soldier once said to me: that he and his fellows believed nothing at all that they read, and only half what they actually saw with their own eyes. In regard to the discussion of the problem of the starving countries of Central Europe, although, no doubt, a certain amount of extravagance is going on amongst the upper classes and in the cities, one is surprised to find that the phrase "dead towns" cannot be applied to them in the sense that it was applied to dead towns and cities in the War. Those of us who have been at the War have seen really dead towns, like those of Péronne and Bapaume, where there was grinding, devastating misery and suffering, and although it is undoubtedly true that there is much misery and suffering in Vienna, we ought not to condemn the whole people there because wealthy profiteers 685 are flaunting their luxuries in the face of the starving poor, and we have no right to say, because these unworthy citizens are wasting the few remaining resources of the country, therefore we will not give any help. It is very difficult to get a proper focus of the condition of things in Vienna or to realise the extent of the fall in value of their money. I had to go to Budapest, and I was compelled to hire a motor to get there. It is not true to say that the trains and trams are always running. They stop occasionally, and many of the theatres and opera houses are closed from time to time. These places live from hand to mouth, and if for transport reasons the coal supply fails, then they have to close down. For the hire of that motor I paid 35,000 kroner, and the only thing that terrified me was lest some generous American should re-establish the value of the mark whilst I was away, for then it would have cost me something like £1,200 for that motor, and I should have found it necessary to apply for the Chiltern Hundreds, as I should have been unable to retain my seat in this House. As it happened, the charge for that car worked out at less than I would have had to pay for the hire of a motor in this country.
What we have to bear in mind is the value of the money to the Austrian workman. Ten shillings of paper money, such as I hold in my hand at this moment, is not worth twopence-halfpenny to-day. It is very difficult for us to get a real conception of the value of money. What may be sport to one in paying three, four, or five hundred kroner for a dinner is death to the Austrian working man, who cannot afford to pay these gigantic prices, and consequently is suffering terribly. Another point in regard to the wealthy profiteer is that undoubtedly in Vienna under a Socialist Government—and it seems to be a natural outcome of such governments—there is widespread corruption and inefficiency. The officials cannot live on their salaries, and accept bribes right and left. Consequently the rich can get anything they choose to ask for. But the rich are the very smallest proportion of the population of this great city, which contains over 2,000,000 people. The scum always rises to the top, and visitors to Vienna see the scum carrying on in peace as they carried on during 686 the four years of the War which brought to Austria absolute ruin and devastation.
Many things have been said against the Peace Treaty of Versailles, as being responsible for the trouble in connection with the coal supply of Vienna, but it is not entirely responsible, for even in the Peace Treaty Clauses were inserted stating that a certain amount of coal should be delivered from Bohemia to Austria. That coal was not delivered. They do not get delivery even of the quantities of raw material arranged for in the Peace Treaty, and it is scarcely fair to blame the Allies for the wretched state into which the country has fallen. The fact, however, that it is due to the blindness, the brutality and the spite of the neighbouring countries does not alter our responsibility for such a thing. There is no doubt that, for right reasons or for wrong reasons, by accident or by ability, the peoples of the Western Powers, and of Great Britain in particular, are the kings of the world. They are the sovereigns of all Europe, and we cannot escape from the moral responsibility for the disease, devastation, starvation and misery which exist in any part of Europe. The League of Nations now is only a league of some nations. We hope it will become a league of all nations sooner or later, but there is a league of disease which is international. The microbe knows no frontiers. Pestilence does not care under which flag it kills its victims, and if you allow this disease to swelter and ferment in the centre of these great prosperous communities, there is no saying what illness will not be bred in it, which will overlap all our frontiers and reduce the people of Britain to the same wretched state that the people of Russia are in to-day. That the people of Vienna are suffering terribly, two instances will be enough to show. I went past a shop at three o'clock in the afternoon, and there was a queue there as long as this Chamber. At five in the afternoon the queue was still there. At 11 o'clock it had not moved an inch, on a wet, stormy January night. It stood there all night, and would stand there till nine the next morning, on the chance that half the people in it would be allowed to pay £5 for a pair of boots. The misery and wretchedness that that one queue represents is enough to show the state into which the people have fallen. Again, 687 there is the fact that they are exporting their children—the mothers are allowing their children to be taken away from them, and sent to Holland and Belgium and Sweden and so on. I regret that the Noble Lady the Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) is not in her place, for she could realise, as I think no man can realise, the state of a family from which a starving child is taken away for six months, fed with all sorts of luxuries and dainties, and petted and spoiled, and then, at the end of the six months, plunged back again into the pit of misery from which it has been withdrawn. That the mother is willing to allow that, for the sake of getting rid of her child for a few months, shows the extent of the disaster and hopelessness that has fallen upon the people of that country.
It is not fair to say that everyone is living in idleness and luxury there. The big locomotive shops in Vienna, and the big motor works, are making a certain amount of effort. The Daimler motor works are employing more men than they ever did before the war. The country could pay its way, and should pay its way. The need for the skilled workmen of Vienna to make and repair the rolling stock of Austria has not passed away because frontiers have been set up, cutting Austria into several conflicting nationalities. Austria could and should be got on its feet again. That some reduction in the population may have to take place is undoubted. There are many skilled workmen in Vienna, able to do work for which the whole world is clamouring to-day—able to make internal combustion engines, able to make railway wagons, able to make all sorts of things for which the whole of the rest of Europe is starving. Putting it on the lowest ground, it would be a good investment to get those people producing the things of which we all stand so badly in need. The mere fact that the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel L. Ward), who has discussed the question of Vienna, agreed that the indemnity Clauses should be waived, was enough to show that ho also agreed that the state of the country was so bad that we could get nothing out of it. I do not put it on the ground of justice or humanity, but merely on the same ground as the old Scots proverb, "Ye canna' tak' the breeks off a Hielan'man." There is nothing you 688 can get from these people, because they have got nothing. What the Continent is suffering from is the weakness, and not the strength, of Britain. It is not the tyranny of Britain, but the abdication by Britain of its tremendous power. Although the Bohemians—the Czecho-Slovaks—have this surplus of 200,000 tons of sugar, they want to sell it to an overfed country like Holland, where every man already is letting out his waistcoat from over-feeding. They want to sell it to other countries which have far more food than they need. They do not want to sell it to Vienna. Even in Austria itself, in starving Vienna, where the milk supply has fallen from 1,000,000 litres a day to 70,000 litres, the peasants of the country are trying to get export licences to sell their cows to Switzerland, to make Swiss milk and milk chocolate for export to over-fed countries, instead of using the milk to support the children of their own people. That does not do away with our responsibility. Authority has disappeared from those countries, and will need to be imposed from the outside, and it is for the Western powers to do their best to re-establish that authority.
With regard to the state of Hungary, there has been a great deal of discussion and of very wild and prejudiced talk, notably by hon. Members of the other side of the House. I was in Hungary during the general election, and I saw one of the big mass meetings on the eve of the poll, that was addressed by the Hungarian Prime Minister. Nobody takes a general election meeting quite seriously. "The voice of the people is the voice of God," undoubtedly, but one does not suggest that the voice of God is always heard at a general election. That meeting, however, was sincerely convinced, first and fore-most, that they were not going to have Bolshevism; secondly, that they wanted a monarchy; and, thirdly, that they wanted fair treatment for the countries which it was proposed to cut away from Hungary. That was as plain and definite as any audience of 5,000 to 10,000 people could possibly make it. Let hon. Members opposite, who are so keen that we should not interfere in Russia and do any damage to the form of Government which the Russian people have chosen, show the same eagerness with regard to Hungary. If Hungary wants a monarchy, that is the business of Hungary, and not of anybody in this country. There is as much bitterness 689 and spite and petty malice and un-charitableness shown by the newspapers of the extreme left towards Hungary as has ever been shown by the newspapers of the extreme right towards Soviet Russia. If Russia has, as I believe she has, the right to choose her own form of Government, Hungary has an equal right to choose the form of government that she wishes. We fear that, if the Labour party comes into power—because, of all the belligerent crowds in the whole country, a Labour Government will be the most belligerent—we shall see the Lancashire Fusiliers and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders sent up the Danube in barges to destroy the Government of Hungary because it is a monarchy, and to re-crect on its ruins a free constitutional Soviet Government, because it is a form of government that appeals to hon. Members opposite. The people want to be ruled by a King. They know what he is, they can get at him, he is responsible, and his son afterwards is responsible. They have had one constitutional president like Karolyi, who was a gambler and a sluggard—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"]—I think that is undoubtedly true. He used to lie in bed till 11 or 12 in the morning, and play cards till 2 the next morning. That is not a very creditable thing for any man, and particularly is not a very useful thing for the President of a Republic during a revolution. He handed them over to the Bolshevist government of Bela Kun, which, whatever else may be said about it, was grossly unpopular in the country. That atrocities were committed I have from the Bolshevik Commissars themselves, whom I interviewed on the subject. They said they had tried their best to destroy the gangs that committed those atrocities, but they always said that they did not deny that they had taken place. That Government, which came into power on a Chauvinist programme, was brought into power to preserve the national frontier of Hungary; and, when the Hungarians found that it could not do that, the peasants themselves turned on the Government, and the Government fell from the great weakness of all Soviet Governments, the blockade—not the external, but the internal blockade—of the country against the town. That is what brought it down in Hungary, as undoubtedly it has gone a long way to modify its excesses in Russia. The Hungraian 690 Bolshevist commissaries were very advanced people. They even regarded Lenin as a bit of a reactionary, and thought he was not one of those people who were preaching the pure milk of the Marxian doctrine. They thought he had created a lot of peasant proprietors, and that that was a very bad thing for any country. They said that the Soviet Government, controlling, as it would, all the ports where things are imported and all the factories where things are made, would be able to raise the prices of those things, and to put the screw on the small holder and bankrupt him. The peasants did not want that sort of thing. If they had split up the big estates they might have had a Bolshevist Government in Hungary, but when they realised that they were not going to escape from the big proprietor, but that it was simply a big official proprietor instead of a big private landowner, they decided that that form of government was not sufficiently in advance of the old form for any man to die for it.
That is the constitutional experiment which is now going on in Central Europe. The Bolshevist form of government has been tried there, and I think it may definitely be said to have failed. Very reckless accusations are being made just now about the Hungarian Government and the White Terror it is carrying on, but if you stir up the spirit of bloodshed and betrayal you can expect no other result. As an instance of the spirit of betrayal which is being stirred up, a lady told me that her cook came to her and said, "Can you tell me, madame, how to get a man denounced as a Bolshevist, because my daughter's fiancé has refused to marry her, and I want to get him shot as a Bolshevist." That is the sort of thing that goes on. When you break up the big laws you do not get liberty, but you get the small law instead. When you destroy the power of the central executive you do not get liberty, but you get the domination and tyranny of the policeman at the street corner, and that is what you will get in this country as you will in all countries where the ruin and the breaking up of law has begun.
In Hungary I inspected some of the prisons and spoke to some people, who were not what you would call reactionary people, but who had done time in gaol as conscientious objectors, and consequently 691 knew something about the inside of prisons. Certainly, in Budapest, the Bolshevik Commissioners are in prison under what would be called good second division conditions in this country. They have their own clothes, they have cells to themselves, they have books, they have paper, they have writing materials, their friends are allowed to come and sec them and they have food sent in from outside. If all our political prisoners were treated as well as these it would be a credit to the British Empire. Many have been hanged, and it is probable that more executions will take place. Admiral Korthy is, in my opinion, an upright, honourable and just man, and I think that is the opinion of most people who have come in contact with him. Even the extreme Bolsheviks admit that he is personally anxious to do the right thing. But they complain that he has not power enough to make his decisions felt. How more can we weaken and injure his power than by interfering whenever there is a process of trial being carried on? What can be more damaging for any executive than a rumour getting about that it has yielded to the threat of foreign pressure? If these men are not tried and convicted, if legal executions do not take place in Budapest, lynchings take place in the provinces. The peasants and other people take the power into their own hands. The laws under which they are being tried are not now laws, but laws passed about 1812, and if executions do not take place according to law in Budapest they will take place according to lynch law in the provinces.
I wish to repeat the exhortation of my Noble Friend (Lord R. Cecil) with regard to the terrible responsibility that anyone takes who allows a stoppage of the production of coal in this country just now, mine owners or mine workers. The coal that is carrying food to these people is being mined from British mines, is being burnt in British ships, and is bringing food from the ends of the earth. The only hope is that we should remain a great, strong nation producing a surplus of goods out of which we can help these people. That there is want and misery and distress in these countries is undoubted. But it is nothing to what may happen all over Europe. During the railway strike all the coal ships were called for by wireless and turned back to port 692 and brought back to Great Britain to guard our own people against famine and coal starvation. In the year after the Armistice alone we carried 2,000,000 tons of food to France, and 3,900,000 tons to Italy. We have enormous responsibilities which we cannot by any means escape, and I beg Labour members, particularly those connected with the great mining industry, to reflect and think twice and thrice before they plunge the country into a conflict of which no man can see the end, before they rake out the furnace fires of the ships which are bringing food to Europe, and stop the production of coal which is cooking the dinners of the housewives in the whole of Europe. This responsibility cannot be escaped from, and I beg of them to lay that very seriously to heart.
The League of Nations is more than ever appearing as the only hope for Europe, the only chance we have of coming through this. These new boundaries which are being set up cannot stand, and in many cases they should not be allowed to stand. The only hope is that in this Treaty we have set up what no Treaty has had before—a permanent court of revision by which these things can be discussed in prudence and not in passion, in the cold light of reason and not in the light of burning roofs and burning stack-yards. The mere boundaries of Hungary are impossible. They are ridiculous. No such boundary has ever been seen in the world. You have a range of mountains round Bohemia—the Apple of Bohemia—and, added to the side of it, there is a sort of banana-shaped country called Slovakia, consisting entirely of the tops of high mountains guiding the upper waters of small mountain valleys. The Peace Conference is full of very great and important gentlemen, but they cannot make rivers run sideways across mountains, because they run downhill and not across. They cannot convince a peasant who has to go ten miles down stream to buy an axe or a plough in the county town at the head of a valley where his forefathers have gone before him, that it is to his interest, because he speaks a Slavonic tongue, to leap over 80 miles of mountain tops to get into Bohemia to buy his axe or plough. He will want to go down the water the same as his forefathers have done, and when he realises that this is being stopped by 693 a frontier to which he is supposed to have consented, he will inevitably ask for the destruction of that frontier; and what I am afraid of is British troops being sent up there, on the plea of the League of Nations, to bully this man and force him back under conditions that he has tried to live in for 18 months and failed. The country of Slovakia consists entirely of the tops of the Carpathian mountains. Ear hath not heard nor eye seen, it hath not entered into the mind of man to conceive any such country as Slovakia as it has been drawn up by the Peace Treaty. You could not possibly conceive it unless you saw it on a contour may. That is one frontier which in my belief will collapse very soon. It ought to be brought before the Peace Treaty and revised there in the light of common sense and not be made into a casual catch-word to cause a now war.
Again, Rumania was badly treated when the Germans got into her country. But she got it all back and more in what she has wrung out of the Hungarians in the last nine months. They have taken everything from Hungary. I was in the Hotel Hungaria, which was a Soviet House during the Bolshevist Revolution, and the Bolshevists did not take a single spoon or fork out of that hotel. When they left it they left the silver-ware in it as it had been when they came in. But there was not a silver spoon or fork left in it after the Rumanians had been in. What the Bolshevists did not take the Rumanians had no hesitation in taking. They took everything, down to wrenching the lavatory basins out of the bedrooms. They took agricultural instruments out of the big Agricultural Institute in Budapest, and machinery for forecasting the weather, which naturally was ruined by the time they had got it to the doors of the museum. Still, it was pretty and glittering and made a pleasant noise when you struck it, and that was enough for the Rumanian soldiers to loot it and take it to their country where it is lying in the carts on the roads, because it is no use to them or anyone else. The Rumanian frontier includes a Magyar community which is planted right in the frontier of Hungary, a sort of Hungarian Ulster, and if you realise what would happen if you put Ulster under the rest of Ireland just now you would have a faint conception of what is happening in this community 694 where you have a similar number of people put under a rule alien in religion and in culture, which they hate, and as some Ulster men do—I do not know whether they all do—they heartily despise.
I would appeal to the Prime Minister to put some of that ginger into getting the League of Nations going that he put into the conduct of the War, to fight for unity of command against the forces of chaos as he fought for unity of command against the forces of Germany. The danger before civilisation is as great now as it was during the War, and the Prime Minister is the only man with vigour and determination enough, I honestly believe, to carry the thing through. By-elections are all very well, but I believe he has still to a great extent the confidence and trust of a vast proportion of the ordinary people of Great Britain, and he owes a responsibility to the world that he cannot get rid of. He has put in four years of work such as no other man has ever had to put in—work which has broken one after another of the statesmen of the countries of our Allies—but still he has his natural force not abated, ho has enough strength, courage and insight to rouse this country and all Europe to a sense of the dangers which are facing us if we do not look these things in the face and get them settled, and the League of Nations alone is the thing that can do it. The weary cynicism of the French and bankrupt opportunism are no use. The thing has got to be faced and tackled by the ordinary common man, and it is the ordinary common man that I ask the Prime Minister to inspire, to instruct, to organise, and to make the ordinary man realise that we are not out of the wood yet. We are still walking along the very brink of the abyss and the state of Europe is nothing now to what it might be in a year. We have got the force and the strength to get us out of the morass into which we may fall, but we must use every atom of strength and energy, and in particular put away hate out of our path, because this is no question now of enemies, but of saving humanity. It is Britain that is serving as a lighthouse for the whole world, and if it flickers and goes out through our cowardice and folly, half the world will sink in the storm for lack of the guidance which this country alone can give it.
The House is very greatly indebted to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for his most interesting speech. I am very glad he has removed the impression which might be left by a speech delivered a short time ago, the effect of which was to indicate that Vienna was a city living in luxury and that the inhabitants were devoting their time to riotous living. I join with the hon. and gallant Member in the appeal that he has made for the fullest possible use of the machinery of the League of Nations in altering some of the absurd provisions to which he has drawn attention. I want to make a reference to that part of the speech of the Prime Minister in which he dealt with the delay in entering upon negotiations for the Turkish Treaty. The right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) says that the delay was regrettable, and the Prime Minister also regretted the delay. He said that the delay was quite inevitable, and he went on to say that we had hoped that the United States would share the responsibility of mandates in Turkey. I feel sure that the Prime Minister did not wish to lay the blame upon the United States for the delay that had taken place, but I am very much afraid that that will be the effect of the remark. A similar remark was made by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in another place last week. He said that the circumstances in which the original delay had taken place were quite well known, and he went on to say that the additional delay was due to the United States. The Prime Minister said the same thing in very similar terms to-night. When the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had spoken I observed in a telegraphic report from Washington that surprise had been expressed by the State Department at his remarks, and I expect that the same surprise will be expressed after the remarks of the Prime Minister. If the Prime Minister will not answer the question which I addressed to him, that is upon what he had based his hopes that the United States would accept these mandates, I suggest that there was no reason at all to expect after the month of October—I will not go back beyond that—that the United States would accept the mandates. Therefore, there was no reason why the Treaty should not have been taken up in that month. I hope that the remarks of the Prime Minister 696 to-night, in which I feel sure he had no intention of throwing blame upon America, will not be taken in that sense in the United States.
With most of what the Prime Minister said I found myself in agreement, but I must hark back to what he said about Mesopotamia. On that subject I did not find myself in agreement with him. He made out a case for the control and administration by this country, not only of the Vilayet of Busra, but of Baghdad and Mosul. He said that the Sherifat of Mosul was a rich country, the resources of which the British Empire would avail themselves. I wonder, if he has studied carefully the report of Sir John Hewitt and Sir Harry Verney, the Liberal candidate for Basingstoke, which was issued in 1919. The inquiry took place at the end of 1918, and these gentlemen made an investigation into our expenditure in Mesopotamia. Sir John says:Apart from the sums spent upon roads and railways, £2,000,000 may be regarded as expenditure which would benefit the civil population and be of permanent value to the country.He goes on to say:There is no doubt that the expenditure incurred during the War far accedes in amount any sum at which the railways can fairly be assessed as n commercial concern.This is the point which I should like to emphasise, having regard to the remarks of the Prime Minister. The account that Sir John gives of the attempts to promote agriculture are very far from encouraging. That is evidenced in the Report. What, therefore, is left of the great resources of Mesopotamia to which the Prime Minister referred can only be the oil that can he developed in that country. In spite of what the Prime Minister said, I suggest that the sane policy in Mesopotamia would be to cut our losses and to reduce our committments in that country as speedily as possible. As the right hon. Member for Paisley pointed out, there are no natural boundaries to Mesopotamia in the part that we occupy. We have a garrison of 70,000 men there, of whom 18,000 are British, and the annual cost is £16,000,000. From a very small beginning we have acquired a territory—because that is what it amounts to—larger than the country of Italy. Our policy should be to establish as firmly as possible the newly-created Republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan, to 697 create, as has boon suggested, and as I believe is the intention of the Government, an independent State of Armenia, and to organise but not to control the Sherifats of Mosul and Baghdad, and that we should confine the territory which is administered by ourselves to the Vilayet of Busra.
I should have liked to have developed, but I know the House is anxious to get to other business, the reasons for some of the difficulties with which we have been confronted in regard to our present policy in connection with Constantinople and other matters arising out of the Peace Treaty. What I should have said would have been to impress upon the Government the necessity for reverting to the past practice in which our foreign policy was controlled, not by the Prime Minister at No. 10, Downing Street, but by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. It is only by having the centre of gravity under the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that we can have a fixed policy. The result of the present system—it has been evidenced in what has taken place in regard to Constantinople, in the Adriatic negotiations, in the vacillation of our policy during the last two years in respect of Russia—the result of the present orientation of our foreign policy being under the Prime Minister is that it is conducted with no fixed principles, that it lacks stability of purpose, and that the tendency is for it to become increasingly opportunist and hand-to-mouth. Nothing could be more dangerous to the peaceful progress of our international relations and nothing could be more foreign to the high ideals with which our relations with other countries have in the past been conducted. I suggest to the Government that this is a constitutional point of great importance which no doubt has slipped their notice, because in this matter they have not passed from the war to the peace mind. In the days when our foreign policy was conducted on some method of principle, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs controlled the foreign policy and not the Prime Minister, and I suggest to the Government that the sooner the centre of gravity and the control of our foreign policy can be removed to its rightful position the better will it be for our international relations and for the peace of the world.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
Before making any statement of the views I hold in connection 698 with condition of affairs in Europe I should like to reply to the admonition addressed to this side of the House by the hon. and gallant Member for Lanark (Captain Elliot). He suggested with regard to the conditions in Austria that the members of the Labour party, particularly those who had anything to do with the coal industry, would be very well advised if they refrained from any suggestion to the men whom they control to come out on strike. I should like to suggest to the hon. Member and to others who may think in the same manner as to the grave responsibility that rests upon the shoulders of the miners or of the men who call a strike or who ballot in favour of a strike that they in this House and outside should also remember the grave responsibility that rests with them in seeing that the miners of this country as well as the other workers shall have justice done to them. In regard to the Prime Minister's statement that there was no need for a revision of the Treaty we have heard sufficient even from his own followers to-night to show that, while they may not agree with those who sit on these Benches, the Treaty must be revised in certain matters. It is particularly with regard to the conditions in Germany and Austria that we wish this Treaty to be revised.
The conditions of starvation in Austria and the economic conditions in Germany have been pointed out. In Germany it is not the people who caused the War, not the people who are responsible for making the treaties with Austria and hounding her into the War who are being punished, ill-treated, and are suffering now. The people who are suffering are the people of Germany, who had no say in going to war, who, living in a conscript country, had to enter the Army and go to war. It is they who are being asked to pay, to produce and to labour in order to furnish the sums for reparation, while the real criminals, who, this country was told, were going to be hanged if the present Government were returned at the last election, have been allowed to escape into other countries, and there is little likelihood even of the rope being spun with which to hang these criminals. In Germany you have had, only within the last few days, events which have arisen out of the conditions of peace. You have already taken from Germany, judging by 699 the shipping, locomotives, railway trucks, coal and other things, to make reparation to other countries, close upon £2,000,000,000, according to a statement by one of the German officials.
When Germany entered the War she was a great world power. It has been said by one of the supporters of the Government that Germany is no longer that. You have taken away Alsace and Lorraine, from which she received close upon 75 per cent. of her coal. You have taken away other parts of her territory. You have stripped Germany, and, having taken the most fruitful parts of old Germany, you are asking the new Germany, the dismembered Germany, to bear the full costs of the War and of reparation, while you have taken away those parts of her territory whose wealth would have enabled her to do so, and as a result of leaving Germany in a state of economic bankruptcy you have the people becoming restless and opposing the Government. You have the reactionaries, taking advantage of the unrest in the country, affecting the coup d'état which overthrew the Government, and you had Kapp installed as dictator for a few days. All this is due to the fact that the peace conditions imposed on Germany have been of such a character as to compel the people of Germany to work in such a manner that they look upon themselves as the bond slaves of the Allies. Unless the Peace Treaty is revised, or if there is no revision, unless the Governments of the Allies do something to re-establish Germany as one of the world powers in the way of production, unless they are prepared to take Germany into the League of Nations, prepared in short to look upon Germany as one of the cooperative nations of Europe, welcoming production from her people, and sending to her the productions from our people, Germany is going down into deeper and greater ruin than she is in to-day, and more, she will bring this country and the Allies with her to economic disaster and ruin.
In the interests of our own country, if, for no humanitarian motives, but purely from the point of view of self-interest, those who are interested in capital and in labour, in the government of this country and in foreign politics ought to insist on having either the treaty revised or the conditions lightened to such an 700 extent as will enable Germany to recover herself as a wealth-producing power, when we can get from her all that is necessary for the rebuilding of Prance, Belgium, and the other territories that have been devastated. There is no use in asking from an impoverished people at the time of their impoverishment money to pay for a debt or for the destruction that was done by their troops. Let Germany rehabilitate herself and get back into good circumstances whereby her people may be able from the wealth they can produce to give you the things necessary to put back the other countries into their old state. The Prime Minister has said that there is no need for revision of the Peace Treaty. He differs entirely from what has been said by one of the signatories to the Peace Treaty. General Smuts, immediately after he had signed the Peace Treaty, told us that there wereterritorial settlements that required revision, guarantees laid down which we hope will soon be found out of harmony with the new peaceful temper of our former enemies, measures foreshadowed over most of which in calmer mood people would be prepared to pass the sponge of oblivion, indemnities which cannot be exacted without grave peril to the industrial revival of Europe and which it will be in the interests of all to render more tolerable and moderate.General Smuts signed the Peace Treaty, not because he believed that it could be enforced, but because he believed that it was the ending of the War, and that as calmness and tolerance became more general throughout the world, and we were further and further away from the period of hate which had existed between the nations during the War, those more tolerant moods would prevail, generous instincts would rise, and the sponge of oblivion would wipe out some of these things which would keep down Germany and prevent her taking her place among the nations. Another very prominent gentleman in this country who cannot be considered a pro-German, Dr. Charles Sarolea, Belgian Consul at Edinburgh, says:As a Belgian by birth whose household goods have been destroyed, and who has been financially ruined by the Germans, I cannot be accused of any tender feelings for the enemy.Then he goes on:Unfortunately in the Peace settlement, it is not the guilty who are suffering but the innocent. It is mainly the innocent who are chastised. We are not punishing the past or the present generation, but the 701 untold millions of young; lads, children, who have been reduced by the Peace settlement to industrial helotry who will become hewers of wood and drawers of water to the conquering nations.If we wish to rehabilitate ourselves and get back into the peaceful industrial conditions of the pre-war period we must reconsider the whole question of peace and the whole question of bringing into the League of Nations Germany, Austria and Hungary, and not maintaining the League of Nations combination to keep them out so long as even one constituent member of the League of Nations objects to their coming in. As I understand, that is the constitution of the League of Nations at the present time.
There is another question in reference to a little State which was not pro-German, which had no occasion at the time she did to draw the sword arid join the Allies. That nation to-day is completely wiped out as a separate nation—I refer to Montenegro, Montenegro had no occasion to come into the War when she did. Her King and her people came in gladly. They lost their country at one period to the enemy. When the Peace was being settled as a result of this War, which was fought in the interests of self-determination, this country was excluded even from the Peace Conference and wiped out as one of the nations in Europe, her King was dethroned and her heroic people placed under the rule of a foreign power—the Serbians. Over and over again when questions have been asked, the Government have refused to produce the report of Count de Salis, who was sent out on behalf of the Government to find out the state of mind of the people of Montenegro, so that the Government would have evidence on which to arrive at a conclusion which would be just to the people of Montenegro. When we put questions in this House in reference to that report we are told that it is confidential and cannot be published. Is it a confidential report upon the conditions of Montenegro which makes the British nation commit a breach of faith, and destroy a pledge through the action of their leaders and representatives in the Peace Conference so that Montenegro ceases to be a nation and becomes merely a province of one of the nations which she went into the War to help out of their difficulties? That is a matter to which some reference should be made.
702 8.0 P.M.
There are other matters with regard to the question of peace with Russia. There again you are continuing your system of refusing to accept the terms of peace that they have put forward. Members of the Government come to this House and appeal to the people to practise economy and work harder, and yet there is a Power which is willing to exchange commodities with you, willing to take from the productive capacity of our people the locomotives, railway rolling-stock, and engineering material which she requires in order to restore that great country, while, on the other hand, you have Russia, with its great resources, willing to send us oil, grain, timber, gold, and send us from one of the wealthiest countries in the world the goods which we require to bring us back to that state of production which we occupied before the War. These facts, I submit, show the necessity of the Government at least going into this matter. Let the Government be strong There is no question that in the matter of Montenegro there is not a man or a woman throughout the country who would not protest, and who will not protest, if the facts become known. There is no man or woman who, if it were pointed out that the material prosperity of Germany is bound up with the material prosperity of the other nations, would not be willing to assist Germany to recover the position she occupied as a producing nation so that we and the whole of the world may get back into that state which is the only alternative to ruin. Those are among the reasons why we on this side of the House demand that the Peace Treaty should be revised.
§ Colonel YATE
I would like to say a few words on one or two of the matters mentioned by the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), and particularly on his references to Constantinople and Mesopotamia. I was very pleased to hear the right hon. Gentleman express agreement with the policy of the Government that the Sultan of Turkey should remain in Constantinople. I have lived a great deal amongst Mohammedans, both the Mussulmans of India and the Mohammedans of Afghanistan. I have known those from Khiva, Bokhara and throughout Central Asia. The whole of those Mohammedans throughout Asia, and Central Asia in particular, look upon it as an essential tenet of their religion that their Sultan 703 and Caliph should be an independent monarch. If there was any intention to disturb the Caliph's power at Constantinople it would cause the greatest unrest in that part of the world. I therefore urge most strongly on the Government that not only should the Sultan and Caliph be allowed to remain at Constantinople, but that there should be no mandate to any European Power over the Sultan and over what will remain of the Sultan's dominion after Syria and Mesopotamia and Armenia have been cut off. The right hon. Member for Paisley talked of "Vaticanising the Sultan." I was very pleased to hear the Prime Minister dispose of that argument at once by showing that there was no comparison possible between the Mohammedan Khalif at Constantinople and the Catholic Pontiff at Rome. The status of the two is entirely different. I trust we have heard the last of the phrase, "Vaticanising the Sultan."
I am speaking on behalf of the Mohammedans in India—not on behalf of those men in India who at present are raising a great agitation, men who have been, and are, in league with Enver Pasha, Mustapha Kemal, and other Young Turk leaders who have brought so much ruin on Turkey. The British power has been friends with Turkey ever since the Crimean War. I am old enough to remember the tales of the Crimea. We know how we fought for the Turks, and the feeling of respect for England which was thus aroused remained in Turkey for many years. I can remember the time of the Russo - Turkish War, when British medical officers who had been out to help the Turks, on coming back referred to the Turks as having asked, "When are you British coming to help us? You British officers always lead us, our Turkish officers drive us." We must not judge Turkey to-day by the Young Turks; those are the men to whom we are opposed. We are friends, and I hope always will be friends, with the original Turk. Of all the men and of all the officers who fought during the War I have not heard one who was in Mesopotamia say a single word against the clean fighting or the bravery of the Turks. On the contrary, they have nothing but praise for the Turks' valour. Both Turks and British in Mesopotamia joined in disliking the thieving, low-class Arabs who murdered the wounded and plundered 704 the dead. It is of the greatest importance that the Mohammedans of India, of Afghanistan, and of Asia should know that there is that respect remaining with us for the Turks, and that we intend to help the Sultan to maintain his power if we can, and to overcome the opposition to him and to the Turkish power in Constantinople on the part of the Young Turks. Enver Pasha and others of the Young Turk party are not Mohammedans at all, but Atheists. There will be, I can see, a great division in time to come between the various Mohammedan races in the world. I never could understand at the time why the Mohammedans in India looked with such distrust on the King of the Hedjaz when he declared himself an independent king. I see it now. I see there is a spirit among the Hedjaz Arabs, now that they have sole possession of Mecca and Medina, which prompts them to hope that they will be able to force the Sultan of Turkey to give up his position as Caliph and that they will succeed to it. That will cause great division among Mohammedan people in time to come. We shall have to be prepared for that. The Indian Moham medans, the Afghans and others would never agree to that, for they look upon the Sultan as their Caliph. It is incumbent on us not to do anything which would interfere in any way with the choice of the Caliph and we must do nothing to lesson his power and prestige.
On the subject of Mesopotamia I was sorry to hear the right hon. Member for Paisley say it was proposed that we should limit our connection with Mesopotamia to the Basrah district. It consists mostly of swamp and marshland. If we are to do anything in Mesopotamia it is absolutely necessary for us to control the head waters of the irrigation system, and that control goes very nearly up to Mosul. All these schemes of Sir William Willcocks for the irrigation of Mesopotamia are dependent on the control of those head waters. If we are to develop the country and make it something like it was in the days of the ancient empires we must control all the head waters, and for that purpose we must go practically to Mosul. I hope there will be no talk of giving up either Baghdad or Mosul, and that the country will be developed in every possible way. We talk of Arab government, but I know perfectly well that in present conditions in Mesopotamia there is no Arab chief 705 who would accept the suzerainty of any member of the Shereefian family. They will not admit of any stranger coming into Mesopotamia any more than the Mesopotamian tribes will admit the possibility of any one tribe ruling over the other tribes. Therefore, for the present, whatever we may be able to do in the future, we must control the government of Mesopotamia. Let there be an Arab Assembly or Council, by all means, but, so far as I know, they have asked that the late Governor, Sir Percy Cox, who is now Minister at Teheran, should be appointed as Governor. As to giving up Bagdad, how could we possibly do so, when we consider our relations with Persia? There was no country so helpless during the War as Persia and there was no country which behaved with such arrogance and self-conceit, and which put forward such extraordinary claims before the Peace Conference after the War. It was invaded by Russians and Turks, and could not do a stroke to defend itself. I can remember, long before the War, giving to Lord Grey, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, a scheme for a Persian Gendarmerie, and I wish that scheme had been carried out, because we might then have had a stable force there to keep order when the War broke out. There is a British Mission there at present, and we must remember that we are very responsible for Persia. In the old days there was the question of Afghanistan, but the Afghans have now turned their attention further north. It is difficult to say how far the Afghans are going to affect the situation and we do not know what will happen. We had a strong force on the north-eastern frontier of Persia, and I am sorry it has been withdrawn. Indian troops did magnificently there, and the country was held and kept quiet. The same thing happened in the Caspian Sea, where we had a Naval force. If we had maintained that force there we could have held Baku and the whole of the oil pipe line to Batoum, and drawn supplies of oil from there. At Tiflis there was the case of a British officer nineteen years of age marching a platoon between two opposing forces. He told them they were not to fight, and they went away. Things of that kind happened because our prestige was great, and if we had only remained in these parts, the people would 706 have kept quiet. I hope the policy of the Government will be strong on these matters. I should like to see more Indian troops on the Persian side and a naval force in the Caspian Sea. We require to hold Bagdad in order to maintain the new railway line from Bagdad to Teheran. I trust any suggestion of withdrawing from our control in Mesopotamia will be put aside.
The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Harms-worth)
I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will not think me discourteous if I do not follow him along the lines of his argument in respect of the questions of the Caliphate and Mesopotamia. Those subjects have been treated at considerable length by the Prime Minister, and I could not add anything useful to what he has said if I were to try to do so, I trust that the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) also will not think me discourteous if I do not go at any length into the question of the economic situation in Central Europe. I should like to say this, however, that there was one passage more than another in the Prime Minister's speech which struck in my mind a very sympathetic chord, and it was that in which he adverted to the attitude of mind of so many speakers and writers on this subject, as if it were after all the Allies who were responsible for the collapse of Central Europe and not the late Empires themselves. I think that that is, if I may venture to say so, an unfortunate attitude of mind, and I am quite certain that it is not in the least a helpful one. Speaking for myself, there can be nobody who more ardently desires the economic revival, not only of Germany and Austria, but of Russia also, because nothing could be more plain than that we cannot expect health in the outlying States of Europe if the great centre is sunk in poverty and indigence, as these countries are. We cannot expect the full prosperity of Europe until something like decent economic conditions have been reestablished in the late Austrian Empire, in Germany, and in Russia. I was surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman refer to Montenegro as if it had been wiped off the list of nations. I am not in a position at the present moment to discuss the question, because it is precisely one of those questions that is now before the Peace Conference.
§ Mr. N. MACLEAN
Montenegro, at any rate, should be allowed to have a delegate at the Peace Conference.
I have no doubt the hon. Member is well aware of the complications of Montenegrin politics. I think he may be perfectly certain that Montenegro will receive the fairest possible treatment at the Peace Conference, and I have no doubt that the conclusion arrived at—I do not know what it is to be—will be a conclusion that will commend itself to the main part of the Montenegrin people themselves. I will not refer to the old and vexed question of the De Salis report, but I can assure hon. Members opposite that the withholding of that report is not due in any sense to a magpie disposition on the part of a Government office to secrete and pigeonhole and keep away from Members of Parliament a document they ought to see. I feel confident that if my hon. Friend, the Member for Govan, or any other hon. Member of this House read this De Salis report, or if it were published broadcast, everyone would say it was a very foolish Government that allowed it to be published as an official document. It is much too frank in its expressions for that purpose and was not intended to be published.
The only other question which seems to call for a moment's consideration is that of the situation in Vienna. I confess I was very much astonished to hear the hon. and gallant Member for North-West Hull (Colonel Lambert Ward), describing Vienna as if it were a Paris before the War, a ville lumière, and as a centre of nothing but profligacy and vice, luxury and extravagance. I think it must be put on record that the hon. and gallant Gentleman, in describing Vienna as a seat of wanton luxury, although he admitted that there was a certain amount of acute, actual want, has given an account which is at complete variance with every official and unofficial report I have seen in regard to this matter. I wonder has he read the quite masterly report which has been issued as a White Paper, the report of Sir William Goode. I wonder has he read that able report "Economic Conditions in Central Europe, No. 2." I venture to think that if any hon. Member reads those reports, or indeed hears the stories brought back from Vienna by everybody who goes there, everybody with 708 the exception of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, he will agree with me that anything we can do to help Vienna is a work statesmanlike, benevolent, and well worthy our attention and the attention of all the Allied Powers, and, I would say, the neutral powers of the world as well. I should add that when our present High Commissioner went to Vienna the very first message he sent back to His Majesty's Government was an urgent appeal that something should be done by the Allies—do not let us always speak in this connection as if our Government alone were responsible—an earnest appeal that the Allies and the world at large should do something to relieve the terrible distress in German-Austria.
I should like to have dwelt, but I cannot at this hour, for some little time on what has been done by way of relief in Central Europe. I think we should never forget that, in this connection, from the time when Mr. Hoover undertook relief in Belgium and Northern France, and carried on his benevolent activities in the whole of Europe, up to the present time, there has been put forth by the Allies a gigantic effort in the direction of the relief of the devastated areas, both friendly and enemy, in Europe. I do not think that ought to be forgotten. I do not know where there is any record in history of a victorious Alliance devoting so much time, so much anxious care, so much money, and so much energy to the relief and the assistance of those against whom they were recently fighting, and from whom they had suffered wrongs indescribable. I could pursue this topic at greater length, but I see no advantage in it, and I trust that those hon. Members who have spoken since the Prime Minister addressed the House, and to whose speeches I have not referred in detail, will not attribute to me any discourtesy, but will rather sympathise with my view that we have had enough of this discussion to-day, and might now immediately proceed to the other business which is to engage the attention of the House.
§ Mr. JODRELL
Before the hon. Gentleman who represents the Foreign Office leaves his seat, I hope I may draw his attention to one part of the British Empire which I do not think has been dealt with to-night. I allude to the Island of Cyprus.
The Island of Cyprus is not under the Foreign Office, it is under the Colonial Office.
§ Mr. JODRELL
It is common know ledge that there has been a propaganda on foot for some time implying that the vast majority of the population of Cyprus is extremely anxious to come under Greek rule, and a remark from the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) shows he is of that opinion, too. I also remember certain remarks he made in which he drew a parallel between the Island of Cyprus and another island, with which, I think, he is more acquainted. It is partly on that account that I desire to draw attention to this matter. It is generally understood that the population of the Island of Cyprus is mainly a Greek population. It is perfectly true that of the 275,000 people, roughly, who live there the bulk of them speak Greek. There are about 60,000 to to 60,000 Moslems. But the point I wish to drive home is that it does not follow because a man speaks Greek he therefore is a Greek in the sense of being a Hellenic Greek. The population of the Island of Cyprus are Cypriotes of a different race. It is perfectly true that the propaganda to which I alluded, and certain documents connected with which I hold in my hand, signed by certain members of the Greek community in Cyprus, make it appear that there is a universal desire on the part of all Greeks to come under Greek rule, or whatever government may exist in Hellenic Greece, but, as a matter of fact, I have taken some trouble to find out from people on the spot. The bulk of the population are perfectly content, whether Greek-speaking or not, to remain under British rule, and not only that, but they live on very good terms with their Moslem compatriots. Take, for instance, the position of the gendarmerie of the island. I have figures here which show that out of a force of 26 officers, and 763 non-commissioned officers and men, 420 are Moslems. They work perfectly well with the Cyprian members of the force, and they are themselves the backbone of the force. It does not follow that because a Moslem is a Moslem, therefore he is a bad Moslem, nor does it follow that a Greek because he speaks Greek is a bad Greek. There are good Cypriotes and bad Cypriotes, and, taking them all in all, I am convinced that the population of the island 710 are thoroughly content with the present rule, which is prosperous, and this propaganda which is spread about the country should be looked upon with considerable suspicion. I ask everyone concerned, therefore, to keep an open mind upon the subject, and not be led away by parallels drawn by my hon. Friend (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) and others of his way of thinking, which no doubt will be used largely on a future occasion not far off.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am sorry I cannot respond for a few minutes to the appeal of my hon. Friend (Mr. Harmsworth). I am sure the House welcomes him back after his illness. I am not in a position to follow my hon. Friend (Mr. Jodrell) with regard to the subject of Cyprus, but I venture to say we could very soon find out which way the Cypriotes wish to go, by holding free elections. My hon. Friend opposite made an appeal to us to allow this Debate to lapse, but I think our chances of discussing all-important questions abroad are so few in this House at present, that advantage should be taken of them, and nothing is of more vital importance to the people of this country than the questions which have been discussed on a very high level, if I many be permitted to say so, by right hon. and hon. Members to-day. The discussion yesterday dealt largely with high prices, and I do submit that the questions of high prices and for gn policy are very intimately connected. I should like to touch on the reference of the Prime Minister to the League of Nations. Some of us on these Benches have pointed out that the League will not be effective until it has a League of Nations' force, and we shall have to pursue that, I am afraid, for some years before we get that view accepted. Then I hope it will be the only force in the world, and then I think we can look for a reign of peace and prosperity, but not otherwise. In this matter, I should like to refer to the remarks that have been made as to the accusation that might be made against us in the United States, that we divided up Turkey among the interested Powers without consulting the United States. I submit we have done a good deal of damage in that direction already in regard to another country—Persia. I am not going to touch on that very difficult and thorny question, but I think we must say that Persia has been 711 dealt with by this country alone, without any consultation with the United States. Unfortunately, that is being used against us with very ill-effect in the United States, and has done us a great deal of harm, and I cannot help thinking that is one of the many blunders this Government and its Foreign Office have committed.
With regard to what the Prime Minister said about Armenia, I know he disappointed my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool and many other friends of Armenia, including myself. We interfered with the internal affairs of Russia to the tune of £115,000,000 at least spent by ourselves, apart from what has been spent by our numerous Allies, great and small, who unsuccessfully tried to poke their fingers into the affairs of Russia. We also lost many precious lives in that connection. Apparently we have nothing left now for the Armenians, to whom we were pledged and who would have welcomed our assistance in the last troublous months, in which they have suffered so severely. The hon. and gallant Member for Melton (Colonel Yate) drew a picture of our extending our boundaries in Mesopotamia, Persia, through the Caspian Sea and on, I suppose, to Bokhara and Khiva. The only comment I would make on that is that I hope he will be in the same frame of mind when he gets his next Income Tax demand. We are not in a fit financial position to adventure into the wilds of Asia Minor and the Near East to-day. We should only be too thankful if we could get rid of any of our responsibilities, and I believe we could get rid of the hinterland of Mesopotamia to the satisfaction of our fellow-subjects in India and the peace of those districts. I think I am right in saying the demand of the Indian Moslems is a purely religious demand for the land containing the shrines and holy places which, as has been said by the right hon. Member for Paisley, are of more importance to Moslems than Constantinople. These holy places and shrines are contained in what is known as the Isle of Arabia—the rivers of Tigris and Euphrates forming, according to Moslem idea, an island of what we know as a peninsular. The Moslems hold that the Koran lays down that the Isle of Arabia must be ruled by Mohammedans. The solution here, I submit—and I do not 712 know any objections that have been stated by the Government against it—is to see if some arrangement can be made to make Mesopotamia a mandatory country with a Mohammedan mandate. It was said, and by the Prime Minister, that the Shereefian family would not be welcomed as rulers over the country. But I believe it would be possible for an Arabian confederation to be formed. And the mandate for Mesopotamia, or at any rate Upper Mesopotamia, might be given to the Emir Feisel.
Englishmen from Mesopotamia sometimes speak slightingly about certain elements among the native Arabs. But it must be remembered that these Arabs have been ground down for years under the misrule of the Turks.
The Arabs were once a very great people, and some of us hope to see them a great people once again. At all events, I think that aspect is worthy of examination. We could supply officers and technical instructors to the Arabs to help them in that way. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to forget the conditions under which the British troops are living in Mesopotamia. The climate is intolerable. Some of these thousands of men are spending their fourth hot season there. According to the statement of the Prime Minister, we seem to be attracted by the natural riches of Mesopotamia. We cannot afford anything to help the Armenians to whom we are pledged up to the hilt, but there are oil and natural riches in Mesopotamia, and therefore more British lives and more of hard-earned British money are to be expended in extending our sway right up to Kurdistan, or, according to some hon. Members, up to the Caspian, and indeed beyond. That way, to my mind, lies not only dishonour but bankruptcy.
There are one or two things that I have not said, and one of them is that, interesting as was the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Lanark in his reference to Hungary, it was in poor taste to repeat petty tittle-tattle about a very fine Hungarian nobleman. For there are occasionally fine noblemen even in Central Europe. In Count Karolyi we have one of the few Liberals left in Central Europe; a man who is our friend, who was our friend in the dark days of the War, and who protested against his people entering into the fight. He drew 713 his inspiration from Kossuth, a name which would have provoked a cheer in this House 20 or 30 years ago, before either the hon. and gallant Gentleman or myself was alive. In that reference the hon. and gallant Gentleman spoilt a speech which otherwise I should feel inclined to put on a high level.
§ Captain ELLIOT
I was only explaining why the Hungarian people are anxious for one who would have a sense of responsibility against a person whom they had not seen exercising a sense of responsibility.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman was led away from what he intended to be his meaning. Count Karolyi did form a Liberal Government with a strong Socialist element after the Armistice. If Hungary had been properly treated then we would not have had 15 months of chaos, fighting, and anarchy in Hungary. We allowed Hungarian territory to be occupied by the bitterest enemies of the country. We allowed speeches to be made by loading statesmen in these then enemy countries at Agham, Prague, Belgrade, and other places in which it was stated that purely Hungarian territory was to be alienated. No wonder the Government of Count Karolyi fell; we have had chaos ever since. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Lanark treats lightly the complaints that have been made, I am glad to say, on these Benches, about treatment of the political opponents of the present Government of Hungary. I do not think that the stories that we hear are altogether false. In fact, the Government have admitted that there have been excesses. It is, I believe, an admitted fact even by the Hungarians themselves—for they boast about it—that the present Magyar reactionaries were brought back; because the Kapp revolution has been successful in Hungary under the command of the Ludendorff of Hungary—Admiral Honthay.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
That general election has been a farce The leaders of the Opposition parties were imprisoned.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
I must remind hon. Members that 714 there are limits to the responsibilities of the British Government. We are only able to discuss events with which the British Government is concerned.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
My submission is that we are to a certain extent responsible. There were Allied representatives during the Bela Kun régime—when, of course, atrocities were committed—and they protested successfully against the excesses then committed, especially the Italian representative. We have a representative, Sir George Clerk, in Budapest. The historian who twenty years hence looks at these events with unjaundiced eye will agree as to the strangeness of the scene. If we can bring any pressure to bear upon the equal, if not the worse, atrocities now taking place in Hungary, we ought to do so, for we have a real responsibility. I think, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I am entitled to show how that is. After the fall of the Bela Kun Government the Allied representatives at Budapest met under the chairmanship of the British General Gorton, and proposed for election, as King of Hungary, the Archduke Joseph of Hapsburg, this without any election at all such as has been quoted against me by the hon. and gallant Member for Lanark. If there was any responsibility for the War to be fixed upon any Royal house in Europe, then it should be fixed on the Hapsburg Dynasty, whose guilt was of the deepest dye. The British representative took the chair at the meeting of the Allied representatives, and proposed for election as King the Archduke Joseph. Fortunately, the American Government protested. This Government is a creature of our creation.
We have a responsibility, and what is being done now in Hungary is not to our credit. There were 5,000 men suspected of being Socialists who had supported the previous régime, and they were killed in prison. There are now 200 members of the previous Government of Bela Kun on their trial. When that Government was formed Hungary was in the depths of despair, and many men of high character, and no particular politics, helped the Hungarian Government, including one or two very famous scientists whose names are well known to the hon. Member. A very famous doctor became Minister of Health, and every member of the previous Bela Kun Government who did try and help their country in time of 715 stress is on his trial, first of all for murder, because the previous Government executed rebels and because people were killed in the street fighting. About 200 people were killed during the Bela Kun regime, and they are being tried for murder because of the executions which, it is alleged, were not judged by a legal court. They are being accused of forgery because the Bela Kun Government created paper money, and other charges are being brought forward against them.
These men are going to be tried for their lives. Many of them were Ministers of Education and Public Health, and they had no possible responsibility for the murders and atrocities that took place, and unless something is done they are all going to be hanged. We have some responsibility for this Government. We tried to stop atrocities in Russia in the wrong way and we do not seem to be trying to stop atrocities in Hungary when we can do it in the right way. We have representatives in Hungary, and we are still in a state of war with that country, but she lies at our absolute mercy. These men are being executed after trials which are most illegal, and if any injustice is done the responsibility lies very much at our door. I think some very bitter pogroms have been committed against the Jews, and something should be done to put a stop to them. We have a real responsibility to the present Government in Hungary, because that Government is being encouraged by certain elements in the Allied countries to again mobilise a large army. They have been promised munitions, and they are going to be encouraged to attack Russia. This sounds almost an incredible story, but it has received a great deal of credence in European capitals. The British representatives of the War Office in Hungary are freely mentioned as being behind all this.
Where has the hon. and gallant Member read this extraordinary rumour, because it has failed hitherto to reach me?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I will tell the hon. Member where I have read it. I have read it in a paper called "The New Europe," which is contributed to by some very distinguished writers. It is a paper noted for its moderation and 716 general accuracy. I am sorry I have spoken about a paper on the Floor of this House, but this is a matter of very great importance, and, as I was challenged by the hon. Gentleman, I am glad to tell him where I read this. I cannot admit that we are without responsibility for this state of things. We deliberately stirred up this trouble in Hungary out of class hatred and nothing else.
Does the hon. and gallant Member say we did it? Does he say the British Government did this, or the British people, or the Allies, because, if so, there is no foundation for it?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
We did not give the Government of Karolyi a chance at all. The Socialist Government of Bela Kun, if it had been given a chance, might have settled down into a steady Government, but every effort was made by us by blockade and encouraging surrounding countries to attack, and this produced an unsatisfactory state of affairs. Now the Bela Kun Government is overthrown and another Government has been set up, and we are doing very little to restrict the monarchist policy, which, after all, means militarist reaction, Chauvinism, militarism, and trying to get back the territories which have been rightly taken away from Magyar dominion. All this is arousing the greatest alarm and uneasiness in the surrounding countries of Jugo-Slavia and Czecho-Slovakia. It is all very well to say that the Hungarians have a right to choose their own Government, but we are responsible for that Government, and if they lead the Magyars to fresh conquest, and if the country is allowed to go back into a state of seething unrest, then we have a real responsibility. I said that there had been a class hatred actuating our foreign policy, and that statement I repeat because it is true and there has been. We did not give the Karolyi Government a chance. The German Government in Berlin was too far to the left for certain elements in this country and it was not given a fair chance, and the result is that this awful chaos is continuing in Europe, trade is not starting, and we are feeling the effects of all this in this country in consequent high prices.
History will deal hardly with the Government of this country, and, I am afraid, with the Governments of some of 717 our Allies. It is no use the Prime Minister, or anyone else, saying that the responsibility is not ours, but is with the Allies. The fact remains that this House is responsible, if we allow ourselves to be put off by that sort of plea, although it may be put forward in all honesty. I say the house will be responsible. I have thought it right to make this protest. May I repeat the appeal made by the hon. and gallant Member for Lanark (Captain Elliot) and by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) to Members on the Labour benches, with reference to the threat of a coal strike? Do not let us have any provocative language. This is the one country in Europe which to-day is more or less stable, and there is a tremendous responsibility upon us. It takes two to make a quarrel. There must be two sides to bring about a strike, and ebullition of feeling in this House is not calculated to make for a peaceful solution of existing difficulties. I hope that the matter will be looked into calmly, and that our tremendous responsibilities will not b lost sight of.