HC Deb 03 March 1927 vol 203 cc599-675

I beg to move to leave out "£i 14,650,000," and to insert instead thereof "£114,649,900."

In moving a reduction of £100 in the salary of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and in introducing the subject of our relations with Russia, I am going to be brief, because I know that a great number of Members are anxious to express a great many different points of view in this Debate. There are, no doubt, some who will approach the subject from the standpoint of interest in and sympathy with a political experiment unprecedented in the history of our civilisation. For my own part, I confess I cannot share that sympathy, for I have a loathing for tyranny, whether in the form of Monarchism, Militarism, Fascism or Bolshevism. On the other hand, there are those, no doubt, who will approach it filled with hatred for the Bolshevist system, and also with some hopes of being able to turn the anti-Bolshevist prejudice in the country to their electoral advantage at the next election; and there are some, like the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox), whom I see on the opposite side of the House, and the hon. and gallant Member for Handsworth (Commander 0. Locker-Lampson), who gave distin- guished and loyal service to the country on the Russian front during the War, who fought with brave and loyal Russian officers and men, and who saw many of those who fought most loyally and bravely in the War foully murdered, often with every accompaniment of ferocious cruelty; and one can understand their feelings of abhorrence at entering into relations with men who might be held responsible—in so far as individuals can he held responsible for revolutionary excesses—for those atrocities.

I venture to think, however, that, natural and, if I may he allowed to use the word, creditable as such feelings may be, they have to be mastered if we are to form a cool, detached and impartial judgment as to how the relations with a great country have to be handled. After all, if we had been mastered by feelings such as those, we could hardly even yet have restored peace in Europe, we should have come to no settlement of our age-long differences with Ireland, and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would hardly be pursuing his present policy in China. I shall, therefore, approach this question solely from the standpoint of British interests, peace and a revival of industry. There is no use in being friends of every country but our own, or, on the other hand, in being blinded, by hatred for a foreign political system, to the interests of our own country. I hold that it is our duty to take as long and as enlightened a view as we are able of the interests of those who sent us here.

What are our interests in Russia? They are, I take it, peace and trade. They are very similar to the interests which the Secretary of State described the other day as being our interests in China, namely, peace and trade. We have made, in China, great efforts and sacrifices to preserve our trade. We have not only sent there a costly naval and military expedition, but we are running serious risks in that country to defend—and I think rightly—British lives and British property. Hon. Members opposite often dilate upon the importance of British trade interests in China. They say what a vast trade we have there, and how necessary it is to keep that trade in the interests of our own country and of our unemployed. I agree that it is a vast trade and a great interest. Where I part company from hon. Members opposite is in this: The same hon. Members pour scorn on our "insignificant and paltry" trade with Russia, which is, they say, hardly worth taking into serious consideration. I have been at some trouble to collect the figures. I am not going to bore the House by reading them in detail, but am only going to give the aggregate figures of our trade with Russia and China in recent years. I find that, in 1924, our imports from China aggregated £14,500,000, and our exports to China, including Hong Kong, aggregated £29,000,000. In the same year the figures for Russia were £19,000,000 for imports, and £11,000,000 for exports, including re-exports.


Can the hon. Baronet say what were the exports of British goods?


The hon. Member asks me what were the exports of British goods. He wishes me to disregard entirely our valuable entrepot trade. What do these re-exports mean? They mean goods brought here in British ships manned by British sailors, financed by British banks, insured in British insurance offices, brought into British ports, taken from the ships by British dock labourers, taken from British warehouses again to British railways, handled by British carters, British railwaymen and British labourers, under arrangements made by British merchants, token to another British port, and then the same procedure carried on in the same way by British capital and labour in the ports from which they are exported, probably in British ships. That is not a trade which in these days we can afford to scoff at. Another thing about which hon. Members are fond of talking is this: They say our exports are so small, our imports are so great, from Russia. There is a very sound principle, with which IL do not think even Protectionists can quarrel. Every little import has an export, visible or invisible, tied round its neck. It may go out by means of service, it may go out by goods. It may not go out to the same country. It may go out by triangular trade. But those imports must eventually be paid for by British exports.

4.0 p.m.

There is another thing to remember. What are these imports? They are imports of raw material, timber, platinum, flax, tallow, hides, bristles—things that are bought by our industries in the cheapest market and used to manufacture British goods which can be sold, by reason of the cheapness of the raw materials, in competition with other goods manufactured in other parts of the world. I have been drawn away from my argument. I will take the totals of British trade with Russia and with China for the last three years. I find that the total of British trade with Russia for 1924 was £31,000,000, and with China it was £44,000,000; for 1925 British trade with Russia was £44,000,000, and with China it was £34,000,000; and for 1926 British trade with Russia was £38,000,000, and with China it was £32,000,000. You find, therefore, that in the last two years our trade with Russia is actually greater than our trade with China, and over a long period of years it is comparable and equally capable of expansion. Therefore, I say that in these critical years it is well worth preserving and developing that important trade with that great country of such vast potentialities—

Commander BELLAIRS



We have an important Debate and only a short time for it. I suggest, therefore, that there should not be any unnecessary interruptions. They only lengthen the speeches and thus debar some hon. Members from getting the opportunity of making orderly contributions to the Debate.


I want to pursue a little further this point of our trade with Russia which I consider a vital point. I see present the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) who is an authority on this question, and who has taken a vary leading part in shaping the course of our relations with that great country. Speaking in his constituency at Hillhead the other day, he said: When Russia indicated her willingness to give a written pledge that she would cease her hostile activities against us, he frankly believed that she would try and keep her word. I see the right hon. Gentleman nod's his head, but, if he ever dreamed that this Bolshevist Government, as at present constituted, would ever cease to strive for world revolution, then he was living in a world of solitary illusion.


The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who is sitting beside the hon. and gallant Member, shares that illusion.


I am being as quick as I can, but I have not finished my speech, and I am coming to the right hon. Gentleman. I say that he cannot quote one authority in support of that view. I defy him to say that the Foreign Office advised him in that sense. I do not for one moment believe it, and I do not believe that anybody who knew the Bolshevists and their methods in Russia and Hungary advised them that this Bolshevist Government, as at present constituted, would stop their propaganda for a world revolution. The reasons for entering into this arrangement with Russia were quite different. The reasons given were not hatred, or love of Russia, or, still less, of the Bolshevist Government. The reasons were to try and do something to restore our British trade and to help our unemployed people here. That was the first and big reason. We have got the trade. It may not have come up to the rosiest anticipations, but it is substantial and profitable. The right hon. Gentleman knew then, and advocated then, that it was impossible to stop propaganda by frowns, rebukes or force. The only way you can fight a bad idea is with a good idea, and, as regards propaganda, it was hoped, and rightly hoped, that with the creation of trade relations between Russia and this country, with the increasing flow of trade, the foundations of Bolshevism in Russia would gradually be undermined. That was the process that was looked forward to, and, as a matter of fact, that process has quietly been going on in Russia all the time. We see in many industries in Russia a gradual revival which is accompanied—I will not say because of it, but at any rate it is remarkable that it is accompanied—by a revival of private enterprise, and, as the benefits of these trade relations with the outside world are appreciated more by the Russian people, and as prosperity, the greatest solvent against Bolshevism any country can have, returns to Russia, will you cut off this tide of propaganda at its source.

There was a very remarkable development only last year in the political sphere. The extraordinary thing about the Bolshevist party from 1918 onwards was its coherence, but last year a rift developed. There were two parties in Russia, the extremists led by Zinovieff and Trotsky, and the relative moderates with Stalin at their head, and the moderates won. The extremists were beaten, and for the first time we saw clear indications of the gradual growth of more reasonable influences in Russia. Yet this is a moment which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hill-head, the author and negotiator of the Trade Agreement, chooses to perform a political somersault, and to call upon the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to turn and rend his own child. I would remind the House and those hon. Gentlemen, for whose leadership he is apparently posing himself, that he is the man who broke the anti-Bolshevist front, and in isolation and in advance of other Powers came in and made an agreement with Soviet Russia. I believe that events have proved that he was right, but do not let him ask us to forget to give him the credit which is due to him. Now he wants to lead us back into a far more dangerous isolation. Alone among the nations of Europe, we are to sever our relations with Russia. This policy, if pursued, would not only lead us into isolation, but it would ruin a substantial trade and imperil the peace of Europe. Last year Lord Balfour, a member of the Government who speaks with unique authority on questions of foreign affairs, observed: There is a great difference between breaking off relations and not entering into them, because the first of these two operations produces disturbances which may go far beyond the confines either of Russia or of this country. Dir whole of the industrial and financial and economic world on this side of the Atlantic at all events is in a most sensitive and embarrassed condition. Nobody can doubt it is a condition under which it would be the height of rashness, except for a really serious gain, to introduce a new disturbing element. If by his own confession, his judgment was at fault in 1921—


You say it was not.


I say it was not, but the right hon. Gentleman says it was at fault. If his judgment was at fault when he led us into an agreement with Russia, he is now asking us to pursue a far more hazardous course than the course which, according to himself, he erroneously led us to take a few years ago, and I hope the House will not submit to his erratic guidance. At this juncture to rupture trade relations with Russia would be to sacrifice substantial and profitable trade, to encourage the extremists not only in Russia but also in this country and every country in the world, to increase their influence, to cause them to redouble their activities, to expose the prospects of peace not only in the Far East but in the Balkans in Central Europe and in the Baltic States to the revived fury of their mischief and malevolence, and to deprive ourselves of our existing rights to object to intensified propaganda against British institutions and interests in our own Empire and in foreign countries; and, when that blast of malice, hatred, and hostility strikes us, what action will the right hon. Gentleman and his friends then recommend us to take?

Now, before coming to my concluding sentences, in which I shall indicate the policy which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will follow, I feel it is my duty to switch the aim of my argument front his critics on to his own head, because after all it is the salary of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs which I have moved to reduce. It is the only one which I have got within my reach. I do not like doing it, I am an humble but a discriminating admirer of the right hon. Gentleman. If this Government is awarded by posterity any laurels which I rather doubt, they would be those which have been earned by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the direction of his policy. But what can one say of the right hon. Gentleman's Note to the Bolshevist Government. Obviously, he was torn between the dictates of his better judgment and those of loyalty to his party, wagged as, the Tory party always is, by its Die-hard tail. He took what he thought was the line of least resistance. They are getting exasperated. They cry out, "Are we going to put up with the Bolshevik propaganda or are we going to clear out the Reds?" [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am very glad to have got those supporting cheers and to know that I have defined aright the issue, because I myself hesitate to ascribe such a definition of the issue to any Member of this House. The right hon. Gentleman himself knows better than anyone its futility. There is no antithesis in it. The only effect of clearing out the Reds will inevitably be to intensify propaganda against the interests of this country.

Hon. Members opposite are the armchair critics of the Government. In the War we all knew the people who, behind the lines, breathed defiance and demanded resolute action at the Front. In this matter, the men who are standing in the front line trenches at present are the Foreign Office, headed by the Secretary of State, and then the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald), Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) and Derby (Mr. Thomas), who are fighting this thing day in and day out in their trade unions and up and down the country. They know well enough that to apply the remedy advocated by hon. Members opposite would be to play straight into the hands of the Bolshevik extremists. But the unruly Die-hard tail has wagged the Government and the Secretary of State. The Note has been sent. The Bolshevik reply has been received. The Birkenhead kettle has called the Bukharin pot red and the Chicherin pot has retaliated by calling the Churchillian kettle black, but the right hon. Gentleman has lent official dignity to this controversy, and the honour of Britain is engaged. No one thinks the matter can be allowed to rest there. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) I am glad to see supports me. He, and other hon. Members opposite have made speeches or given interviews saying it cannot possibly be left as it is at present. I am also here with the assent of my hon. Friends and colleagues to say the same thing. What do the spectators abroad say? Look at newspapers of different hues and complexions. The "Taglische Rundschau" and the, "Deutsche Zeitung," the "Temps" and the "Débats" on the one hand, the "Petit Journal" and the "Ere Nouvelle" on the other hand and other papers whether they are of the right or of the left, say that we cannot possibly let this controversy stand in the position it is in at present.

Nor does this Note, after all, stand alone. It is one of a series. In 1923, Lord Curzon sent a very peremptory Note that unless within 10 days of the receipt of the above communication, the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Government undertook to comply fully with the requests it contained, His Majesty's Government would recognise that the Government did not wish existing relations to be maintained. There is this difference between Lord Curzon's Note and that of the Secretary of State, that it dealt with at least two questions on which we got full satisfaction. Then we come to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon. He said, when Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that no Government would ever tolerate an arrangement with a foreign Government by which the latter was in diplomatic relations of a correct kind with it whilst at the same time a propagandist body organically connected with the foreign Government encourages and even orders the subjects of the former to plot and plan revolutions for its overthrow. I quite agree. I am merely indicating what, are the conditions of the problem at present. Finally, the right hon. Gentleman himself writes to the Soviet Government that the continuance of such acts as are here complained of must sooner or later render inevitable the abrogation of the trade agreement and even the severance of ordinary diplomatic relations. Therefore, the Secretary of State cannot stand still. The only question is what attitude is to be adopted and what course of action he is to take. That is the question I now put to him. There are two possible courses, the one to which I have referred, which will lead to nothing but disaster and disillusionment, but there is another which I will indicate, and if he adopts that course then I have no doubt that I shall have the concurrence of my hon. Friends here in asking the leave of the House to withdraw my Amendment. Let him think once, twice and three times about the concluding sentences in the Bolshevik Note. It is very remarkable that after his very firm, stiff and, as it must appear to them, insulting Note, they say at the end of theirs: In declaring that the threats against the Soviet Government will have no in- timidating effect upon anyone in the Soviet Union, the Soviet Government takes the liberty to express its firm conviction that the conclusion of the Trade Agreement in 1921 and the subsequent restoration of diplomatic relations corresponded to the interests and necessities of the people of the Soviet Union as well as those of the British Empire. And further: On its part the Soviet Government confirms the statement of the late M. Krassin quoted in the Note of the British Government concerning the desirability of removing all difficulties existing between the two countries and everything giving grounds for mutual complaint and of establishing quite normal relations actually correspond to the immutable and sincere wishes of the Soviet Government. Here lies the opportunity to improve the relations between the two countries, to lay firmly the foundations of world peace, to increase and expand the trade of Britain, to strengthen the elements of reconstruction in Russia arid to check those of hatred and destruction. If the Secretary of State has the courage to proceed on these lilies, he will not only dam, by the only available means, that spate of vile propaganda which exasperates us all, but he will accelerate the deliverance of Russia itself from the thraldom of Bolshevism, he will establish conditions for the expansion of British trade in a market with unlimited potentialities, he will give the Russian people a stake which they will be afraid to lose in good relations between their country and ours, and will create between Russia and ourselves a great field of common interest and common endeavour which will he a binding pledge, and the only pledge that can possibly he binding, of work together in the common interest of the two countries and for the advancement of civilisation.


The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has brought me to my feet at a somewhat earlier period of the Debate than I intended to address the House. I am sure it was a speech on which the whole House would desire to congratulate him, not merely for the liveliness of its spirit, but also for the great desire to expedite and find a solution of what, after all, is a very difficult question. He ended with the expression of a great aspiration, that if the Foreign Secretary would take a certain course, it would bring about that identification of interests between Russia and Great Britain which we have so long sought. But that is exactly the spirit in which I was in the year 1921 when I made the Trade Agreement, and the hon. Gentleman reproached me with extraordinary obtuseness at that point of time because he said if I really imagined that these people would disavow their aspirations after a world revolution, I must be living in a position of solitary illusion. I think to-day he is preparing to take advantage of the experience I have had, and while he thinks the advice I gave the Cabinet and the House of Commons in 1921 was right, I think he may at least trust my judgment that after my experience, I may possibly now be right again.

I admit that I am in a somewhat delicate position here. Nearly every friend I have beside me on these benches has condemned the Trade Agreement. I have noticed in the Press recently a large variety of speeches which have attributed much of our trouble to the fact that that Trade Agreement was entered into. Tennyson gives a certain meritorious position to those who have loved and lost, and there are occasions in life when it is better to make an attempt than never to make it at all. I made an effort which I admit to have been an entire failure, but I am not sorry I made it. In the same circumstances I would make it again. But at least if I am to be reprobated for having made that effort, I can rely now upon the experience I have had as to whether it was worth making or not. At that time Europe was in a state of dis-peace, trade and commerce between nations was impaired and in Britain we were suffering beyond all other things from the fact that we had a vast army of people unemployed. I saw in Russia a country which, if it was brought into the comity of the nations of Europe was able, with its vast resources, to revive the fortunes of every State provided it was properly governed and its resources were sufficiently and adequately exploited, and I took upon myself the business of trying to build such a bridge as would at once restore trade and might also, as I hoped, have the advantage of bringing peace where there was nothing but enmity and hostility. I am not ashamed of the effort I made, nor do I regret at all that I made the attempt. I was greatly supported by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) who, I believe, shared in every respect the hopes and aspirations which at that time animated my own breast.

I am bound to confess that everything I hoped for has failed to materialise, and that everything in which I believed has proved a failure. My negotiations with the late Mr. Krassin were of the most agreeable order. I am perfectly certain that he, at least, whatever was the attitude of his colleagues and the people behind him in Moscow, was genuine in the desire to bring about amicable relations between Russia and Britain, and that he, at least, was anxious that Russia should keep her word in the stipulations made in the Trade Agreement. That was my very confident impression of Mr. Krassin. The trade for which I hoped has not come. My hon. Friend to-day has referred to the amount of our trade with Russia, and I do not wish to minimise that in the slightest. The trade which is of the most importance to us is that which affords direct employment to our people. As he says, that was one of the main objects of our entering into this Trade Agreement. That trade to-day amounts to an export of £5,800,000. I do not leave out the entrepot trade. On the other hand, we are importing from Russia goods amounting to the value of, think, £23,060,000. Whether we take my hon. Friend's figure of £11,000,000 for the whole of our export trade or not, we certainly find a very great disparity between the amount of employment that we are giving to Russia as compared with the amount of employment that Russia is giving to us. I do not want to put it higher or stronger than that.

On the other hand, America, which has treated Russia as an outcast among the nations, which refuses to receive her envoy, whose Trade Union Congress rejects with contumely the idea of entering into any association with Russia, gets more trade than we do from Russia. When it comes to the grant of concessions, the citizens of America are getting far greater advantage than our citizens are getting in Russia. [An HON. MEMBER: "The almighty dollar!"] Yes, no doubt they are in a position to pay more, but does that explain why it is that when it comes to the attack upon capitalistic nations, which is supposed to be the chief Russian dogma, that we are the capitalist nation which is singled out, for attack, and America, which is a far greater and more prominent example of capitalism than we are, is scarcely ever mentioned Why is it that all the costumely is heaped upon us, who were the first people to hold out any hand of friendship to them, while those who even now show them no favour whatever get far greater advantage from them than we do? I ask any hon. or right hon. Gentleman opposite who may reply in the Debate to explain that extraordinary situation and to say what advantage we have got either in the shape of trade or friendship by reason of our consideration towards this people, which has been far in advance of that shown by any other nation. Yet we are to-day throughout the world the chief objects of every assault both by language and action which they are capable of making.

There has been a suggestion that, indeed, the Russian Government has not been responsible for much that has been done. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition long ago exposed the fallacy of any such argument as that. He pointed out in his note in the year 1924, as he pointed out only a few days ago, that you cannot divide, the Russian Government from the Third International, that they are, indeed, the same body, animated by the same motives and doing the same thing. In fact, the Russian Government has just done in this matter what so many crooks have done in business in this country, when they incorporate a company to do their dirty work for them and then say when the company is exposed that they are not responsible for it. I agree with my hon. Friend that I may have appeared too optimistic in believing that these people really were going to change their methods, because through the whole of the records of the Third International we find that it has been persistently stated that a world revolution is their object.

Perhaps we may find some explanation why trade has not increased under our arrangement in the statement which Bukharin made only the other day, that to Bolshevise the world was their task, and in that connection it was their object not to admit any revival of trade. Increased commerce, increased prosperity in the world would militate very materially against the destructive theories of which they are the protagonists. Acordingly, instead of helping to revive trade, even under our stipulations with them, their object is rather to create political trouble than to do anything in the way of advancing commerce. We have had a most recent example, and I confess that it has made a great change in my attitude toward the whole question. This House knows that I have been one of those who have constantly advocated this trade position in regard to our relations with Russia and that I have constantly raised my voice against taking any sudden action in the way of breaking off trade relations with Russia, or tearing up the Treaty. That has been my attitude, as the House knows, consistently throughout a time during which many hon. Members on these benches thought that I had taken an entirely wrong position, and that I was acting against the best interests of the country.

I have always thought that this was a matter which must be dealt with after a long period of patience and after adequate deliberation. How long are we to show patience? To what limit of time is our deliberation to go? I confess that I felt that we had rea-3hed our limits of endurance when I observed what was going on in connection with Russian efforts against us in China. There we have the most specific instance of their attitude, and they have made no disguise of what they were doing. We find Russian money distributed throughout China, and for what purpose? For anti-British propaganda. We find the Russian Government supplying munitions of war and arms to China. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where? How?"]


How can they do it, when there are no railways available?


Hon. Members ask me where. To the Cantonese Army, let me say, if it pleases anyone to know.


How, when there is no transport?


It does not alter the point of my argument. When we read of the purpose for which these moneys are being supplied, what do we find? There is never a suggestion of helping in the erecting or constructing of a better China; it is always done with a view to destroying Britain's position in China. There were many expressions of gratitude from the miners in this country to Russia for the funds which were supplied last year. I wonder what the miners of this country thought when they read the Resolution of those who were supplying the money, as to their reason for affording it. They said that this money must be supplied and the people must be compelled to give it. Why? Not to assist the people who were in distress in this country. Their words are on record, and I can give them to anyone who wants them. Their words are on record to the effect that the object in supplying that money was to create a revolution in Great Britain, and not to help the miners. That is the Russian attitude throughout the world. The whole of these great adventures in which they take part are not undertaken through any beneficent attitude towards the people who are getting help, but with the idea of creating disorder in the world, creating world revolution, and because they see that we are the most stable nation in Europe who stand most in the way of their destructive theories, their attack is made upon us.

If I may cite a witness upon this matter, I need only mention the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, who wrote an article the other day in which he described the attitude of Russia in China and said that the proper and natural aspiration of the Chinaman towards freedom was being exploited by Bolshevists, not for the Chinaman's sake but for the purpose of doing injury to Great Britain. If after five years of a Trade Agreement, such as we made; if after the Leader of the present Opposition's Government took Russia into diplomatic relations; if after being treated by us better than they have been treated by any other Government in the world, they still show towards us this implacable hatred, has the time of endurance not been reached? There have been a variety of Notes sent to Russia. There was the somewhat, shall I call it, flamboyant Note which the late Lord Curzon sent in 1923. There was the much more incisive Note which the Leader of the Opposition sent in 1924, and now we have the more serious document, the more serious dispatch, sent by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. There is language in that Note such as I have never seen in any document from the Foreign Office, not in the nature of an absolute ultimatum. It talks of flagrant violation of the stipulations: it talks of warnings in the gravest terms, and it ends up with a paragraph in which the Foreign Office and the British nation, as represented by the Foreign Office, requires certain things. I have never seen a Note of that kind issued from the Foreign Office of this country without its being regarded as the last word upon the topic which was being dealt with. I accordingly judged when I read it, and I hope that I am not wrong, that this was the last word of the Foreign Office. I took it to mean that if the things are not done which the British nation requires, steps will be taken. If that is not so, then it would have been far better had the Note never been dispatched.

There were two possible positions for this Government to take. One was to say: "These things have been going on for a long time. We are not any more impatient than we were before." In that case all that would have happened, and I for one should like to make this perfectly clear—the hon. Member opposite seems to assume that I have identified myself with what is called the "die-hard" movement—no one can say that I have been a "die-hard"—


No, a lie-hard.


The hon. Member must at once withdraw that expression or leave the House.


I will certainly withdraw the expression.


I have been content to let my own judgment be ruled by the judgment of the Foreign Secretary on this matter. There are obvious considerations to take into account before you break off relations with Russia. We are told the effect it would have on our trade, and that seems to oppress the hon. and gallant Member opposite. When Russia is selling us more than we are selling them it is perfectly obvious that it would do more harm to them to break off negotiations than it would to us. If my hon. and gallant Friend will look into the character of the articles we get from Russia he will find great difficulty in finding suitable markets where Russia could sell these goods with equal advantage. I am as much interested in the trade of this country as my hon. and gallant Friend, but my belief is that we are not going to suffer at all in trade by any breach with Russia. She has shown that she will trade wherever it suits her, although she regards others with contumely; it will not make any difference to us even if we do happen to tear up the Trade Agreement.

But there are other considerations which are much larger, and of these the Foreign Secretary is the best judge. There is the condition of Europe. He himself has put to his credit one of the greatest achievements in the way of bringing about peace in disordered Europe, and one is perfectly conscious that he, of all men, would not like anything to be done which would have the slightest effect in injuring the results of that Treaty. I accept that. It may be that the conditions in Europe would be aggravated by bringing Russian pressure on Germany or Poland. We all know that Russia did her best to keep Germany out of the League of Nations. There may be considerations of that kind which weigh with the Foreign Secretary, and put an impediment in the way of breaking off relations with Russia. But he and the Government must have taken all these things into account before he issued that Note. It was impossible to view the future in the attitude that this Note would create no effect at all. It was a statement of the position of Great Britain, and we could not possibly depart from it without loss of prestige, which would injure us, not merely with Russia but throughout the world.

I read a speech of the Noble Earl, Lord Birkenhead who, with his great knowledge, referred to the repercussion of European politics upon India, and he stated that it was of infinite importance that our prestige in the East should be maintained. But, I ask, what is going to be the result if Russia persists in doing the same things now that she has been doing before the Note was sent; and His Majesty's Government do nothing? It will be advertised to China, India and Egypt, that the Russian Soviet is more powerful than we are, and that our words count for nothing. I would like, as the hon. and gallant Member opposite has referred to foreign opinion on this matter, to indicate the views of the French Press. These are things of which I imagine the Foreign Office takes notice. The French Press, almost unanimously, including the Labour paper, refer to the Russian reply to the Foreign Office as insulting, and "La Liberte," which is no friend of England, says Litvinoff is not only insulting, but indecent, and it goes on to make a gibe at England: England having appealed to all the world to come to terms with the Soviet she cannot count on any Power to support her in case of a rupture with them. Then "Le Matin," a paper which is not friendly to us, says: The Reply summed up means: break with us if you can, and if you care. But you do not dare. That is the French interpretation of M. Litvinoff's reply. If you go to the Russians themselves, you find Stalin, in a speech made on an interpolation on Anglo-Soviet relations, saying: Why do not the English Conservative Ministers break off relations with us? It is because their hands are too weak. Therefore England only sighs, and speaks about breaking off relations wish us, but does not dare to do so. That is the result of a Note upon which you do not mean to act. For my part—and this is my last concluding sentence—I am right on this matter, as it does not require any argument—I am hoping that the Government is prepared to do what is incumbent upon them to do, if their requirements are not met. I hope, indeed, to that effect, although I have been warned to the contrary. In my judgment much greater injury accrue to the cause of peace and reconstruction in Europe by the loss of our authority in the councils of the nations than would ever be the case as a consequence of breaking off relations with Russia.


I intended to rise immediately after the hon. and gallant Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair), and join with him in defending the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) against himself, but after the speech to which we have just listened, a speech which I for one profoundly regret and whose only effect either at home or abroad must be mischievous, I think it my duty still more to say to the right hon. Gentleman that his past is very much better than his present. This country can never cease to be grateful to him for effecting this trade agreement. To him belongs the credit, and even his own ruthless hands cannot deprive him of it. He saw that the situation of Russia was such, and the danger it afforded to Europe was such, that the best way to handle the situation and deal with it was to begin by coming to a trade agreement with that country. Now, says the right hon. Gentleman, all my hopes and expectations have been dashed to the ground. "Trade has not been so good as I thought it would be, therefore, let us tear it up altogether."


I gave many other reasons.


I will include all the reasons which the right hon. Gentleman gave, hut the conclusion is—let us tear it up altogether. The right hon. Gentleman is not very sure of his own ground. He talks about this trade agreement as though from 1921 to the present moment agreement had characterised our relations with Russia. That is not the case. Nobody knows better than the right hon. Gentleman that from 1921 to 1927, the ordinary diplomatic relations between Russia and ourselves have never given that trade agreement a proper chance. He knows that in 1921 he had to face a Russia that was full of resentment and suspicion against us; and he faced it courageously. That suspicion was owing to the fact—no hon. Member on the other side can deny it—that this country officially and deliberately, and of set purpose, had spent in round figures £100,000,000 in order to upset the Government with whom he was dealing. The Government, our Government of that time, may have felt it was justified in doing so. But leaving that out of account, the right hon. Gentleman is not only a, man of business, he has a knowledge of men, and he must surely understand that that memory was a very bad memory for his Trade Agreement. He has quoted from the late Lord Curzon's Despatch. He knows that after his first Trade Agreement was come to the relations between Lord Curzon and the Soviet Government were anything but cordial, and let me make this point now, as it is exceedingly important in view of the end of his speech, that so long as Lord Curzon was vague in his representations nothing was done, but the moment Lord Curzon put down specifically his points of complaint, then those complaints were dealt with, and dealt with satisfactorily.

5.0 p.m.

Then came an interregnum. My hon. Friends and myself became responsible for the Government. Our stay was brief and we were followed by the present Government and the present Foreign Secretary. From the end of 1924 up to the present we have had attacks made upon this country from Russia, attacks in-the Press, attacks by men absolutely insignificant and attacks by men of considerable significance. We have had rumours about the activities of Russia in other foreign countries, ending up with the present statements about the activities of Mr. Borodin in Hankow, Canton and elsewhere. And alongside that we have the same thing in this country in regard to Russia. I sympathise with the Prime Minister very much in the task in which he found himself in answering a question to-day. A very important colleague of his only this week made a statement regarding the Russian Government which, if it had been made by a Russian Minister, regarding us would have been rightly resented by every man in this country who believes that Russia has no business to interfere in our affairs. During all those years that the Trade Agreement was in operation that Trade Agreement has never had a chance of producing the fruit that it can produce and will produce if it is properly worked, alongside of peace and cooperating diplomacy. We are talking now about the falling off in Russian trade. I know how some of it has fallen off. I had a deputation only the other week from certain important Englishmen, not merchants, but manufacturers, men who produce and men who directly employ British labour in production. They came and asked me whether I had read a speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? The Chancellor of the Exchequer had openly threatened and told them that they ought not to engage in trade with Russia except at their own risk. The whole meaning, the whole atmosphere and the whole purport of his speech was that the risk was exceedingly great.

How can anybody expect—I am not arguing as from this side of the House, but I am arguing in a way that every business man understands; I do not care whether it refers to Russia, Japan, America, or our own Dominions—if you have a. Chancellor of the Exchequer who gets up and solemnly attacks, first of all, a Government of a State with which we are doing business, and then, not content with that general attack upon the Government of that State, goes on to warn our business men against trading with that State, how can you reasonably expect that your business men are going to deal with that State? The Trade Agreement which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead produced is being killed by the propaganda of hon. Members opposite. They first of all create trouble. They first of all embark on a most mischievous and subversive propaganda—a propaganda which, if it were conducted by the Russians against us and any of us were in office, we would not tolerate for one moment. [An HON. MEMBER: "You did tolerate it!"] We did not tolerate it and we have no intention of tolerating it. During the time that this Trade Agreement has been running and during the time that the right hon. Gentleman, with paternal affection and care, was watching its results in pounds, shillings and pence, hon. Members in this House, Ministers of this Government, have gone rampaging up and down the country from one end to the other, attacking that. Government and doing everything they possibly could to hamper British trade with Russia. I regret most profoundly that the right hon. Gentleman has lent himself to this. The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon comes and says, "How poor has been the result of the Trade Agreement that I made with such goodness of heart and excellence of policy?" The right hon. Gentleman has only got to look into the propaganda of his own party for the reasons.

I would like just for a few moments to take the political side of this question. I am glad—I have said so, and I say it here—that the Foreign Secretary sent a Note to Russia. I think the Note was two years out of date. I think it was a great mistake that the right hon. Gentleman allowed matters to drift. I have been quoted. I am glad I have been quoted. I stand by everything I have said. Since I left office I have repeated it. If I were in office now—sometimes I am asked what I would do if I were in office, but I do not think that that is a very profitable question to put to any ex-Minister; it causes very considerable inconvenience—but I have no hesitation whatever in saying that, if I had been in office, a Note would have been sent a good long time before 1927. I do not know that the Note would have been as stiff in its language as is the language used in some parts of the right hon. Gentleman's Note, but I think it would have been stiffer in substance. Let me lay down, as a first proposition, a, proposition with which we all agree, that no country can tolerate the interference of a foreign country in its own affairs. [Interruption.] I think we are the only party that can say that. [Hon. MEMBERS: "What about China?"] Hon. Members really should not take up newspaper rumours and quote them as facts. I lay down a second proposition, but I am not quite so sure that the Foreign Secretary will agree with me in this. I think it is of the utmost importance that no statement should be made officially—let unauthorised persons speak as much as they like—but no statement should be made officially unless it has been subjected to the most careful examination and unless the proof of the importance of the statement is hell in reserve by the Foreign Office when they make the statement.

In making such a statement there should be almost a meticulous selection of the legitimate from the illegitimate. For instance, a cartoon, lampooning a Minister, is not a legitimate subject of complaint for the Foreign Office. A newspaper article, a newspaper attack, however vulgar and however strong in its language—my experience is that the strong language is always the weak idea—however strong and offensive and vulgar any newspaper article may be, whether published either here about Russia or in Russia about us, ought not to be the subject of official representation. When you come to speeches by Ministers, I think you are on a, little bit more debatable ground. The difficulty of our Foreign Office in making representations to the Soviet Government because the Soviet Ministers and Ambassadors have been making indiscreet and even offensive speeches, is very great. Take our Chancellor of the Exchequer. Put a beard on him, make him talk Russian instead of English, and, behold, you have Zinovieff. Take the Home Secretary, with his style, the liveliness of his energies, and his forthrightness. It requires very little imagination for those of us who sit here and look at him there to see Trotsky, perfect in form and feature, face and limb. If I may use the imagery of the prize ring, I would say this: Never try to hit the other man if you know that on precisely the same ground and with precisely the same method of fist application he can hit you equally hard if not harder.

There is another point. There are movements and organisations, in Russia or here, aimed, if in Russia, to destroy our Government, giving us difficulties in India and other parts of the Empire and giving us difficulties in foreign countries like China with which we are in negotiation. These movements, are they legitimate or illegitimate? I say that they are illegitimate. I have got a circular here in which I have been appealed to to subscribe money to a certain organisation which is called "Clear Out the Reds Campaign." It is signed by an hon. Member of this House. This is what this circular says in appealing for money: Largely as a result of our work "— that is English work, the work of a committee internal to this country— Largely as a result of our work Zinovieff, the arch-propagandist of Russia, has been flung from power, and Trotsky, England's enemy, has been driven forth from the councils of the Soviet. I take the view that the Third International is a matter for which the Government of the country has to bear a responsibility. There is no doubt about it. There is no use, either for propaganda purposes or for other purposes, to take any other view. But taking that view of the Third International, what view ought the Foreign Office to take of this thing? It goes on to say that they are appealing for money to carry it on. They have turned out Zinovieff—a very bad day for them, because what are they going to do at the next election? Trotsky has gone. I really believe that were I to attempt the thing which I would be physically incapable of performing and were I to rifle the pockets of the hon. and gallant Member for Handsworth (Commander O. Locker-Lampson), who signed this, I would find the scalps of Zinovieff and Trotsky in his pocket. And yet, from the General Election down, we find that Zinovieff has been in power and that Trotsky is still in authority, and the hon. and gallant Member, in spite of his party propaganda and his party meetings, and in spite of the poiltical harangues of his colleagues, is now trying to raise money on the pretence and on the claim that he has cleared Zinovieff out and that, owing to his efforts, Trotsky is no longer in power. So we have launched a campaign which has become a crusade"— that holy word, with magnificant historical associations. The hon. and gallant Member's enthusiasm turns the campaign into a crusade—and he wants £10,000! I Peter the Hermit, was it not, who did the same thing? The hon. and gallant Member goes on to say, in order to show how detached and how correct we arc, and how careful we should be to be, correct and not to interfere with others' affairs, that someone of the name of Sir Harold Bowden has given us £1,000 to continue our campaign, but we need £10,000 before the end of March. And he has asked me to subscribe! The hon. and gallant Member has one very good instinct. He is very accurate in his reading of human nature in one respect. He addresses me in this circular, "Dear Madam." The hon. and gallant Member knows the virtues of the old lady, and that if anyone is going to give him 9,000 for his crusade it must be some dear old lady who is warmed in her heart by seeing the hon. and gallant Member's name at the bottom of a circular, and sees herself addressed as "Dear Madam." But the important part of the letter to the lady is its postscript. That is: No successor to Krassin has been appointed, at the urgent insistence of our campaign. I do not want to embarrass the Foreign Secretary, but I would really like to ask him, for the benefit of the old ladies who Are being tapped for £9,000, is that postscript true? It would be very interesting to know. This is an amusing circular in a way, but it is a very serious point. It is no use addressing great Notes in the minatory language in which this Note has been addressed. It is no use asking the Russian Government to mend its ways upon accusations which the Russian Government can duplicate in practically every case—not all, but practically every case. We have to be much more careful than that. That is not the way to handle the matter.

Now I come to a third proposition, and it is this: That our grievances should be produced. The last place in the world for keeping grievances in the dark is the Foreign Office. They become more and more shadowy, darker and darker, and more and more vague, until at last it is quite impossible to go back to the precise point which really was the sound reason for a complaint and for a protest. Let us formulate, let us present, let us challenge, let us settle, let us carry out our part and see to it that the other side carries out its part. This is a repetition, but very important—it struck me forcibly when I turned over in my own mind what ought to have been done. The one conspicuous success in negotiations with the Russian Government followed a specific statement of what our complaint was. As soon as we faced it, we came to an agreement. I am not going over the work that we did ourselves. There was the question of the White Sea Fisheries. There was a very difficult point in that. No one can appreciate it more than those who have been in the Foreign Office. That was settled and decided—and so on. The way to handle this, surely, is to put down your points perfectly specifically, see that they are really before the Russians, and see that the points against the Russian Government are not exactly the same points as they have against you, so that they can simply walk round about you without joining issue.

I will say a few words about the attitude of the Soviet Government itself. I think we are all too much inclined to assume hostility on the part of the Soviet Government. It is perfectly true—perhaps hon. Members will have the pleasure shortly of seeing it in print—that I hold the view that the Third International has not given up its hopes of a world revolution. No. [Interruption]. That is all very well. It is not the business of those who are in charge of Departments, with great issues hanging upon them, to run away when they come up against a difficulty. They have to face the difficulty and to try to overcome it. But the Soviet Government, in the last paragraph of its Note, whatever it may be in the others, indicates its desire to have our claims and our case against it. Do let us remember that the Soviet Government had a Czarist inheritance. Do let us remember that the Soviet Government was founded and composed by men who had spent the whole of their lives as exiles, until the time that they came into office. Do let us remember that the political mentality of the Soviet Government was a reaction from Siberia and from the knout. Do let us remember that the Soviet Government presents one of the most magnificent examples that historians will ever have for their imagination to play round, of the truth of the proverb, "You sow the wind and you reap the whirlwind."

I am profoundly convinced that by patience—I am sorry the right hon. Member for Hillhead rather—I was going to say jeered at the word; he made rather light of it—I am still convinced that by putting down what our grievances are, by negotiating, not by firing guns from London, the balls of which are going to land in Moscow, and then their firing hack from Moscow with the balls landing in London, but by getting close up to each other, round the table, by Ministers representing Russia and our own Foreign Secretary representing us, by the appointment of an official representative in Mr. Krassin's place here, so that these things can be handled in a businesslike way—I feel perfectly certain that we can get through this transition time—it is only a transition time—when the Siberian reaction will have died down, and as it dies down our European conception of political and international responsibility will grow up and displace it.

As soon as that is done, our Trade Agreement will fructify in trade, and our full diplomatic relations will fructify in international peace. If that is not done do not let us make any mistake about the alternative. No. Break your relations, cut them off as they were before the right hon. Member for Hill-head came to that agreement—from my heart, I congratulate him upon what he did—cut them off and put them where they were before the right hon. Gentleman came to an agreement with the Russians, and you throw open the whole world to their activities; you throw away your arm of diplomacy. I beg of you to use your arm of diplomacy. My complaint is that it has not been used enough. You have thrown it away. Hon. Members throw it away. [Interruption.] I am not going to be led away by the interruption, because the time is short. I am certain that the right hon. Gentleman will not argue that the only difference between America and ourselves is that we have a Trade Agreement and they have not.


Not the only difference.


Nor did the right hon. Gentleman say that the chief difference was that we have a Trade Agreement and America has none—not he.


All I have said is that America, without a Trade Agreement and despising diplomatic relations, succeeds better with the Soviet Government than we do.


The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that he has put up an exceedingly flimsy piece of argument. He knows perfectly well that there is a good score of reasons why American trade has been better than ours. He knows that at the beginning of my speech I indicated some of them. He also knows that there are financial reasons. He knows that there are ordinary trading and industrial reasons. He knows that there are reasons associated with banks, credits, and so on. He knows that there are reasons connected with the passing and re-passing of cash, and so on. But I do not intend to pursue that point. When interrupted I had finished what I had to say. I hope that the Note is not going to be left where it is. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it cannot he left where it is. But the way to pursue it is to put down specifically — not follow my example, for goodness sake; that would be far too subversive to follow; but follow the latter part of Lord Curzon's policy—put down specifically the points, argue them out, reason them out, negotiate, and if you do not get an agreement which would be good for both of us, and perhaps better for Europe than for either of us, if you do not get that at the end, I will confess with sorrow in my heart and with absolute sincerity and without reserve, that I have been more mistaken in that prophecy than in any I have ever made.

The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Austen Chamberlain)

I came down to the House to-day with the uncomfortable feeling that I was to be fired at from three sides. So far, at any rate, I have not too much to complain of in the triangular duel that has taken place. More shots have passed me than hit me. I do not know how long that will continue. I see other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen lying in wait to contribute to our discussion. They may desire that I should discharge my gun before they open fire with their broadsides. In any case I think I should no longer delay to make my position and the position of His Majesty's Government clear to the House. I take note with satisfaction and with gratitude of the repetition by the right hon. Gentleman of those principles of international relations which he asserted in the Note sent by him to the Soviet Government as one of his last executive acts when he was Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. He goes further. He directly approves of the action of His Majesty's Government in sending a Note now, but he has criticism to offer.

The first criticism he has to offer is that we have delayed two years before sending it. Let me say that I have made, or caused to be made, more than once, specific protests against specific acts of the Soviet Government. We have received no satisfaction in relation to those specific protests. I have, I believe, on every occasion on which I have received a Soviet representative in this country, called his attention to the fact that what His Majesty's Government had to complain of was not some stray act here or there, some breach by, it might be, an insubordinate or ill-controlled official of an Agreement which was generally accepted, but continuous and universal disregard of the first and primary object of that Agreement. It is not therefore, to be supposed that the Soviet Government have not had due notice of what we complain of, or have not had their attention called to the character and scope of the actions to which we take exception. But it would be useless and worse than useless—it would be irritating—if, week by week, as these things occurred, I put in a public protest on every occasion. If that were so, such relations as have existed would not have continued for the two years during which I have been responsible for the Government's foreign policy. They would inevitably have been brought to a close before, and I beg of the right hon. Gentleman, who knows well the ground of our complaint, who has himself stated the ground of our complaint, not to confuse the issue whilst indulging in chaff at my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Handsworth (Commander O. Locker-Lampson), or to leave the Soviet Government in any doubt that he would make the same demand of them as we have made, and that he would resent, as we resent, their interference in our domestic affairs and their promotion, wherever they can act, of world revolution, singling out this British Empire with which they profess a desire of friendly relations, against which they have promised to take no hostile action, as the particular mark and object of their animosity and ill-will.

The right hon. Gentleman does not like the selection of documents included in or attached to the Note which I delivered the other day. He thinks a reference to a cartoon which held up to execration the Foreign Minister of this country as applauding the execution of Communists in another country—gleefully applauding and gloating over their execution—which was part of a campaign suggesting that this was all the work of the British Foreign Secretary, was not a matter of which it was within the dignity of the British Government to complain. I take a different view. If he objects to my Note, I will take the statement of the right hon. Gentleman who sits beside him, the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden), as an effective statement of what it is that he, himself, when Prime Minister, said—no Government would tolerate from another Government with which it was supposed to be in friendly and normal relations. This is how the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley puts the case: The international intrigues of the Bolshevists are directed mainly against Britain, which is the inspirer and ideologist of capitalistic theory.' The violently anti-British character of the rising in China is largely due to Bolshevik inspiration. The Soviet Press claims credit for having provoked the trouble there, and a resolution recently passed by the Executive of the Communist International called upon Communists in all countries to concentrate on the support of the world revolution in Britain and China. I might have taken that and put that paragraph into my Note. It states the case. It is not a speech made here or there; it is not an ill-bred outburst by an occasional individual; it is the deliberate fomenting of world revolution and the deliberate interference with the internal affairs of other nations, whether they be the internal affairs o' the trade unions of other nations, which the Trade Union Council know how to resent and resist, or whether it be the general internal affairs of this country which it is the business of the British Government to protest against and to resist. These things are of public notoriety and are admitted by those who are concerned. They not only admit them; they boast of them. What is this Trade Agreement to which we are to attach so much importance? The Trade Agreemert undertakes that each party shall refrain from hostile actions or undertakings against the other, and from conducting outside its own borders any official propaganda direct or indirect against the institutions of the British Empire or the Russian Soviet Republic respectively and, more particularly, that the Russian Soviet Government refrains from any attempt, by military or diplomatic or any other form of action or propaganda, to encourage any of the peoples of Asia in any form of hostile action against British interests or the British Empire especially in India and the independent State of Afghanistan.

I take the indictment framed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley. I set it beside the pledge which the Soviet Government signed, and I ask right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite: Is there a man who would contend for one moment that what the Soviet Government has done and is doing, is not in clear contravention of the solemn engagement which they made in the Trade Agreement, and repeated in a later undertaking; and is it not the pursuit of just that kind of conduct which the right hon. Gentleman himself said would make continued diplomatic relations between us impossible? The hon. and gallant Member who moved the reduction of the Vote and the right hon. Gentleman opposite said: Enter into frosh negotiations; let us have another agreement. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Cailthness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair), interpreting history in his own fashion and not inspired, I am sure, by his leader on this occasion, said that when the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was the head, through the hand of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), signed the trade agreement, they never expected this condition to be kept. I do not say that any of us expected that from one day to another the whole situation would change, but we expected a change to begin. We expected it to grow steadily and we anticipated, and were entitled to anticipate, that in a reasonable time that engagement would be implemented and henceforth kept. But it never has been on the Soviet side. What is the use of my sitting down to negotiate another agreement in face of facts like that and to be told, two years hence, by the hon. and gallant Member that if I was fool enough to think that the word of the Soviet Government was to be trusted, I was alone in my folly? The hon. Gentleman made a powerful speech, but this conclusion was in defiance of his premises. I am not going to labour that point. It is admitted. It is proved out of the mouths of right hon. Gentlemen opposite.

I may be asked then as I have been asked day after day, month after month in this House, "How long are you going to tolerate this breach of a solemn engagement; how long are you going to maintain a document which is violated daily; how long are you going to entertain diplomatic relations with a country which abuses them, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has said that they do abuse them?" That is the real question. That is the only case I have to answer. The other is proved without reference to a single disputed or secret source, proved out of public utterances and public actions which everyone here has observed and knows, which are of notoriety throughout the world. Why then have we shown this extraordinary patience in face of these daily provocations? The policy of His Majesty's Government has been dictated and inspired by an earnest desire to make the peace of the world secure, to contribute to the appeasement of the feud which shook our civilisation and to eliminate the elements of disturbance and suspicion which remain from the great struggle of a few years ago. Had we to consider to-night nothing but our own domestic situation; had we to consider nothing but our own interest as affected by the trade agreement or by the exchange of diplomatic messages, I do not think I should have waited so long before asking my colleagues to take the action which the right hon. Gentleman opposite clearly indicated that he was prepared to take and would take, if these provocations continued.


I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not drag me in in the way that he is doing. He will remember a statement he made in this House in 1925 regarding that, and I do not want to raise it again. In any event, I hope he will not assume that I am in any way content that the ending of that dispatch should be carried out after the method with which the right hon. Gentleman has handled diplomacy during the last two years.


I am afraid I can only say that the right hon. Gentleman, while wholly unable to justify the Soviet Government, wishes to be free to attack His Majesty's present Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "Misrepresentation, absolutely!"] I certainly do not want to get into unnecessary controversy with the right hon. Gentleman, but on the fundamental point we are agreed. Such conduct as his right hon. Friend has described is intolerable. Such conduct as his right hon. Friend has described, on the part of a Government which is represented here by a Mission, and which affects to be on normal relations with us, is conduct that no Government in this country will indefinitely tolerate. So far, we are agreed. That is all that I wish to say for the purpose of this discussion. I do not ask him to approve my action or my lack of it. We must earn keep our separate responsibility, but in matters of foreign affairs let us at least treasure our agreements.

I was saying that if we had had only to consider the internal situation in this country, if we had had only to consider the value to us of such diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia, I do not think I should have delayed so long to take such action as I have now taken—{Interruption]—but I, as the representative of His Majesty's Government, had to take a wider view. I have said our whole foreign policy has been directed to eliminate suspicion, to take away elements of disturbance, and to stabilise the peace of Europe and the world, and we have felt that a breach between us and Soviet Russia, once we had started these relations, must have its reaction on other countries, if taken suddenly or before the world saw what was the provocation, what the inevitability of it, and before the world was in a position to place the responsibility as the responsibility will lie, whenever this conies about, on the right shoulders, the shoulders of those who, riot content to work for the prosperity or the greatness of their own country, turn the main part of their effort in fomenting revolution in other countries. [An HON. MEMBER: "Churchill and Denikin!"]

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr, James Hope)

I must ask hon. Members not to interrupt. The Leader of the Opposition during his speech was heard with perfect restraint, and I must ask hon. Members to show the same restraint now.


To act before we had given time for that evidence to become clear would have a very disturbing effect upon the European situation and would add to the troubles and the dangers of the world. It is difficult to discuss all the actions and reactions of international life in public without im- pinging upon the politics of other countries and without, perhaps, supplying material for those who are not working for peace. The East of Europe has not yet secured the same measure of appeasement and stability as the West. Suspicions there are still very active; fears, mutual fears, in nearly every case are very alive. The Soviet Government has sought to convince all these countries that the policy of His Majesty's Government was to stir up trouble, to use them as instruments of an anti-Sovietic policy, to combine them and the great nations of Europe in a great anti-Sovietic bloc. Nothing could be further removed from the truth. Whenever I have talked to the representative of any foreign country upon these subjects, I have used the same language: "A actente between you and your neighbours would be welcome to His Majesty's Government. Any improvement in your relations serves the policy of His Majesty's Government, which is the policy of peace. You have no reason to fear from His Majesty's Government any suspicion, any resentment, or any ill-will, if you pursue a policy of peace with your neighbours."

There is not a shadow of foundation for that suspicion, which the Soviet Government first used as a weapon of controversy, and has at last, I really believe, persuaded itself is true. But it has its reaction upon the relations of the Soviet Government with the border States and with other nations further away from Russia. It creates uneasiness in those countries. I had before me a German paper a day or two ago, which, à propos of this very Note of ours, had an article from a correspondent, in the course of which it was stated that it was evident that there had been conversations between Warsaw and London, and that the Polish Government had undertaken obligations, not only of a political, but of a military character to this country. There is not the slightest foundation for that, as there has not been the slightest foundation for the other rumours to which I have alluded, but these rumours are dangerous; they do increase uneasiness; they have repercussions which, unless you are a careful student of foreign affairs, perhaps you hardly perceive; but they are the kind of imponderabilities which Bismarck indicated as being perhaps the most weighty of all the considerations that you had to take into account when you took great political decisions.

Everybody knows that Soviet Russia did her best to prevent the Treaty of Locarno being signed, that Soviet Russia did her best to persuade the Germans not to come into the comity of Europe, not to resume friendly relations with their Western or Eastern neighbours, and that they did their utmost to persuade Germany not to come into the League of Nations, but to remain outside with Soviet Russia. You cannot have, whatever the provocation, whatever your own interests, a sudden breach between this country and Russia without its having its repercussions on the whole European situation. It is for that reason that I have urged upon His Majesty's Government patience and forbearance, under circumstances of continued provocation such as we have never endured of the hands of any other nation, such as, indeed, I believe there is no parallel for in the international relationships of any other two countries. But, Sir, if I have urged patience and forbearance, if impressed, as I am, with the seriousness, not for ourselves, but it may be for others, of a termination of our diplomatic relations, I have still always felt and always known that there are limits beyond which this patience cannot be carried.

6.0 p.m.

The Soviet reply to the Note of His Majesty's Government, misses the point. We have no desire, and we have made no attempt, to interfere with them within their own boundaries; we have carried on no diplomatic campaign against them in any part of the world; we have lived up, not merely to the letter, but to the fullest spirit of the mutual engagement which we undertook with them. What we ask of them is not that they shall change their domestic institutions, not that they shall refrain from preaching to their own people that their own institutions are superior to those which are preferred by the rest of the world, but that they shall henceforth make their policy conform to the ordinary comity of nations, and abstain from the effort to promote world revolution and from all interference in our internal affairs. It is not a mere verbal acceptance that we look for or that we can accept. It is acts of which we complain, and it is to acts in future that we must look, to see whether there is any redress for this long series of outrages or whether the patience and forbearance which His Majesty's Government and this country and Empire have shown have been shown in vain and are any longer possible to continue. His Majesty's Government reserve to themselves the right to judge both as to the expediency of any step that can be contemplated, and the moment that step should be taken. We thought that before we proceeded to any extremity, it was right to call the world to witness the serious nature of the complaints which we have, and to give the Soviet Government one more opportunity to conform their conduct to the ordinary rules of international life and comity.


The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary assumed that I was waiting to lire my guns at him. As far as I am concerned, the statement made by him of the attitude of His Majesty's Government towards Russia in the latter part of his speech, struck me as extraordinarily wise, and, in so far as I am concerned, I fully endorse and support the general lines which the right hon. Gentleman indicated in the concluding sentences of his speech. I must say that it adds to my complexity in finding the reasons for sending that Note at this moment, especially the concluding paragraph. The concluding paragraph, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) pointed out, is a paragraph which contains a distinct threat. If that had been addressed to any other Government, it would have been regarded as an ultimatum. The words "severing diplomatic relations" are very grave words to use, and if those words had been addressed to France, Italy, the United States or Germany, they would have meant, at any rate, that His Majesty's Government were contemplating war against those countries, and I cannot conceive why, having regard to the very grave and very temperate statement made by the Secretary of State to-day, a, Note was sent, not calling attention to infringements—that I can understand—but concluding, with a paragraph which practically threatened the rupture of diplomatic relations. To that extent I am in agree- ment with the right hon. Member for Hillhead. Either that paragraph ought never to have been included, or it ought to have been followed by further negotiations, or by action of some sort.

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in all he said in his very grave words about the danger of a rupture with Soviet Russia, having regard to the present condition of the world. It would have repercussions in Asia and in Europe of a very grave character indeed. Lord Balfour called attention to that in his great speech in the House of Lords, in July last, upon this situation, and I thought that meant that the Government had definitely made up their mind not to address a minatory note to the Russian Government. It is serious, not merely from the point of view of trade, but from the point of view of increasing the disturbances of the world. It undoubtedly affects trade. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the figures of the trade between ourselves and Soviet Russia, he will find how these threats are affecting the amount of business which is done by Russia with us. The right hon. Member for Hillhead—I am sorry he is not in his place—rather depreciated the value of that trade. May I give some of the figures They bear on the criticism of the right hon. Gentleman. In 1920 our trade with Russia was £3,000,000. In 1921, the year of the Agreement, it ran up to £10,000,000. In 1922, it went up to £17,000,000—I am using round figures—and in 1923 it was £17,000,000. In 1924, it went up to £45,000,000, and in 1925 to £67,000,000. In 1926 it went down to £41,000,000—the relations were getting worse.

When you come to the purchases of the Soviet Government in this country, they vary according to the relations for the time being between the Government of the day and that Government. In 1922, the relations were fairly good, and in that year the Soviet purchases in Great Britain were £11,000,000. In 1923, we had considerable difficulty with Russia, and there was an ultimatum delivered. The purchases went down to £6,000,000; afterwards they went up. Last year there were difficulties again, and down come the purchases from £35,000,000 to £16,000,000. All these diplomatic4isturbances have their effect upon the course of trade The right hon. Member for Hillhead said that America is doing just as good business with the Soviet Republic as we are, in spite of the fact that they have not got an agreement. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition gave a certain answer, but it was not in the course of his argument, and it was rather diverting him from his general argument. But I would like to point out two or three differences. In the first place, America has never been at war with Russia as we have been. Therefore, a, definite act of peace was essential before we could trade with Soviet Russia. The second difference is this. If the House will look at the figures of the goods which were sent from America to Russia, they will find that a very considerable proportion for two or three years consisted of famine goods. That is not true with regard to the last year, but in the previous years the goods were famine goods. That, undoubtedly, created a very goon feeling and sentiment, in Russia towards America.

The third reason is that American banks concede credit to Russia in a way our banks do not, and so, while the American Government have not recognised Russia, American dollars have recognised Russia, and have got their trade agreement with Russia. The same with regard to Germany. German banks are giving credit to Russia, and the German Government have guaranteed about 60 per cent. of that credit. There is a new credit which has been created to the extent of about £15,000,000 for the purpose of purchasing German goods for Russia inside Germany. So that, therefore, the attitude of the Governments of those countries cowards Russia has a great effect upon trade with Russia. Trade with Russia is different from trade with any other country, because practically the only purchaser is the Government itself. Your diplomatic representatives are not merely diplomats; they are also traders, and if there be ill-will and a rupture between the Soviet Government and the representatives of another country, it must necessarily affect trade.

There was one observation made by the right hon. Gentleman which, I thought, was very searching, and which, I think, it is worth his while pursuing a little further. The right hon. Gentleman said that there were mutual suspicions and fears. Now that is a side of this busi- ness to which we have not given sufficient attention. It is a side of this business which we have not taken sufficiently into account. The right hon. Gentleman says that in Russia there is suspicion, and that they endeavoured to persuade Germany not to enter into the Locarno Treaty. Why? They were under the impression that the Locarno Treaty was purely an effort to get the Western Powers to federate against them. Was there absolutely no ground for that? Was there not a speech delivered by an Under-Secretary in that particular Government which practically said so? We are not distinguishing in Russia between Secretaries of State and Under-Secretaries. There are some men who are more important there, and some men who are more insignificant, but when we want to quote something against Russia, we give equally the same importance to the small men as to the big men. They are probably doing the same thing there. They quote a speech by an. Under-Secretary of State here, suggesting that this was a movement against Russia, and that is published in the whole of the Russian papers. How can you complain, therefore, if they think that Locarno was simply an attempt to work up a confederacy against Russia? I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether even more important colleagues of his are not responsible? At any rate, in days when some of us were responsible, including even the first Ministry of the present Prime Minister, no Secretary of State or Minister of importance made speeches attacking the Russian Government after the Agreement was signed.

That very good tradition has been departed from completely. Ministers of the greatest consequence, Ministers of great influence who have prodominant power inside the Government, have been delivering attacks, not, against Communist principles, not against Bolshevist ideas, but against the Bolshevist Government, describing the Bolshevist Government as a junta of assassins and thieves. The question is not whether they are, but whether, if you are going to have diplomatic relations with them, you ought to attack them in that way. I can understand the attitude of the hon. and gallant Member. He says, "Break with them," but if he were Secretary of State, until there was a break, he would feel that decency compelled him, at any rate, not to attack them. If you are going to take up a position of that kind, your business is to put an end to diplomatic relations. You cannot invite a man to come and buy at your stores, and ask for facilities to buy at his shop, and then go into the street and call him a murderer, an assassin and a thief. The man who is guilty of conduct of that kind is a mental case.

Just think of the speeches delivered recently by men who are pretty well known in Russia. There is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has the Order of the Grand Cross for supplying the Red Army with munitions—[An HON. MEMBER: "No"]—through the White Army. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has been delivering speeches which are certainly very improper to deliver against a country with whom you are officially on good relations. Those are speeches which certainly ought not to be delivered unless you break. The language is violent language, and it is obviously directed against the Government, and he says so—against those who are sitting in the Kremlin. He has said so in so many words. And so has Lord Birkenhead been delivering speeches of that kind. France has relations with Russia, Italy has relations with Russia, Germany has relations with Russia, practically every country in Europe now has relations with Russia. I put this to the Prime Minister, who is really responsible for his colleagues—I mean some of them—and I condole with him of course, I have had some experience—I ask the Prime Minister whether in the case of either France, Germany, Italy, or any of these great Powers, although they are thoroughly anti-Bolshevik, he can quote a single illustration of a Minister, high or low, making speeches in public attacking the Soviet Government?

Whatever Signor Mussolini is, he is not a Bolshevik, he has no sympathy with Bolshevism, but I have not seen a speech by him or any of his Ministers attacking the Bolshevist Government. Whatever M. Poincare is, he certainly is not a Bolshevik. Someone—I think it was my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead—said this country was attacked because it was the steadiest and the most anti-Bolshevist country in the world. That is not true. France is very anti-Communist; it has had experience of Communism, and it is rooted in its memory. No speech delivered by a single French Minister has made attacks of that kind. The same thing applies to Germany, though the German Government is also anti-Bolshevik, it is a Government which, on the whole, leans to the Right. I ask the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary whether, when you get these mutual suspicions, these mutual fears—rooted in events which are not so very long ago—it is right that Ministers of the Crown should be permitted to make speeches of that kind against a Government with which we are in official relations? It is humiliating, it is undignified, it is unworthy of a great country, and it is bound to be misused, affording an excuse for anything they do. I do not know whether Trotsky is a Minister or whether he is not, but I do not agree that either in appearance or in tradition or in determination the Home Secretary is quite like Trotsky.


Trotsky is an abler man!


He is a different type of man. His abilities are of a different order. If Trotsky were to make attacks of that kind, or M. Stalin, or any of the other Ministers in Russia, we should have a right to complain. The right hon. Gentleman quotes newspapers in Russia. Has he quoted a newspaper which is supposed to be semi-official now, the "Morning Post"? The "Morning Post" has run away from its old position now that the Government have taken up their present line. Its truculence is always the truculence of the fainthearted. When it comes right up against it, it is not going to put an end to recognition, it will not determine the Trade Agreement, but what does it propose? The right hon. Gentleman complains that the Soviet Government are under the impression that we are organising a Federation of Europe against them. Would he mind reading the "Morning Post" article this morning—if he can find time—reading the end of it? It is an appeal to Europe, practically inviting the Government to get a federation of that kind against Russia, and Russian Bolshevism. How can he complain, then, if Soviet Russia, with all its shades of revolution, and the darkness and the suspicion of revolution, should come to the conclusion that we also are in a conspiracy with regard to her?

Therefore, I am very sorry that the right hon. Gentleman did not respond to the appeal of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) in that able and powerful speech which he made. What did he suggest? Not so much a new agreement, but a response to the invitation of the Soviet Government to talk over these difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman could put all his case to them. Up to the present there is not overwhelming evidence in his Note. I have no doubt he has got a case about propaganda in China—in so far as the Press are concerned, it rests largely upon suspicion—but I am assuming that the Foreign Office have got direct evidence. All our evidence could be tabled for a discussion of that kind, and, on the other hand, the Soviet Government could put their ease, and we might clear up a great deal of misunderstanding between the two Governments. That does not mean a new Agreement, but it may mean a new spirit. One thing is quite clear, even from what is said on the other side. There is one fundamental fact in favour of peace, and that is that it is to the interest of both countries to keep on good relations with each other. We are big purchasers from Russia. An hon. Member interrupted a speech to say that the goods Russia is selling us are the goods which nobody else wants. The more we prove that the stronger the case in favour of continuing relations, because it means they have a direct interest in keeping on good terms with us. Anybody who reads their reply can see that. Undoubtedly, they say to the right hon. Gentleman, "Break your Agreement and take the consequence," but it is quite clear they do not want to break it; they want to carry on. It is to their interest to tarry on, and it is to our interest to carry on, and, if there is an interest on both sides to keep on good terms, why on earth should not we develop that until at least we get peace between the two countries, and real peace?

I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary nor with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead that there have not been improvements. He very fairly said that when we signed the Agreement the anticipation was that we should not get an immediate improvement, but that it would he gradual. No one can doubt that there is improvement; the mere fact of an increase in trade proves it. No business has been clone by traders with Russia where they have not been paid. I have never heard of a single case. All that is improving the relations. Why do those who are so anxious to break the Trade Agreement shrink from doing it? It is because they know the traders of this country do not want to break with Russia.

So much for the right hon. Gentleman. But what about the "Diehards"? What hats happened with regard to them? When they thought it was perfectly safe to urge the Government to break with Russia, and to get credit for appearing to be very brave, then they were gallant; But the moment they came face to face with the reply of the Soviet Government saying, "Take the consequences" they all fled. [Interruption.] Well, we shall see to-night. We will give them a chance. There are, I believe, tens if not scores of them. We know that the hen. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench are rabbits. We have been told so upon high authority—from among their own supporters. We knew it before! They ran away from Evan Williams last year, and if they lied from a Welsh terrier well, naturally, they are frightened by a great red Russian bear. But what about these hon. Members themselves? They are lions. Their roar has been deafening—until recently. Now it is a little muffled squeal—the moment they come right up against it. I would like to know whether these lions will really give full expression to their views in the Division Lobby, or whether we shall see them march into the rabbit hutch, with their little white tails bobbing homage to Moscow. Div hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Handsworth (Commander Locker-Lampson), upon whose speech on the subject I had the pleasure of congratulating him, said the other day, "The Government should say to Russia, Own up, pay up, shut up!'" Now he seems to have given that order to his own friends tonight. Is he really going—[HON. MEMBERS: "Give us a chance!"] There is plenty of time; and I shall watch the Division, too; that is the real test. We will see what is done there. Then there is their Press. I have never seen anything like the attacks made upon the Government. It shocked me. Such language!—by the Diehard Press, the Conservative Press: As a display of feebleness and 'funk' Sir Austen Chamberlain's long heralded Note.... will make the blood of every self-respecting Britain tingle in his veins…. We have heard a more formidable scolding given by an elderly lady to her Pekinese in Hyde Park."[Interruption.] It is the "Daily Mail," the paper that broke off negotiations with the trade unions last year. They have talked of 'repercussions'"— we heard it to-night— and 'disadvantages,' but more and more we are driven to the conclusion that it is manhood which the Government requires. And then it says: Can it really be that the British lion is buried, and that our present Ministers have substituted for it as our national emblem the white rabbit? But as soon as the Soviet Government gave their reply, and said, "Take the consequences," this paper is just like the Pekinese referred to; it has hardly a yap left. Its only method of dealing with the Reds, which then was to turn them out, is now to say, "Put Haden Guest back!" That is the way to settle the Soviet Government. The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite may have written it, and perhaps he will tell me what it means. There is an attack in another Conservative paper, the "Evening News" on the Foreign Secretary as follows: the proverbial dog with tallow legs being pursued through the nether regions by an asbestos cat is in better case than that fugitive hope. That is brought in somehow in connection with the Government. The Government is the dog with the tallow legs and there is also the asbestos cat following them through the nether regions. Are hon Members really going to face fire, or are they going to be a wax cat and when they come in contact with fire is there going to be a shining blob? The same great newspaper, the "Evening News," a paper with a very large circulation, attacked the right hon. Gentleman and his Government. This is the paper that gave you the Zinovieff letter. It attacks the Government and calls them mandarins. Apparently the right hon. Gentleman is sitting there in order to prevent the gallant Die-hard army marching across his territory to destroy the Bolshevists, and I hope he is ashamed of himself. The Bolsheviks put themselves right up against this position and said, "Break the agreement and take the consequences," and then the supporters of the right hon. Gentleman all fled. The "Daily Mail," the "Evening News," the "Morning Post," and most of those Die-hard gentlemen who have been conspiring for the last few days and months in order to intimidate this poor Government would then be doing something better than anything they have perpetrated before and that is saying a good deal. All these things have been tried and they have completely exploded these Bolshevik agitations. In this way the Government are trying to renew the triumph of the last election. The red herrings sold well then, but what is happening now? Here is a great attempt being made to renew that triumph, but they cannot do it again. You cannot recharge a cracked bomb, which is what they are trying to do. The Government are trying to put it off and off until there is a more opportune moment to do it, but the country will say when it is again attempted, "Why did you not do it at the time when you said there was overwhelming evidence, and you had all sorts of reports; why did you not do it then instead of allowing the centre of infection to remain for a couple of years?" I am glad that, for the time being, this Note has created a disturbance in Europe which is reflected in the Foreign Press, not merely in France, but in Germany and Italy as well as in Russia and in all the small countries. I am glad this has been done when it can do the least harm, because the country will realise that this is an attempt once more to repeat a triumph which was scored over a scare at the last election.


I have listened with great interest to this Debate, and I am much obliged to the two right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken for the genial advertisement they have given me and my cause. I am par- ticularly grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for advertising our need for money, because we do want money to support us. Ours is not an attack on sums subscribed out of patriotic English pockets, but on public moneys coming from Moscow. I am sorry that our letter which the right hon. Gentleman received began "Dear Madam," but the feminine way in which he treated the subject may have justified that. Anyhow, we are very grateful for the publicity this movement has been given, and I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr, Lloyd George) for what he has said, and he will see later on exacly how we vote. I would like to say at the outset that I shall feel happier in the Lobby with my hon. Friends opposite than with anybody else, and it is the duty of Die-hards—I am not one myself—to try to force to the front the views we hold, not with the object of destroying the Government, but in order to make known what we believe to be public opinion.

I welcome the Note, for this reason. It proves that at last the Government realises the depth of feeling produced in the country by the continuance of Soviet interference in our midst. I read that Note with a palpitating heart. I read the early protesting paragraphs joyfully hoping to find that, instead of ending in smoke this document would conclude by a deliberate breach with those who have broken with us; I confess that I was disappointed when I found that its early brave words degenerated into the feeblest of official bleats. The Soviet was invited, after unheard of injury and insolence, not to be so naughty again. If this Note was to have been sent at all then the same spirit should have breathed through every letter of it. Better have a milder beginning if you are going to have a mild end. Better a live sparrow than a stuffed eagle.

It is difficult to see exactly what purpose the Government can have thought this Note would serve. They could not have imagined that it would stop subversive propaganda. For this Note does not stand alone. After all it is only one of many. It is the Benjamin of a long brood of brothers, all of them stillborn, and to-day this Note itself is dead. It is indeed worse than useless, for it revives the problem without resolving it, and in so doing it proclaims to the world that the British Empire is ready to swallow almost any humiliation lying down. Its practical and instant effect is even more lamentable. It drew out a rejoinder from the Soviet Government and once again you have started that wrangling and jangling between England and Moscow which was so notable in the days of Lord Curzon. This reply to our Note, when we look into it, is highly unsatisfactory, because there is no apology in the Note whatsoever, and no contrition even foreshadowed. It is simply an amalgam of insult and evasion, and we stand measurably and obviously more humiliated as a result of that Note and our grievances are increased. May I add also that the arguments in favour of breaking with the Soviet are greatly increased, and that we are approaching the time when we must say "good-bye" to these false friends.

I listened carefully to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and other speeches in which the observations of Ministers were quoted. We were told that these Ministers had said infamous things against the Soviet. But one distinction at least, there is, namely, that whereas some of our Ministers may have used strong language against Russia, the Soviet has not only used strong language, hut has indulged in strong action against us throughout the British Empire. If hon. Members really want to know our position, they ought to remember the catalogue of her crimes against us. Alone among all our associates in the War, Russia has repudiated her debt to us of £700,000,000. She then expropriated our nationals to the tune of £200,000,000 of private property, and not satisfied with that she ill-treated and imprisoned some of them and drove many of them forth into abject and undeserved penury.


Russia recognised those liabilities.


Russia did nothing of the sort, and she has not paid us one single farthing.


You have not given her a chance.


We are going to give them a chance by turning them out, and then let them come back on the terms of the full payment of these debts. Not only that, but, alone of all our Allies, in the War, they signed a Treaty behind our backs which prolonged the War our nearly two years, and they murdered our diplomatic representative, on holy ground, in the Embassy in Petrograd.


They did not.


The hon. Member was not there, and, unfortunately—


It was denied by a Member of this House who was there.


The hon. Gentleman says that a Member of this House made a speech and said he was there. That hon. Member, however, was not there at all; he was not even at the Front when we were fighting, let alone in the Embassy, where there was danger and difficulty.


Why did you not say so at the time?


I did say so. I wanted to reply, but was not allowed to intervene because it was a maiden speech. I would like to rehearse those calamities; it is quite obvious how great and damaging they are. We had all these claims and all these grievances against the Soviet, and in 1921, we entered into a Trade Agreement with them. I think that showed a most magnanimous readiness for oblivion on our part. In that year, Unionists voted for the Trade Agreement, Liberals voted for it, the Labour party voted for it, and we did our best, in the belief that trade was necessary, to try to get back to friendly relations with that important State. But we know—it is no longer worth repeating—that the main condition of that Agreement of 1921, that the Soviet would not indulge in propaganda against the British Empire, has been broken repeatedly, and broken recently; and I would say to His Majesty's Government, "How many more times do you want it broken? How much longer are you going to leave England tied to this fraudulent partner? Has not the time come to rip up this Agreement into ribbons?" These are my views, and, I believe, the views of more people in the country than His Majesty's Government care to remember. [Interruption.] I think that if we tested it we could prove that we have a clear majority, and I should like to see a referendum on that subject in the country.

Hardly had this Trade Agreement been entered into when the Labour party, being in office, granted even fuller recognition to the Soviet. It had already the right to bring in a representative for commercial purposes, with diplomatic rights, and that representative was given the right to bring in a body of men who could carry with them sealed bags. But all over again these same rights were renewed to other diplomatic representatives of the Soviet; twice over they were granted, and to this day those rights run in duplication. Double privileges of recognition in England are given to the Soviet. They were never given to our Dominions overseas, they were denied to our Allies, like France, but we have flung them to a fraudulent Republic that has broken its promise. It may be true, that no one has been appointed in the place of M. Krassin, and that in other ways the opportunity of a double enjoyment of those rights is mitigated: but, if His Majesty's Government have not allowed anybody to be appointed in M. Krassin's place, is not that an admission that we are right? Does it not mean that the Government agree with us? All that I would ask them is, if they agree privately with us, why should not they agree openly?

Hardly had these additional diplomatic facilities been granted to the Soviet, when the Labour Party made another suggestion. They offered £100,000,000 of hard-earned English money to the Soviet. The Soviet had abolished capital; they had told us that capital was no good at all that it was vile and vicious; and yet, apparently, the Soviet wanted some of our British capital to carry on with. That was the suggestion of the Labour Government when they were in office. As we know, the issue went to the polls and was tested at an election which returned a large Unionist majority against the grant of any more money to Moscow. [Interruption.] An hon. Member refers to the Zinovieff letter. Yes, that also came in during the election, and it won for the Unionist party many votes, and quite rightly so. People say that the Zinovieff letter was a forgery. I notice that, whenever Communist documents happen to get out which are secret and which it is not desired to publish, we are always told that they are forgeries. Whether it was a forgery or not, the Zinovieff letter was identical with dozens of other documents issued by Moscow. It bore the hall-mark of Cain, and many similar documents hare been issued by similar people of note.

The effect of that was to give a large majority to the Government which is now in power. Would it not have been right if the Government then and there, after that General Election, had obeyed the desire of the country and had withdrawn recognition from the. Soviet? I would point out that they did nothing of the sort; they remained in the closest diplomatic relationship with the Soviet, and what has the result been? The result has been calamity ever since. Ever since we refused to purge England of the scarlet fever, we have suffered untold disaster. I need not remind the House of what is known as the general strike. People are afraid to talk about the general strike, but I 1111 not in the least afraid. I see that it is spoken of by some of its apostles as the first general strike. My view is tl at it was no strike at all, but an instalment of revolution. It was an act of anarchy which owed very little to tie brains or initiative of people here in England. But what a chance it was for His Majesty's Government to "turn out the Reds," to use words in common parlance. How easy it would have been then, and what a good reason there was—since a junta, if I may be allowed that expression, of self-appointed commissars here in England were trying to usurp the functions of government themselves. That was the opportunity for His Majesty's Government to cut the cable between this country and Communism in Moscow.

That strike was followed by the longest lockout in our history. I do not wish to revive, and would not dream of reviving, any bitter feelings in this relation, but we know that this struggle was prolonged by the charity of Moscow. We know that it might have ended on better terms but for the influence and the interference of one man who was the tool of Moscow, and we have to ask ourselves, is it right for one country to interfere in the affairs of another? Personally, I hold that it may be legitimate for individuals to do what they like in the way of supporting friends of theirs in another country; it may even be right for a corporation to do so; but it cannot be right for one State to interfere in the domestic troubles of another; it cannot be tolerable that one State should advance money for subversive purposes, or even for a strike in another State. If people think it right that the Soviet should advance money to support miners in a strike in England, I would like to ask, would it be wrong for Signor Mussolini's Government to advance money to support mineowners in a similar contest? The truth is that it is grossly wrong in both cases.

This attack on the staple industry of coal has been shifted to another industry, that of cotton, and we see the Soviet launching a final assault upon a far-distant British outpost in China. I happen to know the frontiers of China and Russia. Those frontiers march side by side, and nothing is easier than for the Russian Government to send any troops, any propagandists, into China; but it is incredibly mean to stir up racial enmities in China. We know the position in China perfectly well. There you have an ancient State breaking down into its elementary fragments, and these not yet re-grouping into a coherent whole. Thrilling through these elements there is a longing, and a right one, for nationality and self-determination; and along come the Bolshevists and attempt to divert these national longings into an anti-English channel of hatred. It will be observed that Bolshevism is not a healer. Bolshevism is a splitter. Bolshevism goes anywhere it can to foment trouble, to nourish strife. It does not exist to placate friend or foe, nor to make men better or brothers. Let the vaguest resentment lurk anywhere, let the smallest trouble exist, there the Bolshevists will pour in their poison in order that a wound may fester, in order that a sore may spread.

But the worst element in the attack on China, is that the same red roubles which have gone out to China to mass Chinese against English, are being sent also to England to subsidise the villianous campaign of "Hands off China." The scarlet hand of the Soviet is busy at one end of the earth driving innocent Chinese at British throats, and at the other end of the earth it is pulling us back and weakening our efforts to defend the homes of our people in the Far East. I think the time has come, not when we should encourage any cry of "Hands off China," but when the Government should give us a lead and go out on a policy of "Hands off England." The Prime Minister, not long ago, made a speech in defence of peace. It was a noble utterance on behalf of peace. He pleaded for peace in our time. Has that prayer been answered. I would like to point out that no prayers for peace are sufficient; if you want peace you must fight for it. [Interruption.] There is a Biblical verse beginning: There is no peace for the wicked. 7.0 p.m.

Indeed what right have the wicked to peace, what right has wrong-doing to any form of peace; and, when we speak of peace, what sort of peace do we mean? Do we mean peace at any price; peace at the price of British honour and prestige; peace which leaves the British Empire just the football of these fiends? Do we mean a peace which entitles every outcast of the underworld to wipe his boots upon the Union Jack? That is not the sort of peace we want. The olive branch may be an admirable weapon for communities which are civilised, but for the anthropoid apes of the Bolshevik jungle give me the big stick, yes, and the bigger boot.


In the speech to which we have just listened the hon. and gallant Member spoke about using the weapons of war in order to obtain peace. He talked about people who wanted to stir up strife. I would like to know whether hon. or tight hon. Gentlemen can put any other construction on what he said to-night than that he considers that whatever the Bolsheviks try to do they are totally unfit for people of his character to associate with at all. If they are what he describes them as being, or if they are what right hon. Gentlemen opposite have described them, then it is quite right that hon. Members should come here and say, "Break relationships." To expect men of whom he talks in this sort of fashion to have anything but unfriendly feelings, is to expect more of human nature than any of us are entitled to expect. There are one or two things I would like to clear up with regard to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. He said the Russian Government, and those in control, have robbed and plundered a large number of our nationals and sent them here to live in penury and want, and that the Russian Government have made no attempt or proposals for dealing with these personal debts. I cannot help but think that the hon. and gallant Member knows that that statement is quite inaccurate. He knows perfectly well that the hon. Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield (Mr. Ponsonby) did, after very hard work, made ever so much more difficult because of the opposition of the hon. and gallant Gentleman and his friends, arrive at an agreement to discuss with the Soviet Government how best they could meet the claims made upon them by the British nationals, and it was only by the aid of the lying propaganda of the Tory caucus that that proposition was defeated.

He has also this afternoon given utterance to the same old statement—I was going to characterise it as something worse—that all through the election the Labour Government desired to take £100,000,000 of hard-earned British gold and to give it to the Soviet Government. Everybody knows that is an absolutely untrue statement. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I repeat that everybody knows that is an absolutely untrue statement. No such proposition was put forward, and in no public documents could any hon. or right hon. Gentleman show that any such proposition was put before this House. The hon. and gallant Gentleman ought really to consider a little before he makes statements of that kind. Opinions are another matter altogether. He said he would like a referendum taken on this subject. As a matter of fact, if you like to take the General Election figures, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who sit on these benches only represent a minority of the nation. You are a million down on the votes as counted, and it is only the accident of our electoral system that enables the Government to be in office. That is a fact also which I chal- lenge anyone truthfully to deny. At every by-election at least during the last year, and all the by-elections which have been fought, the overwhelming majority of votes have been against the Government. You have no more right to take Liberal votes and add them to your's than we have. The Liberal point of view is not your point of view. We are not going to be told that there is a Coalition. The Government have been in a minority, and where seats have been won the Labour party has won them by an overwhelming majority. The Stourbridge electors gave their verdict on China and the Labour party policy.

I would like to ask the House to-night to try to realise what this country is that we are talking about. There has been a great deal of personal talk about the rulers of Bolshevist Russia, and a great many complaints as to what the rulers and others have said about the rulers of Great Britain. The question has been asked: Why is it that Great Britain comes in for so much censure and hatred, at least as expressed in words from those in authority in Russia? If you consider the history of this country, and if you consider what has happened in the relationships between ourselves and Soviet Russia since the revolution, you will get the answer. The hon. and gallant Gentleman never tires of telling us of his services in Russia after the revolution. He never takes the trouble to tell us how often the British troops were used in order to head back the Socialist revolution in Russia; how often our troops and our munitions and all the apparatus of war were used against the Bolsheviks in Russia. He has never attempted to justify, and no one else in this House up to the present has attempted to justify, the flagrant breach of international law which took place when the Soviet Government was struggling to get order in Russia and Great Britain poured troops and money into Russia in support of the counter revolution. That has never been explained, and it cannot be explained. It cannot even be defended.

It has been said that in this controversy the Bolshevist Government started out in opposition to the British Government. It was the British Government that started out in opposition to the Soviet Government. It is well known. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) put it on record in this House, when the question came for carrying on the intervention, that no other country would stand with us in that intervention, and, therefore, Great Britain had to give it up. Great Britain was the last to go out. Then, after we came out, the right hon. Gentleman who has now left the House, had correspondence with the counter revolutionists, and, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, much much better than I know, poured in money and soldiers and wealth in order to defeat the Soviet Revolution. All that being so, it is nonsense at this time of day for anyone to say, "What villians these Bolshevists are," because they dislike Members of the British Government. I want to say this. I have visited Russia twice. I do not claim to have anything like the knowledge of Russia that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has, but I do have this advantage, that I was in that country when the people were suffering from the awful cordon sanitaire that was set round Russia by the civilised nations of Europe. I was in Russia when a British soldier had to undergo an operation for the loss of an eye without any anæsthetic at all, because of the cruel and bloodthirsty boycott of the Western nations. I was in Copenhagen when the first Red Cross Expedition was allowed to go into Russia in March, 1920. Up to that time, the Red Cross Society, which is supposed to be the society which takes care of the wounded and injured in any war, were forbidden to cross the frontier. The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows it, and when he stands here to-day and talks about the brutality of other people, it is time we cleared our minds of cant and humbug and condemned ourselves for our abominable treatment of these people. There can be nothing more barbarous than to refuse medicine to those in need of it. No one can deny that that is so. I should not speak of these things if had not seen them. I was in Russia last year, and I travelled—[Laughter]. That laughter shows the mentality of hon. Members, and, when one of their own countrymen had to undergo an operation and have his eye taken out, he was denied the benefit of an anæsthetic, because of the cordon sanitaire put round Russia by Britain and France.


If I smiled, unfortunately I was not listening to the hon. Gentleman.


That also is worthy of the mentality, and it accounts for the ignorant manner in which they cast their votes.


We have listened to the expression of strong feeling from many points of view in A very orderly manner, and I think we might continue?


I recall these facts to the House, because of the manner in which the hon. and gallant Gentleman and others denounced the leaders of Soviet Russia. Last year I travelled something like 2,500 miles in one direction in Soviet Russia. People forget that that country is one-sixth of the world, and has 140,000,000 people. We have been talking about them and their welfare tonight. We have been discussing whether it is worth while that we should have relations with them. I met peasants in the Northern Caucasus who were terrified at what was going to happen this Springtime in regard to war on the Polish frontier, and were terrified at what may happen if there comes once more the curse of war to their country. Everyone I spoke to thought that Great Britain is doing exactly what the right hon. Gentleman said he knew we were suspected of doing, that is, egging on the smaller nations to combine in order to stop the development of Soviet Russia. [An HON. MEMBER: "Do you deny that?"] I am not the Foreign Secretary of this Government, God forbid! and I have no authority to deny it. But I know perfectly well, from speeches made in this House and the action taken by previous British Governments, what the attitude of mind is of the Tory party towards Russia, and I am very glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that there is no truth in those statements.

In conclusion, I would ask the House to consider this. Russia, in my lifetime, has been accounted an enemy of this country more years than she has been accounted a friend. It is often repeated in this House what British soldiers have done. Out on the slopes of the Crimea there are the graves of British soldiers who died in a war to prevent Russia getting through to the warm water via Constantinople. A few hours' journey away, on the slopes of Gallipoli—I expect this too is a matter of amusement to hon. Members opposite—there are the graves of thousands of Anzacs and others who died in order that Russia might go into Constantinople. I should like to ask the statesmen in this House, and I should like to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Handsworth (Commander Locker-Lampson), do any of you imagine that if you restore Tzardom in Russia that will make for peace in Europe? Do any of you imagine that with a Tsar again on the throne, they will forget that in the days of the war you promised them Constantinople? Will they forget what you promised them about Poland, and do you imagine that they would allow the whole of the Baltic seaboard to be taken away from them, as it has been? You know perfectly well that the most potent measure for bringing about a big disturbance in Europe would be the restoration to Tsardom in Russia, and because that is so, you ought to find a way out with the Soviet Government. You told them time and time again they were going to be swept out. Every time you told them that they grew stronger and stronger. No one to-day imagines that there is any Power in Europe that can overthrow them. No one imagines to-day that you can replace them. I am certain they will themselves modify their system. I am sure they will themselves discover that they must have friendly relationships with the world, and my position to-night, in common with my friends, is that we are dissatisfied with the Foreign Secretary's statement because he neither breaks with them nor carries on with them. That is an impossible position. He either ought to take the advice of the hon. and gallant Gentleman and tear up the Agreement or he should call Russian representatives into consultation—I hope the Soviet Government would send their very best man here to negotiate—and put before him in clear and simple language what it is we complain of, and what it is we want them to do in order that peace may be restored between us. As to debts, the right hon. Gentleman has forgiven France a huge portion of her debt. When you talk about what Russia owes, think of what all the other civilised nations owe you, and think how much they have paid. I should like to see us call on the Russian people to send to this country a representative who could negotiate these things. The only point of settlement that is worth while is recognising the people of Russia. Remember that up to now at least they have acquiesced in a system that you detest but which you have no right to alter. The only way you can defeat Communist propaganda is by removing the causes that make men fall to that propaganda.


I know I am suspected in certain quarters of an illicit affection for the Soviet Government. I have no such affection, although I confess to a sneaking desire to sell them as many cured herrings as they are prepared to buy for cash. I do not see, and never have seen, why this question of Russia should be made the subject of purely party controversy in this country. I admire very much, although I do net agree with all he says, the way in which the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Handsworth in the conduct of this campaign he has been carrying out to clear the Reds out of the country has never made a pasty question of it. Indeed most of his strictures have fallen upon His Majesty's Government. Whenever you mention the word "Russia" in this House it appears to galvanise hon. Members above the Gangway into a white heat of fury, and I could never understand why. Do they suppose that they have Socialism in Russia? If they do, all I can say is they must have a very poor opinion of Socialism. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) himself, in one of his vivid nightmares, could ever conceive of a system so fantastic as the one that has been imposed upon the wretched Russian people. They hate the Labour party as a whole, and the feelings they entertain for the Leader of the Opposition I could hardly repeat. Compared with what they think of him, they entertain feelings of warm affection for the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary. Therefore I never understand, and I do not think I shall ever understand, why the Labour party should get so heated when the subject of Russia comes up. I do not think the internal conduct of Russia really concerns us except in one aspect. They really must have their own Government, and deal with their own internal problems. It is no affair of ours. But we are very much concerned with their external affairs, and with all they have been doing to us in the last few years. This agitation by the hon. Member for Handsworth, and the Note, and the whole publicity that has been given to the business have cleared the mists away.

It is no good concealing from ourselves the fact that the main object of Russian policy for the past three years, a policy which they have pursued with great tenacity and determination, has been the destruction by any possible means of the British Empire and of the Christian religion, and find it difficult to listen with patience to the hon. Member who spoke last talking about Russians and the Soviet Government. With such a policy there can be no compromise. It may be the great battle of the twentieth century, and if these people are really out to destroy the greatest combination of free nations the world has ever seen, resting on a foundation of justice, freedom, and individual liberty, and the greatest religion the world has ever seen, we shall have to resist it by every means in our power, and resist it to the end. But that does not necessarily affect the question of the diplomatic methods that we ought to pursue. There are other considerations, such as the tendencies that are at work within Russia and in other parts of the world, which must weigh very heavily upon our hearts. Last year the Russians attempted to subsidise the general strike, believing it was a revolutionary movement directed against our constitution, and that is unparalleled in history. However, at the time we were too much concerned with our own affairs to bother very much about it. But since then more serious things have happened. I wonder if Members of the Labour party—I wonder if the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury)—would deny that for the last nine months the Russian Government has fomented by money and propaganda and by every means they can anti-British feeling in China with the avowed object of driving our people out.


I am not in a position because I have no official connection with the Russian Government, but that is certainly a question which in my judg- ment the Foreign Secretary, if he believes it, should put to the representative of the Russian Government in this country.


I only ask the hon. Member because I understood he was in close relationship with the Soviet Government, and that he had friends in Russia who might have denied that fact. When I was there in April, Mr. Radek told me that having abandoned his attempts at propaganda in Europe, he proposed to concentrate the whole of his attention on China, and he has formed a university in Moscow for the training of Chinese students in the gospel of Marxian Socialism so that they can be sent back to China to propagate it there, and he said we ought to abandon all our rights in China and clear out. That was his policy and the policy of the Russian Government. Obviously we are not going to agree with that policy, and it is clearly a violation of the Trade Agreement. As long as we know where we are we can argue about the merits of the thing, but it is as well to have all these things cleared up, and we had to protest and we have protested.

May I deal for a moment with the internal position in Russia as it affects us at present. There are one or two considerations I should like to ask the House to weigh in their minds before reaching a decision. The first is that we are dealing with a revolutionary Government in a revolutionary situation. Therefore, it is a wholly abnormal Government. You cannot treat them as you would treat any other Government. When the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said that it was an unprecedented Note which we had sent, and one which would be treated as a very grave affair had it been sent to the French, German or Italian Government, I reply, "Yes, but we are dealing with an unprecedented people and with an unprecedented Government, and we have to deal with them in an unprecedented way." We must send them a Note of this character and we must deal with them in this way, because they are quite abnormal.

These people are actuated by many motives, and from my brief acquaintance with them I believe that their dominating motive is the reeling that they must not, be driven from power; that they must keep office at any cost. They feel that they must hold on, because if they fail they will not go into opposition. I will not speculate where they will go if they fail, but it certainly will not be into opposition. Therefore, they feel that they must cling to power at any cost and use any methods to preserve their own power at home. That is their dominating motive. A second consideration is that the situation in Russia is changing with an almost kaleidoscopic rapidity. It changes from day to day. It is almost impossible for anybody to judge what the position is at any moment in Russia unless they are actually in Moscow at the time. I think that, on the whole, the tide is very slowly, with certain setbacks going in the right direction, but that is merely a matter of personal opinion. That changes are taking place in every sphere bf Russian life and that the whole position is in a state of flux, cannot, I think, be disputed.

A third point which we have to consider is the organisation of the Russian State, the Soviet State. Hon. Members know that there is at the top the Politbureau, which consists of nine of the most vehement Bolsheviks, who are in effective control. They control the Third International, which conducts the whole of the propaganda. They are in complete control of the whole situation both inside and outside Russia in regard to propaganda. They are the men who control the thing, and underneath there are the people who are actually organising and running the country itself, the Commissars, but they are not members of the Politbureau. That is a very important point to consider, because I think there is a split and a growing split between the Commissars and the Politbureau which may one day materialise into something very useful and very helpful. The Commissars who are running this enormous country, not only the political organisation but the whole trade of the country, such as it is, and the whole economic organisation of the Government, are doing it in the teeth of the monstrous system that has been imposed upo them by the Politbureau from above. The marvel to me is how they keep the thing going at all.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer in Moscow sees a country with enormous resources, extraordinarily rich in oil, manganese, timber, grain, minerals: one of the richest stretches of country in the world, of vast extent and prodigious potentialities. He knows that there is only one thing required to develop the country and to raise the standard of life all over the country, and that one thing is capital. He knows that he could get that capital under certain conditions, but he is prevented from doing so by the Politbureau. I wonder how he can manage at all. He has to restrict exports, cut down wages, close down factories. He is compelled to do these things not of his own volition, not because of any wish of his own, but he has to do them because the Politbureau prevents him doing otherwise.

I tell the House frankly that I am basing all my hopes on the strike of the Commissars. I think they will ultimately rebel against the intolerable burden that is imposed upon them from above. Death would be preferable to the conditions under which the Commissars are working at the present time. They are working 18 hours a day. They are snowed under by an avalanche of orders which effect no purpose whatsoever. There is the remorseless clicking of a million typewriters, click! click! click! all the day. It is a case of bureaucracy absolutely run amok and achieving no purpose whatever. It is driving these men clean out of their minds; they are all overtired. They have nervous breakdowns at frequent intervals. All the while, the Politbureau sits in the Kremlin, talking, talking, talking, arguing about Marx, talking about the proletariat, setting up a new proletariat frequently. They make up for the rest, who are shot if they talk. There is a new proletariat every month, and yet they are never able to make up their minds what the proletariat are. Nevertheless, the wretched Commissars have new instructions issued to them at frequent intervals, and they have to govern the country and a new set of people every two or three months. Talk is nothing new in Russia. The Politbureau is a talking bureau, they have talked for years and years. The members of the Politbureau are the lineal descendants of the Nihilists, with whom anyone who has any acquaintance with Russian literature must be acquainted.

The final thing which We must remember is that these people are suffering from what the psycho-analysts call the inferiority complex. They admire us. They regard us as much more powerful and much more stable than the United States of America, and they say that we are richer. I did not contradict them. In the attitude which they are taking they resemble a dog of uncertain parentage casting an eye of admiration upon the British bulldog, overcome with admiration and fear, and indulging in yap, yap, yap! All the time, the British bulldog stands foursquare and occasionally emits a growl, and now the growl has become a snarl and, like the dog, they are getting frightened. Are they going to yap any longer, or are they going to chuck it? Are they getting a little too frightened and will they stop their yapping? That is the fundamental issue before the House to-night.

The hon. and gallant Member for Handsworth (Commander Locker-Lampson) and other hon. Members have frequently urged that we should break the Trade Agreement with Russia; that we should have a rupture. I think the hon. and gallant Member made a very powerful speech to-day, but it would have been more powerful if it had been directed against the Trade Agreement of 1921. He quoted all the iniquitous things that the Bolsheviks did in 1918 and 1920. Therefore, his speech would have been a very powerful speech had it been addressed to the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir Robert Home) before he signed the Trade Agreement in 1921: an agreement which I have never ceased to regard as a profound mistake. Now, the position is rather different, and we have to think what we should gain by a break with Russia. Supposing we ruptured the Trade Agreement at the present time, we should certainly increase the propaganda against us all over the world. Let there be no doubt about that. We should also lose a little trade, but that is not a very formidable argument. I do not think we should lose much, because we have not much. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the herrings?"] I am quite easy about the herring position.

There is a very formidable argument, and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs put it before us this afternoon, against a break with Russia, and that is the unsettled effect it would have upon world stability, of which there has been some signs since 1914. There is the effect which a break between ourselves and the Soviet Government would have upon the Baltic States, Germany and China, where our prestige, is high to-day: it could hardly be higher. That might have a very damaging effect upon world peace. No one is better able to judge of this point than the Foreign Secretary, and we must take his advice. A break might also a check the very slight and tortuous progress that is being made inside Russia. It might have a tendency to unite the Russian nationalists and the Russian extremists, and we might see Zinoviev and Kamaneff back again, and then we should be worse off than we were a year ago. Our knowledge is necessarily inadequate in regard to these matters, and we must leave them to the Foreign Secretary. He is the only person who can form a judgment.

If, owing to the Russian attitude in China, British blood had been spilt in China, the people of this country would have risen up and would have demanded a rupture with Russia, and we could not have held it back. The reason why there has not been blood spilt in China, the reason why British blood has not been shed, has nothing to do with the Communists and the Labour party; it is entirely owing to the diplomacy of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. It is because of his skill, his patience and his very great courage that we have averted a catastrophe in China. In view of his record, in view of the judgment he has displayed in that way we might very well leave the judgment in this case in his hands. During two years of very heavy responsibility he has a solid record of great achievement to his credit, both in the West and in the East. In the Locarno Pact we have a rock upon which the peace of Europe may well be built, and in the Pact of Hankow there may well be peace and goodwill in China. Although in some respects he has been thwarted at every turn by the Labour party, I say in all sincerity that he has won the admiration not only of this country but of the whole world. It is long since any Foreign Secretary possessed in so great a degree the confidence of the people of the country, and we ought to trust him in this matter of Russia implicitly.

The British people are fundamentally trading people. In the past we have traded with every sort of men, every kind and condition of men. We have traded with savages and cannibals under all circumstances in all parts of the world. Very often we have lost, but we have also won, and that is how we have built up a great Empire. We are trying very gallantly to carry on a small trade with Russia to-day. You cannot wipe the Russian people, and you cannot wipe Russia itself off the map. Some day or another the problem of Russia will be solved, and I hope it will be sooner rather than later. In the meantime, unless our honour is seriously menaced or attacked—the Foreign Secretary is the person to judge that—we are only acting in accordance with the traditions of our people in trying to conduct as much trade as we possibly can with the Russian people.


I have listened with amazement to the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down. When I saw that he had crossed the floor of the House and come to this side and for the time being divested himself of his semi-official responsibility I did not imagine that he had done that in order that he might repudiate opinions upon the question we are discussing this evening which were published by himself about 12 months ago. I would ask hon. Members to take the trouble to-morrow to read carefully the hon. Member's speech and then turn up the files of the newspapers of April of last year, and read the report on Russia which the hon. Member made.


I would point out that every one of the things which I attacked, namely, the Soviet agitation in China and the general strike have happened since the publication of that Report. Everything that they said they would not do, they did.


The hon. Member said that he had had an interview with Radek in Russia, who told him that he was going to concentrate his propaganda in China and in other parts of the world. I would again ask hon. Members to read the speech which the hon. Member has made this evening, and compare it with the Report which he made of his visit to Russia 12 months ago.


Remember the company which the hon. Member is now keeping.


The hon. Member's complete change of attitude in regard to Russia may be regarded as a result of the mesmeric influence of association with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I would suggest to the hon. Member that he should continue that association and if he continues to crawl along the hedge bottoms he will be an Under-Secretary before very long. I should not have risen but for the fact that certain Members of the Government appear to attach great importance to the views I have expressed on the subject now under discussion. I have never hidden my views about Communism and Bolshevism. In the first speech I delivered in this House after a temporary absence I declared that Bolshevism in theory and in practice was a rotten thing. Communism too, as advocated by the Communists, I oppose as well, and I retract not one word of what has been quoted as the expression of my views in this Debate. One thing has emerged quite clearly and that is that in all parts of the House there is a single opinion on certain matters. For instance, we all agree that a Government cannot continue to tolerate interference by a foreign State in the internal affairs of its own country. We are largely in agreement in our views upon Communism and Bolshevism, but, while we may be in agreement on these matters that for the moment is not the most important point. The question is: what are we going to do in this situation? It seems to me that there are three possible courses for us to take. We can break with Russia, we can denounce the Trade Agreement, we can expel the Soviet representatives from this country, we can leave things as they are; or we can try to see if it is possible to bring about more friendly and amicable relations with Russia.

Let me take the first of these courses, the denunciation of the Trade Agreement and the breaking of relations with Russia. Holding the views I do, and despising as I do the methods of the Communist Internationale, I believe that the most fatal thing we could do, the greatest encouragement we can give to this propaganda, would be to take that course. Ever since the interference of this country by military intervention about seven years ago, I have been amazed that the Bolshevists have not been as grateful as I think they ought to have been for the services rendered them by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer supported by the Government of that day, because I have always held the view that if it had not been for the intervention of outside Governments at that time Bolshevism would have crumbled in Russia. I am convinced that if we take the course which has been suggested by hon. Members below the Gangway on the opposite side of the House, it would be a great service to the extreme elements in the Bolshevist movement in Russia and would be the best service we could render to international Communist propaganda. That is one reason why I do not support such a course. There are other reasons. I think it would have a very disastrous effect on international and diplomatic affairs. The right hon. Member for Hill-head (Sir Robert Horne) quoted certain remarks which the French Press have made upon the British Note to Russia and the reply of the Soviet Government, but surely the House has sufficient penetration and knowledge of French policy to understand the purpose of these comments. Nothing would suit the policy of France, commercially and diplomatically, better than the course which the right hon. Gentleman recommended should be taken by the Government. If we took this course we alone should be isolated from Russian diplomacy and from Russia commercially.

I know something about the conflicting elements that exist in the Soviet Government in Russia. There is an old saying often used: I do not trust a man further than can see him. There is very profound practical philosophy in that expression, and when I am dealing with a man, about whom I have some little doubt, I want to keep that man under strict supervision. If we break with Russia then we should lose all hold and all influence upon Russia, whereas every other country would be in negotiation with them. After all the main thing we are discussing is this: what are we going to do in the present situation? We cannot leave things as they are. To leave things as they are is practically the same thing as breaking off all negotia- tions. We have for all practical purposes done that. There is no fully accredited Russian representative in London, and the Foreign Secretary has told us in effect to-day—that he is not going to pursue this matter further. I appeal to him, and I think an appeal of this character, coming from me, ought to carry some weight. We cannot permanently continue the present state of relations between this country and Russia. Let him, therefore, try and see whether he can open a new channel; let him wipe out the Note and the Soviet reply; let him invite the Russians to meet him, and discuss together all outstanding matters. Let them discuss debts and confiscated property and the question of propaganda. I think the Foreign Secretary might have made a much better case than he did this afternoon on specific points of the Russian breach of the Agreement. It is no use talking in a general way. Let him take particular instances in which the Trade Agreement has been broken and ask the Russian Government to discuss the matters with him.


I do not know a single point in which it has been kept.


Surely that ought to strengthen the opinion I have expressed. The relations between Russia and this country cannot remain in the position they are. They will have to be settled one way or another. Let the right hon. Gentleman make another effort to settle all questions amicably and then if he fails he will have a much stronger case than he has to-day for asking the House of Commons to break off relations altogether. I do not think he will fail, and for this reason. The statement made at the end of M. Litvinoff's Note represents I think the sincere desire of the Russian Government. Their economic system will break down unless they can get assistance from outside They are wearing out the machinery which they appropriated some seven years ago, and they fully realise that. If the right hon. Gentleman were to make the attempt I am asking to make he will find the Russian Government in a reasonable and amenable frame of mind. That is the appeal I make to the Government. All these other questions matter very little. The Communist propaganda can best be defeated by its exposure. Hon. Mem- bers, like the hon. Member below the Gangway, will never kill the Communist propaganda in this country. The only people who can do that are ourselves. Any attack on Communism coming from the quarter below the Gangway is received with suspicion by the working classes of this country. I am not at all afraid of the Communist propaganda provided it is known. It is only when it is subterranean that it is effective. Therefore, let the Government expose what they know of the nature and practice of Communist propaganda in this country.

I do not mind Russia sending money into this country to support the miners or even to prolong this propaganda, provided it is known. If it is known, then it will defeat its own purpose. I repeat my appeal to the Foreign Secretary and to the Government. Do not let things remain in the position they are. Let them make another attempt to meet the representatives of the Soviet Government, and I have every confidence that if they do that they will come to an agreement which will be mutually advantageous to both countries. We do not want to interfere with the internal affairs of Russia. I take the position stated by an hon. Member who spoke below the Gangway. If the people of Russia want to submit to such a form of Government they have a perfect right to do so, but I certainly object to them trying to impose such a Government upon the people of this country. I do not believe they-will ever succeed.

8.0 p.m.

I agree with an observation made by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). It is seldom he and I agree about Russia, but I agreed with his observation when he said that, the closer are the commercial relations between this country and Russia, the more the economic system of Russia will approximate to the economic and commercial conditions of the countries with which she is in relation. I have nothing more to say. I rose simply for the purpose of putting that view to the House, and I do beg, with all the emphasis I have at my command, that things shall not be left as they are, but that the Government will make another sincere effort to promote more friendly and amicable relations between this country and Russia.


I think the Debate this afternoon has served a very useful purpose by clearing up one or two points. It was well that we should have it stated quite clearly by the Leader of the Opposition that, to a large extent, he is in sympathy with the attitude of the present Government. I think it is all to the good that we should have had the speech which was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden), in which he stated quite definitely, as indeed he has stated in print before now, that he has no sympathy at all with the form of government which obtains at the moment in Russia. Both he and the Leader of the Opposition made it clear that they do not necessarily quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary because he has made representations to the Russian Government, but that they do quarrel with him because he has not made those representations specific, and, by not making them specific, he has lessened the chances of a satisfactory solution of our difficulties being arranged. The complaint made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and which has been shared by hon. Members above the Gangway, especially by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, is that the Foreign Secretary has given no indication whatever that he proposed to take any further steps towards the solution of these difficulties. I think we are largely on common ground. If we look at the Trade Agreement of 1921, it seems to me perfectly clear that that Trade Agreement has been violated both in the letter and in the spirit. It may he argued with some truth that certain Members of the Government who are notorious, if they have not violated that agreement in the letter, have violated it in the spirit. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary himself at an earlier stage in the proceedings read the words which are contained in that agreement, and I think the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his colleagues in the Government, a Noble Lord who has been notorious more than once in his career for the advocacy of hostilities in which he himself has taken no part, have certainly violated the agreement in the spirit if not in the letter. But I think there will be common ground except perhaps among a few hon. Members above the Gangway that the agreement has been consistently violated.

The hon. and gallant Member for Handsworth (Commander Locker-Lampson) has made perfectly clear the position that he and his friends occupy, and it is particularly to him and to hon. Members who think like him that I want to address a few words. It has never been made, I think, quite clear, during this Debate, either from the Government Bench or the Front Opposition Bench, or from any other part of the House, that there is a very distinct difference between the Russian Government and the Russian people. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, Eastern (Mr. Boothby) described something of the conditions in Russia, but I think he rather undervalued the changes which have taken place, and I think it is important, especially for Members of the party opposite and hon. Members above the Gangway, to remember that when we are dealing with Russian to-day, we are dealing with a people who have frankly given up in practice the ideas with which they started. First, they abolished the capitalist, and by abolishing the capitalist they abolished credit; by abolishing credit they abolished trade, and by abolishing trade they abolished employment, and we have had quite recently the admission that, as a result of these things, the Russian workman is to-day worse off than the workman of any other country in the world.


He is better off than he was before the War.


I have some knowledge of Russia, and I can tell the hon. Member that that is not so. I have some knowledge of Russia before the War. Under the Tsarist Government Russia, especially in agricultural districts, was making rapid strides towards economic prosperity, but the intervention of war and then the establishment of Bolshevist regime, threw Russia back to a state very near to barbarism. Some five or even six years ago the Bolshevists had already begun to give up their doctrines. I myself know cases where British manufacturers, with large interests in Russia, received offers from the Russian Government to go back and man their factories. When they said, "We cannot man the factories if you control them," the Soviet Government said, "You control them and all we will do is to ask you to pay a certain sum to the Russian Government, as the factories are nationalised." They said, "We cannot make them pay; we cannot employ the men if this extra imposition is to be placed upon us," and the reply of the Russian Government, five years ago, was this: "We want you to pay us the annual rent we ask because it is important that the idea of nationalisation should be preserved, but we will remit an equivalent amount of taxation so that you will not pay any more than you would have to pay if you had no rent at all." On these conditions, even five years ago, offers were being made to British capitalists and manufacturers to go back to Russia and resume the work with which they were occupied before the War. I want to reinforce what was said by the hon. Member for Aberdeen Eastern, about the enormous importance of this area. It has never been developed; it was not developed before the War. With the present tendency all over the world for people to leave the countryside and go to the cities, it is very important that every corn-growing area should be developed. In Russia you have great corn-areas, you have oil and vast mineral resources, and timber resources. So long as you can bring the Russian people more and more into contact with the outside world, you will derive two advantages; you will give employment by exchanging their products for ours, and this employment is sorely needed for our people.

I am perfectly sure that it is not necessary to controvert what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne). He is not here now, and I wished him to hear what I have to say. He told us that the Russian trade is comparatively unimportant, because, whereas we receive £23,000,000 worth, we only send £5,500,000 worth of goods to them. I began to wonder where the right hon. Gentleman's reputation for business acumen comes from. I have always understood that he sits here as the representative of great business interests, and I notice that he is always listened to with great attention and in perfect silence when he speaks on business matters. Are we to believe that the people of Russia are making a present to us of the difference between £23,000,000 and £5,500,000 worth of goods, or must we not believe that the difference is made up somewhere by British labour or by British service rendered in another direction? It is important for us to get this trade for the sake of the employment of our own people. All those who dislike, as I dislike and all my friends dislike, and apparently as my right hon. Friend on the Front Opposition 'Bench dislikes, the present Government of Russia, must realise that the more the Russian people are brought into contact with the outside world, the more we endeavour to trade with them, the more it will become apparent that the difficulty of trading is due to the system that has been imposed upon them and the more the object we have in view will be attained. Although we may agree, as the Leader of the Opposition agrees,

with the attitude taken by the Foreign Secretary at certain points, we think that things cannot be allowed to remain as they are. To break off negotiations altogether would be a calamity of the first order. We feel that, so important are the considerations from the point of view of maintaining friendly relations with Russia, that we are entitled to ask that some more definite action should be promised by the Government in that direction, but we have not had any promise of that kind I understand that, in answer to a question which was put by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Hackney (Captain Garro-Jones), it was stated that the White Paper which the Government at-to issue will only contain the Government's Note and the reply of the Soviet Government, and that we shall get no further information as to what the Government intend to do. Therefore, in these circumstances, we propose to press this matter to a Division.

Question put, "That £114,650,000 stand part of the Resolution."

The House divided: Ayes, 271; Noes, 146.