§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. James Stuart.]
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
The Prime Minister, on Sunday night, told the world after his own unrivalled fashion of the decisions at which His Majesty's Government had arrived as a consequence of the German invasion of Soviet Russia. To-day, I would wish to give the House a brief account of the diplomatic events which preceded that giant act of aggression and of the developments which have followed upon it. The House and the country will, I think, desire to take a severely practical view of these matters. We keep our eye on the target; that target is Hitler's Germany. Let us pay him the compliment of understanding that he too keeps his eye on the target, and that target is the British Empire, which he still rightly regards as the chief obstacle in his path to world dominion. The invasion of Soviet Russia is not an end, but a means. Through his attack upon Russia Hitler hopes to break the military power of that vast State and thus to free himself from any contemporary or subsequent Eastern anxiety when he turns to his duel with our own land. We are back to the German policy on Russia set out in "Mein Kampf," and despite the sudden revulsions of Hitler's diplomacy, he has in truth never strayed far from it. Let mankind never for a moment forget that the dominating theme of that turgid revelation of boundless ambition is world dominion. All treaties, all pacts, all agreements are for Hitler but the chloroform to new aggression.
In the difficult and dangerous political and diplomatic situation which exists to-day, it would clearly serve no useful purpose to enter into a prolonged analysis of the vicissitudes of Anglo-Soviet relations. But I would recall this fact, which seems to me a cardinal truth in assessing them. In 1935 we agreed in Moscow with the Soviet Government a statement which declared among other things that there was no conflict of interest between the two Governments on any of the main issues of international policy. I have always believed that those words expressed a plain statement of fact, and that the relations of our two countries would benefit 972 from their mutual acceptance. And though since 1935 the relations of our two countries have undergone many a modification, they remain as true to-day as when they were agreed upon between us. The political systems of our two countries are antipathetic, our ways of life are widely divergent, but this cannot and must not for a moment obscure the realities of the political issue which confronts us to-day. Germany has perpetrated upon Russia an act of studied and deliberate aggression. Two years ago Germany and Russia signed a pact of non-aggression. At no time since the signature of that pact has Germany complained of its performance. At the hour when Germany, without warning, struck her blow, no representations had been made and no discussions of any kind were in progress.
Here I would ask the House to let me deal for a moment with the latest of the false statements of the German Foreign Secretary, Herr von Ribbentrop. I must quote what he said:While German troops were concentrating on Bulgarian and Rumanian territory against the increasing landings of British troops in Greece, the Soviet Union tried, now already in a clear agreement with England, to stab Germany in the back by firstly supporting Yugoslavia openly, politically and in secret militarily, by trying secondly to influence Turkey, by giving her a covering guarantee, to adopt an aggressive attitude against Bulgaria and Germany.Those are Hitler's charges, and in face of that I must make it plain that much as we in His Majesty's Government and this House would have welcomed an agreement with the Soviet Union in order to maintain the solidarity of the Balkan peoples before they were overrun by Germany, an opportunity for such an agreement unfortunately never presented itself. There was never any sort or kind of agreement with the Soviet Union in this matter, and I will tell the House the reason. At every phase in recent history the development of Anglo-Soviet relations was always retarded by the attention paid by the Soviet Union to the observance of their pact with Germany. Time and again we reviewed the possibility of clearing the path of Anglo-Soviet co-operation of any obstacles which we could, but on every occasion, every time investigation was made, whether the matters were trade or whether they were political, it became clear to us that the Soviet Government were not prepared to negotiate in view of their anxiety not to 973 introduce any embarrassment into their relations with Germany.
What was our attitude? Our attitude was equally clear. We on our side never had any intention to conclude any arrangement with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics except on a basis of mutual interest and satisfaction, in fact, on a basis of reciprocity. In the light of the Soviet Union's pact with Germany no such basis existed. I explain that to the House in order that they may see how completely devoid of any foundation, in fact, is Ribbentrop's statement, published to the world.
There is another aspect of the matter on which I would give the House some information. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has told the world how, some time ago, he warned the head of the Russian State of the peril which he, rightly, saw was impending. That is not quite all. Some time before the events of the last few days we at the Foreign Office were already convinced from the information at our disposal that Hitler, true to his usual technique, was going to attack Russia from behind the smokescreen of his non-aggression pact. With my right hon. Friend's consent, I accordingly asked the Soviet Ambassador to come and see me, and I told him of the information at our disposal and of the danger which, I was convinced, confronted his country. I gave him, at his request, details of that information as we thought we were bound to do. Even at that late hour the Soviet Government were careful to avoid any expression of opinion which might seem to throw doubt on their own observance of their engagement with Germany. [An HON. MEMBER: "When was that?"] It was some weeks ago. I think it is fair that these things should be said now.
It was this assessment of impending events that caused me to ask His Majesty's Ambassador at Moscow to return to this country for consultation. I felt that his experience and his advice would be invaluable to us at such a time, and so it has proved. The House and the country are deeply indebted to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps)—if I may give him for a moment his Parliamentary rather than his diplomatic description—for work done under conditions of the utmost difficulty. For 974 the reasons I have given, he was unable to conclude any of those pacts or agreements which were once so dear to the diplomatist's heart, although, to-day, they enjoy but a brief butterfly life. Yet it is clear that, by his influence and by his example, my hon. and learned Friend has shown to the Soviet Union the fundamental desire of His Majesty's Government to maintain our relations upon a normal footing. When he returns to his post; he will be able, with his marked ability, to advise and direct the help which it is the declared intention of His Majesty's Government to give to the Soviet Union at the present time.
As the outcome of the events of the last few days, conversations have, of course, been proceeding between the Russian Government and ourselves. The House will appreciate that I am not able to reveal the full results of those discussions, but I can tell the House that I have now heard from His Excellency the Soviet Ambassador that his Government have accepted our offer to send military and economic missions to Russia to co-ordinate our efforts in what is now, beyond doubt, a common task—the defeat of Germany. The Soviet Government have made it plain to us that in the period of military collaboration which now lies ahead, help will be upon a mutual and a reciprocal basis. His Majesty's Government accept and endorse that view.
§ Mr. Garro Jones (Aberdeen, North)
May I ask my right hon. Friend a question? I am sure the House would wish to know at this stage whether application has also been made to send an air mission to Russia at the same time.
§ Mr. Eden
My hon. Friend will, perhaps, appreciate that I use the word "military," the significance of which I think must be clear to everybody. This latest demonstration of German perfidy, the attack on the Soviet Union, in defiance of solemn and repeated pledges, has given mankind the final proof, if further proof were needed, of the worldwide scope of the Nazi lust for power. Hitler has shown himself, once again, a cynical traitor to his own pledged word. A pact one day, an aggression the next. Soothing words in the winter, bombs and tanks in the spring. Those are the methods by which he seeks to subdue all nations, great and small, in the pursuit 975 of world dominion. No Nazi posturing can now deceive the world. All must realise that whatever their system of government, wherever their geographical position, the great and immediate danger to their security is the existence in the world of the Nazi system. Whatever other consideration may be in balance, that is the greatest.
This country has probably fewer Communists than any nation in Europe. We have always hated the creed, but that is not the issue. Russia has been invaded, wantonly, treacherously, without warning. Not even the Germans have seriously pretended provocation. The Russians to-day are righting for their soil. They are fighting the man who seeks to dominate the world. This is also our sole task. Confronted with his latest aggression, it is our determination not to relax but to intensify our efforts. Napoleon, if I remember aright, once said, "I have always marched with four millions or five millions of men." We are marching to-day, after Hitler's last act of aggression, with the opinions of hundreds of millions of men.
There is one reference I would ask the House to let me make. At a time like this our thoughts go out with heartfelt sympathy to our Polish Ally. Once again, their soil is a battlefield. Once again their people suffer for no fault of their own. The Polish people have had a hard history. By their courage in a time of unparalleled ordeal, they have earned and they will redeem their freedom. That remains our pledge.
Turkey has declared her neutrality in this conflict. From the date of the signature of our Treaty of Mutual Assistance in October, 1939, our relations with Turkey have been on a very special basis. Turkey is our friend and Ally. The Turkish Government have kept us fully informed of the progress of their recent negotiations with the German Government. The conclusion of that agreement, therefore, came as no surprise to His Majesty's Government. But I make no mystery of the matter; we should naturally have preferred that no such treaty had been concluded. None the less the preamble of the treaty expressly safeguards the existing contractual engagements of each party. The Turkish Government have repeatedly made it plain to us that, first and foremost among these 976 engagements stands the Anglo-Turkish Treaty, and they have specifically assured our Ambassador since the conclusion of the Agreement with Germany, and once again within the last 24 hours, that our Treaty stands intact.
I must say a word on the events on the Northern flank of the new war. The Finnish Minister asked to see me yesterday, and he gave me a message from his Government. He assured me that Finland's attitude was, and would continue to be, a purely defensive one in the present conflict. There was, he told me, no change in the diplomatic relations between the Soviet Government and Finland. It was the hope of his Government that his country would not become involved in the conflict. I told Mr. Gripenburg that I had taken note of his assurance, and that I was quite confident that the course which his Government had announced their desire to follow was the right and only course for Finland.
I cannot conclude this brief survey of the events of the last few days and hours without referring to, and offering on behalf of all Members of this House, a word of hearty welcome to His Excellency the United States Ambassador who has returned to our shores. He has come back to us, as I can testify from conversations with him, refreshed by his brief sojourn in his own country, re-inspired by his contacts with his President and his countrymen, and stimulated by what he has seen of the immense effort being made in the United States. The past few days, indeed the past few hours, have brought fresh indications, fresh assurances, of the continued and increasing support of our American friends, support both material and moral, the volume of which will overwhelm Nazi resistance and crush Nazi power. The House will, I hope, have read the declaration by Mr. Sumner Welles which appears in the Press this morning. On behalf of the Government we heartily endorse his statement that any defence against Hitlerism, from whatever source, will hasten the eventual downfall of the present German leaders. Mr. Winant has brought us, too, the renewed expression of the determination of his great country to aid us in the tasks to which we as a nation are dedicated. The one aim, the one irrevocable purpose to which the Prime Minister only two nights ago pledged us once again, is the destruction 977 of Hitler and the Nazi regime. In the task we shall not falter until the final victory is won.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith (Keighley)
I have been asked by hon. Friends to add a few sentences in order to express our accord with the decision of the Government to give all the aid they can to the Soviet Union. That decision, announced by the Prime Minister in a broadcast statement, was, I think, a decisive act of leadership at a critical moment. If Hitler has imagined that by this act he would be regarded by any party or any quarter in this country or, I might add, in the United States as a crusader against Communism, I think he under-estimates our intelligence, because we know that his most implacable hatred is reserved for the democratic systems of this country and the United States, which express the view of the common man, and which are the more irreconcilable than Communism with the foul Nazi creed. This attack upon Russia is part of the joint plan for an attack upon Russia and this country together. A year ago this country stood first on the list, but as the result of the defeat of Germany in the Battle of Britain, the order has now been altered, and the act last Sunday morning merely means that, owing to the increased forces which we now have in this country since last year, Hitler has realised that he must defeat Russia and release the great air force and the many divisions from Russia before the final assault on this country.
I will say to the Foreign Secretary that I had, before he spoke, one anxiety in my mind which has been very considerably eased. I was apprehensive lest this country might allow political prepossessions to interfere with full strategic cooperation, and I was relieved by the Foreign Secretary's statement that differences of political system must not be allowed to obscure the realities of the situation. These realities are that Hitler is now fighting a war on two fronts, and both these fronts should, on our side, be regarded as part of the joint campaign. That is why perhaps the most important statement the Foreign Secretary made was that a military and economic mission is about to proceed to Russia. In this joint campaign—and, after all, it is a joint campaign on this side of Europe—our attacks upon Germany by air and by other possible means which need not be 978 developed here, are attacks of considerable weight on the strength, particularly of the air force, which Germany can use for her Eastern operations. On the other side I think if is already plain that Germany, whatever the military situation may be, can never conquer Russia if Russia has the same spirit of resistance to-day as she had against Napoleon a little over 100 years ago.
After this winter Hitler will be faced with this situation: Material resources will have passed largely into our hands, and he will have to hold down in Europe a great number of nations determined to strike for their freedom and vengeance as soon as the opportunity comes. I do not believe that he could at the same time hold down 180,000,000 Russians if their spirit of resistance is what it used to be. In order that this may be ensured, there must be a joint spirit of resistance in this country, in Europe, and in Russia. It is of supreme importance to remember the part that propaganda will play. Goebbels began sending his propaganda over to the Russian troops on Sunday morning. Let us not allow any doctrinal prejudices to weaken the opportunity which Hitler has now placed in our hands.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
I rise to say in a few words that my colleagues and I endorse the policy of the Government. On Sunday they had to take a rapid and definite decision. That decision was expressed in a masterpiece of broadcasting, in which the Prime Minister surpassed himself. It had, I am sure, a response throughout the country and rallied public opinion by appealing to the whole nation, without reference to party or political opinions. If there had been still a small section that doubted the wisdom of this war, we shall now have a united nation. For perfidy and cynicism, Herr Hitler, in his statement, surpassed himself. A compact entered into and put into writing, to secure peace between two great nations, was torn up without notice, and the country of one of the parties to that treaty was invaded and its people killed.
I was glad that the Foreign Secretary insisted upon the strategic importance of the position. There are some people who think that because Germany is now faced with a war on two fronts, our dangers are lessened. Nothing is further from the 979 truth. We can be sure that the German general staff, who are masters of strategy, have chosen the right moment for their invasion. The fact that the strategic position has changed makes it vital that this country should intensify its efforts in the production of munitions and in the organisation of the war. I was glad to hear the Foreign Secretary insist that we should clear our minds of prejudice against the internal form of government in Russia. It has always been our principle that the kind of government that a country chooses is the affair of that country. In the last war we had as Allies Republican France and Czarist Russia, and we worked harmoniously together until the fall of the Czarist Government. Our object should be to root out this evil thing, to destroy these outlaws who disregard solemn pacts and agreements, and to work with any nation, whatever its political alignments, until peace is restored to a troubled Europe.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha (Devonport)
Like my two right hon. Friends who have preceded me, I would like to endorse the policy of the Government and to welcome the great promptitude and vigour of the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. As for the speech of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to-day, it was marked with dignity and restraint as one would expect on such an occasion from the British Foreign Secretary. We can, I think, regard this latest development of German treachery with qualified satisfaction. It brings us the immediate advantage of an even more united nation. It brings to the Government the support of the only Member of Parliament who has withheld that support, and it enlists some sections of the community who were under the influence of a certain kind of propaganda. That is a very great advantage. There are other advantages of a short-term nature. The efforts of Germany against us are momentarily distracted. Again, whatever the outcome of the conflict, there must be a great consumption of German war material.
The immediate question is, How can we bring help to Russia? We can bring this help by increasing our activity in every sphere. That is indirect help. I am very glad that the Government are pursuing 980 that course, particularly in the air. Directly, the most satisfactory way of helping Russia, at any rate throughout the year, would be through the Black Sea. Unfortunately, however, in addition to her conquest of the Greek mainland and Crete, Germany has taken the Ægean Islands, and thus commands the approaches to the Dardanelles and Smyrna. That is a great disadvantage—one might almost say a rebuff—to British sea power, which for many generations has controlled the entrances to the Dardanelles and to Smyrna. But there are other means of strengthening Turkey. [HON. MEMBERS: "Russia."] I think that Turkey is in a key position and that without the assistance of Turkey we cannot continuously and effectively assist Russia. I was very glad to hear my right hon. Friend say that, despite the signature by Turkey of a treaty with Germany, Turkey was still on a special basis of friendship with ourselves. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend has good reason for saying that. It is particularly encouraging, because the Turkish Foreign Secretary said when he signed the treaty that it had placed the foundation of the friendship of Turkey and Germany on the most solid basis and confirmed for the future that the two countries would not oppose each other in any way. There are also the Press and the trade agreements. It is better to look these facts in the face, and not to let ourselves be deceived later on. Unless we can effectively strengthen Turkey, there is no doubt that that country will be used as an avenue to the achievement of German ambitions in Asia, for attacking our Arab interests and our Egyptian position. I hope that what the Foreign Secretary says will prove to be true; he must have reason for saying it. There are means of sustaining Turkey. One means would be by expediting the conclusion of the Syrian campaign, which I am glad to see is making much more progress. The other would be by reviewing our method of political warfare, to which my right hon. Friend who followed the Foreign Secretary made some allusion
But I do not think that we should give Turkey up for lost. I believe that by vigorous action we can sustain her, and she, after all, does, as I say, occupy a key position in this struggle. It is urgent to take measures in the military sphere which will reassure her, but if it is urgent 981 to take measures in the military sphere, it is also urgent to take them in the industrial sphere. I can welcome the assurance which my right hon. Friend himself properly gave just now, that we would accelerate and accentuate the industrial war measures. This is not the occasion to dwell upon our defects, but they are numerous and conspicuous, and they are widespread and must be rectified, if we are to profit by the lapse of time which must occur before the Germans can achieve a success in Russia, even if they can achieve it in the end.
Let us not mistake what will happen if they do succeed. They will have at their disposal enormous resources of oil, of grain and of metals, and then the whole mass of German might will be directed against us. But before they can achieve this objective some time must elapse by which we can profit. Again, from a longer-term point of view, let us realise the subtlety of this Hitlerian move. Whether it was done from wild desperation or methodical calculation, it does carry the support of other countries by its specious character. It does carry Marshal Pétain, the sole basis of whose doctrine is anti-Communism; it does help to carry Franco, and it has even wider effect? It enables Rumania to recover, in her own estimation, her self-respect and to fight the Russians and thus retrieve what she thinks she has morally lost by her subservience to Germany. It has perhaps to some extent the same effect in Finland, but all these are long-term effects. Immediately, we have, as a result of this act of treachery, a great opportunity, and I only pray that His Majesty's Government will seize it to the full
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
Despite the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has been good enough on several occasions to pay me the unmerited tribute of suggesting that I was a serious opponent of his, I would like to pay a tribute to the speech which he made on Sunday evening. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will not think that I am unkind—he knows that on personal grounds I would not wish to say anything wounding to him—if I say that I rather regret that in the speech he has delivered he has not followed the extremely careful and well-guarded centre of the road which the right hon. 982 Gentleman followed on Sunday evening. There were one or two observations in the speech of my right hon. Friend which I rather regret, because I am sure that he would be the first to recognise that this question is not as simple in the United States of America as it may appear to us in this country. Might I mention a slight distinction between the tone of the Prime Minister and that of the Foreign Secretary?. The Prime Minister, to my great delight—and surely this applies almost to every Member of the House—referred to the Germans, as they should be referred to, as Huns, but throughout the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, there was a reference to "Hitler's Germany." I do not recognise any difference between Hitler and the Germans at the present time.
§ Earl Winterton
Some of my hon. Friends may, but if they knew, they would not do so, not one of them. If they had had the experience of what hundreds of thousands of Germans have done to the Polish people, they would at this moment make no distinction between Hitler and the Germans. I have on this side of the House many hon. Friends who will agree with me in saying that at this moment there is no distinction to be drawn between them. However, I do not want to make a controversial distinction but to ask my right hon. Friend a question. I have some slight knowledge of the Middle East and a good many friends and acquaintances and some former brother officers, like General Nuri Pasha the Iraqian Ambassador in Cairo, among my personal friends. I think that it is due to the Arabs that the situation between us and Turkey should be far more clarified than it has been by the speech of my right hon. Friend. In fact, to use a vulgar phrase—and I hope my right hon. Friend will pardon my using it—taken in conjunction with the quotation made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) from the speech of the Turkish Prime Minister, if that quotation is taken in conjunction with what my right hon. Friend has said to-day, it just does not make sense. In the most public manner possible the Turkish Prime Minister announced that a new and binding treaty had been signed with Germany. I would be prepared 983 to put this point not only to this House but to any assembly of my fellow countrymen outside and ask, and can anyone deny it—How can you have the closest treaty with Germany and this country at the moment? It is that sort of thing that annoys people outside—that sort of glossing over a very difficult situation and saying that it will not make the slightest difference. I am sure that they signed away everything that they signed with us. It is said, "It will make not the slightest difference; His Majesty's Government have the same confidence in them." That cannot be possible.
I have great admiration for Turkey, but I do not think that it is within the confines of the dignity of the British Government or the Foreign Secretary that this situation should not be cleared up. Remember what it follows. The right hon. Gentlemen the Foreign Minister of this great Empire went on two or three journeys almost as a sort of commis voyageur, accompanied by his naval and military staffs, to interview the Turkish Prime Minister. Everyone expected that the very first thing to follow from that would be a statement that we were going to get some material military aid from Turkey, but nothing of the kind happened. It is neither fair to the Russians nor to ourselves. The position in which Turkey stands should be cleared up at the earliest possible moment. I am willing to admit that their difficulties are enormous; I make every allowance for these difficulties. The time has gone by in this vast earth-shaking contest, which is now apparently about to spread over the whole of the globe, when any country of the importance and dignity of Turkey can be in the position in which she is to-day. Sooner or later she has to declare which side she is on. [Interruption.] My right hon. friend the Prime Minister may say, "What a remark to make." Surely, it is applicable to the situation. Is she to remain neutral while fighting goes on all the way round?
§ Earl Winterton
I do not think that it is an unfortunate remark at all. It is due to all our friends in the Middle East and to the Arabs and to the Syrians that we should know where she stands.
§ Sir William Davison (Kensington South)
Would not the Germans also like to know exactly where Turkey stands?
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. Gentleman is always in favour of the Government, but I hope that for his complete loyalty he will not be made a permanent member of the Chamber.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
If we had put that question since the beginning of the war to Russia, would our relations be what they are to-day?
§ Earl Winterton
The situation is surely entirely different from that which exists between us and Russia. I wish to put this point direct to the Government. The Russian Government at the outbreak of war signed a pact which they were fully entitled to do—I make no complaints of the Russian Government—with the German Government. The answer to the hon. Member is that the right hon. Gentleman himself said in the course of his speech again and again that while that pact remained they could not enter into conversations with us. We on the other hand had a treaty with the Turks, on the score of which we had entered into conversations with Turkey and on top of that, to the amazement of the whole world, the Turks have signed a treaty with the Germans. Even if everyone is against me I will still persist in the point that for a country in the position we are in—and we have nothing to be ashamed of; vast forces are coming into potential action on our side—we should be told more about the position of our former friend.
§ Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)
Can the Noble Lord say what justification there is for describing Turkey as a former friend?
§ Earl Winterton
After the speech which the Turkish Prime Minister made 10 days ago it is impossible for Turkey to be in the same position vis a vis this country as she was before.
§ Mr. Lipson
In spite of the fact that Russia made a pact with Germany, through no action taken by us Russia and 985 ourselves are now fighting in a common cause. Is not that moral clear so far as Turkey is concerned?
§ Earl Winterton
I do not wish to detain the House—and I have already answered the hon. Gentleman's point—but I am entitled to put this point of view and I shall be most agreeably surprised if in the next few weeks a great many Members of the House, including the Government, do not agree that what happened in connection with the signature of this treaty was a most serious blow to us.
§ The Prime Minister
I do not rise for the purpose of continuing the Debate on the lines to which it has been turned by the Noble Lord, because I am sure that it would not be at all in the public interest to continue on those lines. I rise rather to hope that the other aspects of the difficult foreign situation may engage the attention of the House and that we should not seek to probe and define too clearly the attitude of certain Powers who, surrounded by very great difficulties, may not wish, or may not be in a position, to declare themselves. All this pressing for a precise answer "Yes" or "No" may sometimes lead to getting an answer contrary to the one you expected, and I am bound to say that I hoped this fairly obvious point would have impressed itself even upon the Noble Lord. These excursions of his into foreign politics, which, I must say, he is less well fitted to discuss than some of the other numerous topics on which he assists us, will not, I trust, be too frequent. I find it very difficult to derive any principle of guidance if no reference is to be made to any country in which the Noble Lord has fought. It would be an altogether undue complication of the liberties of our speech. I trust that we shall drop the topic now, because it really is a case of "least said, soonest mended."
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
In view of the war that has been launched against the Soviet Union, it may be said that in a very short space of time there will be a considerable shifting of attitude. I am not the only one who will do the shifting, but before I go any further I would like to deal with one or two obvious lies and slanders which have been made against the Soviet Union by men who claimed to know everything that was going on behind the scenes. The Soviet 986 Union wanted peace and wanted it in earnest. I quoted on several occasions "The British Case," by Lord Lloyd, which made it clear that there was no intention of making a peace pact with the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union found it impossible to get a peace pact, they signed the non-aggression pact with Germany in order to get time to prepare their defences. In the preparation of these defences they moved into Poland. Now many Members of this House claimed to know that an arrangement had been made between the Soviet Union and Germany to divide up Poland. The present Prime Minister said it was a good thing that Russia should stand on the lines she then occupied. How much better is it now? It would have been a tragedy if the road to Leningrad had been wide open to-day. It was a wise step to close it. When the Baltic States decided to go over to the Soviet Union, was that not an act of wisdom? The control and influence of the Nazis were broken. If they had not gone over, what would have been the position of the Baltic States to-day? They would have been completely under the control of the Nazis. Last week I was approached in the smoke room by a group of people, including a Member of the Opposition Front Bench, who said, "Will Stalin make these. terrible concessions to Germany?" I replied that I had no particular knowledge of what was going on in Moscow and that I was only using my intelligence to judge, as they also might judge. I said, "There is one thing anybody can be positive of, and that is that no territorial or political concessions will be made to Germany or any other country."
At that time I did not realise how near was war between the Soviet Union and Germany, but I was set thinking on Thursday by the demeanour of the Prime Minister, and not, I may say, by the remark which he made to me about turning to the right, because I generally turn to the left. It is the unholy gang behind the Prime Minister that will turn to the right. I met my comrades that night, and I said to them that I had never seen anyone so chirpy, cheery, and confident as the Prime Minister was that day. It made us realise that something big was likely to break. When I heard the news on Sunday, I was very busy in connection with other engagements, but when I 987 heard that the Prime Minister was to speak over the wireless, I felt that on that occasion at any rate I would like to hear his speech. But as I had to travel from a very important election meeting, I missed the speech. On reading it on Monday morning, I must admit that I was slightly and agreeably surprised to find that he had gone as far as he had. I had not expected it. But even so, the Prime Minister did not go far enough. I was interested in his very firm declaration that there would be no peace with Hitler. That was not a pledge to the Soviet Union; it was a declaration and a challenge to the "sell-outers" on the other side, the ruling class in this country, and members of the Prime Minister's own party, and even of his own Government, some of whom have been very active in different directions since the coming of Hess.
I have always been against the sell-outers, because I knew that selling-out meant not only the betrayal of the people of Europe, but the betrayal of the people of this country. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Communists?"] I have already dealt with some of the lies and slanders, although some of the liars do not know when they lie. It has been made clear that much of the hatred of Hitler was due to the fact that he did not go to war against the Soviet Union. If the hon. Member who interrupted me has sufficient intelligence to study the documents that have been published, he will get a better idea of what happened in 1939. At any rate, the Prime Minister's statement was a declaration directed against the sell-outers in the ruling class and in the Government. There was a promise of technical and economic support, but the one thing that is essential is that we should have a Government that can make the most confident and active co-operation with the Soviet Union in the great task that lies ahead.
I declare, without any hesitation, that I am solidly for the Soviet Union. There is no doubt or hesitation about my attitude. I take this attitude not because I am a hireling or take orders from anyone; that is another slander that ought to be ended. I have never been a hireling and never will be. I do not represent Moscow or the Soviet Union; I represent in this House the workers of West Fife; but I could not be true to the workers of West 988 Fife if I were false to the workers in any other part of Britain, and I could not be true to the workers of Britain if I were not true to the workers of other countries and particularly to the great working-class country, the Soviet Union, its devoted working-class leaders and its heroic working class. My support for the Soviet Union arises from my loyalty to the working class of this country. It is because I am concerned with the welfare of the working classes of this country that I am prepared to take every step and to fight in every way to prevent any attempt to sell out, for that would be a betrayal not only of the Soviet Union, but of the people of this country. I want to see a Government in this country from which the Municheers and the sell-outers are completely and rigidly excluded, a Government that will in the truest sense speak for the people, that will work in the closest and most active co-operation with the Soviet Union to bring this terrible war to an end at the earliest moment and to secure the complete elimination of Fascism in whatever form it shows itself, that will bring back a lasting, democratic people's peace for the people of Europe and freedom for oppressed people everywhere
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
May I put a Question to the hon. Member for West 'Fife (Mr. Gallacher)? The hon. Member speaks in this House for a party with which we are all familiar in our constituencies. I want to ask him plainly, in view of what has happened, do the members of his party in the country propose now to give the nation's war effort the fullest support?
§ Mr. Gallacher
I do not know what the hon. Member means when he refers to the nation's war effort. Suggestions have been made at different times that the Communists are concerned with holding up production. Time and again I have denied and repudiated this, and I have declared that the hold-up in production is the responsibility of the Government and the employers.
§ Mr. Griffiths
This is a matter of importance. In our constituencies, when we are doing our best to help the nation's war effort, we get hostility from the party for which the hon. Member speaks. Therefore, I feel that I am entitled to 989 put to the hon. Member, as representing that party, a plain question and to ask for a straight reply. What I mean is that the Communists should stop their campaign for what they call a people's peace, but what I calla surrender, a campaign which is hampering the nation's effort. Do the party for which the hon. Member speaks propose from now on to join the Labour movement in this country in throwing their whole energy into the efforts of the nation to win the war?
§ Commander Bower (Cleveland)
As the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) is unable to answer a plain question as to the attitude of the Communist party, I would like for one moment to explain the attitude of another section of the community throughout the Empire—His Majesty's many millions of very loyal Roman Catholic subjects. We have no doubt where we stand. We hate Communism and Nazism equally, for one reason and one reason only, that both are pagan and both atheistic.
§ Commander Bower
Certainly I did, and I do still. As regards the political and military measures which may be necessary, as long as the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary stand by the assurances which they have given to-day that they do not wish in any way to withdraw their condemnation of Communism as a creed, we also will be behind them and will have our eyes on the target, which is the utter destruction of Hitler and of Nazi Germany.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I very much regret that the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) sought to find some difference in the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. It is most undesirable that anybody who wishes to help in the war effort should seek to find differences among us at this time, instead of trying to find the greatest measure of common agreement. It would seem to me to be perfectly obvious, although I have no expert knowledge of military or foreign affairs, that the position of Turkey was such that she had to consider her self-preservation just as did 990 Russia. Turkey could not have helped this country in any way if she had allowed herself to become the first victim. If the agreement that has just been signed between Germany and Turkey is equally binding on Turkey as it is on Germany, it will only last as long as is convenient, or until the next occasion.
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)
Surely my hon. Friend recognises that the Foreign Secretary stated quite specifically that while that agreement existed between Russia and Germany there was no basis for discussions between this country and Russia? If that is the case, surely it should be made perfectly clear, now that Turkey has an agreement with Germany, whether we still have any loophole whereby we may carry out negotiations to a fruitful end.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I think the Foreign Secretary made that perfectly clear. After all, I do not know that my hon. Friend always says all that he thinks when he is in a war—I am sure he does not do it when fighting his opponent at an election. I do not think the Foreign Secretary should be asked to do anything to impede our future relations with Turkey in this particular instance.
I wish to raise another matter, which so far has not been dealt with, and which I think was a very important omission from the Foreign Secretary's speech. It may be desirable that it should be omitted from his speech, but it is not so binding upon me. This war will not be won by military, naval or air power alone. It is to be won eventually by the tremendous assistance which will come from people on the Continent who themselves wish to be liberated. The people who are facing Hitler and who are opposed to Hitler comprise many and varied elements, and it is impossible for one appeal to reach them in the same way and at the same time. The hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower) obviously represents a great body of opinion throughout the world which would not respond to an appeal by the Soviet Union, whereas there are people who would respond in Germany to an appeal from Russia. There are people in the East who will not respond to any appeal which comes from Russia. Therefore, if this propaganda is to be such an important part of our war effort, it seems desirable 991 that there should be consultations with Russia with a view to using wireless stations in that region to put over the policy of the British Government. In other words, there ought to be propaganda collaboration as far as the existing facilities are concerned.
There is an aspect of this change which will considerably affect us at home. The hon. Member spoke about turning left. But if a person turns left often enough he soon gets back to where he started, and that seems to me to be the position of his party. It started by supporting the war, then it turned left, and now it has turned left again and has reached the same position. The same applies also to people who turn right. So far as one can see, there is no disagreement in this country any more than there was in September, 1939. In September, 1939, there was not one political party in this country which was not opposed to fighting Hitler, and today we have reached the same position. The I.L.P. was not opposed to standing up to Hitler; there was not one party opposed to standing up to Hitler. If we have reached that position to-day, it should neutralise the opposition of a great number of people, which in its turn should help us considerably on the productive side. Whatever the hon. Member may say, there is no question at all that the Communist party in this country have for some months been carrying on a system of sabotage of our industrial effort. They have been advising people to hang up production, and they have been assisting people to fight for all sorts of trifles. They have been organising sabotage and carrying on a systematic campaign against the production of munitions of war for the men at the front.
I do not wish to engage in any recriminations. No one perhaps has done more to fight the stupidity of the Communist party in this country than I have done, and this is not a time for recrimination in this direction. But I hope that this campaign of sabotage is going to stop, and that those who are at present causing mischief in the factories will turn round and realise that while they may not have been concerned because the loss of an hour's work deprived one of our soldiers of a rifle, one hour's lost work to-day means a loss to the Soviet Union, if that is the county to which they are allied.
992 The defeat of Hitler depends upon the industrial capacity of this country being raised to its uttermost. All those foolish people who believed by preserving Russia they were going to preserve themselves must now realise, if they want to preserve Russia they must preserve this country as well. I hope that they will realise their first loyalty is to their own country. I hope the Government will take the steps I have indicated, particularly in regard to propaganda, and that some consultations will take place with a view to seeing whether the great broadcasting apparatus of the Soviet Union cannot be used for certain of our propaganda services.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
The House is discussing this matter to-day under very great difficulties. I do not understand why it is that, with so much Parliamentary Business, the House is given this extended opportunity to discuss a situation which, if I may use a homely illustration, has little meat on the bone. I should have thought it would be far more urgent for us to be discussing the shipping situation, or the production situation, or something of that kind, and I do hope that the Prime Minister will not be extravagant with Parliamentary time in the future. I say that because this is precisely a matter which the House of Commons cannot discuss. We, of course, welcome the opportunity it produces, if only for our selfish interests, in the fact that Hitler is now in conflict with so formidable an enemy. I was never able to understand why certain people believed that a conflict between Russia and Germany could be permanently avoided. It seemed to me absolutely essential for Hitler, if he was to drive us out of Europe, to attack the Soviet Union in order to defend himself in the rear. Unfortunately for us, he has selected his opportunity when there is no second land frontier. That is one of our very great dangers. Our real danger arises from this, that owing to the fact that Hitler has wisely, carefully and prudently avoided any possibility of a clash on a second land front, our chances of giving Russia military assistance are thereby very much narrowed and limited, and that will mean that a number of people in Great Britain, unless they are properly nourished by news and information from the Government, will believe that the Government are pulling their punches in assisting 993 Russia because it is Russia. I overheard a conversation on a bus yesterday between two working men, one of whom said, "Now we shall see whether the British Government prefer to fight the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany. Now we shall see where their real interests and their real affections are."
I welcome the Prime Minister's statement. It was an exceedingly clever statement, a very difficult one to make, but made with great wisdom and with strength. I was a bit worried by the use of one sentence in which he said he would give all economic and technical assistance to the Soviet Union. I thought that was an under-statement which might be misunderstood in some quarters. I hope that an early opportunity will be given to the House of Commons to hear in Secret Session— this is an occasion for a Secret Session— how it will be possible for us to send. such assistance to the Soviet Union as will allay the natural suspicions of a great many people in this country. I am afraid a very large number of people who ought to be going all out will be subconsciously inhibited by the fact that the Soviet Union is now an Ally of ours, and that belief in this inhibition will become so widespread that very many people will cease to believe in the sincerity and earnestness of the Government's war effort.
That is precisely the matter which we ought to be discussing in Secret Session. We cannot discuss intelligently in the open how we are going to effect a second land front, because to try to effect a second land front is an urgent necessity. I do not believe that a mere air offensive will satisfy our people for very long. There will be a dreadful sense of frustration if the German military machine marches into Russia and subdues the Soviet Union, as it has subdued other countries, and all we can do in the meantime is to send bombing planes into Germany— a dreadful sense of frustration which will carry with it a more deadly menace to the war resolution of Great Britain. I hope, as we cannot discuss it here, that an early opportunity will be given in Secret Session to discuss the military possibilities, because all sorts of people, well informed and those with no knowledge of military strategy or of our resources, will say, "Here at last is an opportunity of ending the war very quickly. Here at last is a chance given 994 to us which we should use with resolution and imagination." But the moment will pass, and generalisations such as we have had from the Foreign Secretary are, I suppose, all that he can give us. Some of his sentences seemed to me almost as turgid as passages in "Mein Kampf." I do not blame him, because it is impossible for him to be more concrete, but I implore the Government to realise that the absence of imaginative military exploits at this moment may be interpreted by the people of Great Britain as reluctance on the part of the Government to come speedily to the aid of the Soviet Union.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Norwich)
A plea was made by the Prime Minister in his broadcast on Sunday, and it has been repeated by the Foreign Secretary to-day, to regard the great event which has happened from the standpoint of strict realism. I am sure that that appeal is the right one and that every Member of the House will respond to it. The Foreign Secretary spoke of difficulties which have prevented collaboration between this country and Russia, but he did mention, perhaps naturally, the very considerable aid which the Russian Government, through the Communist parties in various countries, have been giving to the enemy. It was mentioned a little in the speech of the hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn). More important, perhaps, than the strikes which the Communists have tried to bring about in our munitions industries are the strikes which they have successfully achieved in the munition industries in the United States. I hope very much that the great event which has now happened will cause the Communist party to receive different orders in the United States, but if we are to adopt an attitude of strict realism, let us at least be free from the absurdities which have been put before the House by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). I thought the most optimistic thing I ever heard in the House was the assumption by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) that he might get a straight answer from the Communist party. Needless to say, his attempt failed.
But, whatever else it is possible to maintain, it is not possible to maintain that Russia has shown a far-sighted opposition to Hitler throughout this war.
995 To a large extent we are ready to let bygones be bygones and, as long as Russia is fighting with its forces against Germany, for so long we will collaborate fully and to the utmost of our ability, because it is to the interest of both countries to defeat the greatest menace in the world, the armed might of Germany. But do not let us make the sort of mistake that was suggested by the hon. Member for West Fife, which might be followed misguidedly by our propaganda, by saying things, just because Russia is now fighting Germany, which will do us great injury throughout the world. The hon. Member had the effrontery to speak of the Baltic States as joining the Soviet Union. Perhaps he relies on the acts of Parliaments nominally elected by universal suffrage, but he failed to mentioned that the only candidates permitted in the elections were candidates of the Communist party, and that the elections in the Baltic States before they "joined the Soviet Union," as he put it, were indistinguishable in principle and practice from the elections held from time to time by Hitler for the Reichstag. Let us by all means do everything we can to support the Soviet Union in its fight against the armed might of Germany, but do not let us, however tempted, try for one moment to gloss over the crimes which in the past their Government have committed, because that will do us the greatest injury throughout the world.
I would only point out, further, how very recent is this hostility of Russia to this country. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) mentioned a conversation which he overheard on a bus which showed how far Communist propaganda had already gone in this country. We had another example the other day in the resolution of the Annual Conference of the National Committee of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, which repeated the nonsense of the People's Convention. We must beware that we do not gloss over facts that are notorious in this country and in America. There is no need to do so. We have here a people absolutely united in its fight against the armed might of Germany, and a unanimous determination to continue that fight until that armed might is crushed, and crushed for ever. I think it was the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) who, during the speech of the right hon. Member 996 for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha), when he said, "At last we have the Member for West Fife with us," asked "How much is that worth?" The remarks of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) increased my doubts on that subject.
It is possible by mistakes in propaganda to lose an immense force which is at present supporting this country. It is also entirely unnecessary. Germany, as a part of its attack upon this country, has attacked Russia. The Prime Minister was completely right in his statement last Sunday that the attack on Russia menaced this country and the United States. Let us follow the Prime Minister's example of sticking to realism and not glossing over the past, even the recent past, of the Soviet Union. As late as the thirteenth of the present month, when warnings of the impending conflict between Germany and Russia were common in this country, the Russian wireless thought fit to attack such rumours and to associate them with an implied personal attack on the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), to whom a tribute was paid by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to-day. That broadcast started:Before the arrival of Sir Stafford Cripps in London, and in particular after his arrival, rumours have been spread about the proximity of war between Soviet Russia and Germany.The Russian Government went on, after thus attributing that outcrop of rumours to the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, to suggest that they were put about by enemies of the Soviet Union. We all rejoice that at last the Russian people have apparently decided to defend their liberties against the greatest menace that has ever threatened them and the rest of the world, and as long as they do that this country will wholeheartedly cooperate.
§ Mr. Strauss
They may have hopes of liberty. But it would be as wrong for me to deal with the internal affairs of Russia as it would be for the Russians, through the Communist party, to attempt to deal with our internal affairs. The only thing I am anxious about is that nothing should be said by a statesman of this country or on the B.B.C. which condones 997 in any way the past actions of Russia in its aggression against the Baltic States.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
I could not help wondering when my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) was speaking whether it was altogether reasonable to prejudge at this very early stage the attitude of the Communist party in this country towards the new state of affairs. I think they ought to be allowed time to get their breath and seriously to consider what their position is, without our going back too much upon what we all know has happened in the past.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
They have not waited to get their breath. Already, yesterday, they put out an announcement associating the attack upon Russia with the dirty work that had been going on since the arrival of Hess in this country. When my hon. Friend asks us to give the Communist party a chance, it is only fair to point out that the Communist party in this country did not wait to think the position out before making that announcement.
§ Mr. Mander
I think they must have been out of breath, and I am prepared to wait until they have had time to give the matter proper and serious consideration and to let us know where they do stand, which I imagine will not be the position which they occupied a week ago. In his speech to-day the Foreign Secretary paid a well-deserved tribute to the Polish Government in the very difficult position in which they find themselves, in view of the struggle that is going on. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will, during the coming weeks and months, use all his diplomatic and persuasive abilities for the purpose of trying to reconcile those two great countries, Poland and Soviet Russia. Their differences and difficulties are obvious and well known to us, and he would be rendering a very great service to the Allied cause, to the destruction of Nazism and the promotion of the future happiness of Europe, if he were able, as I believe he well might be, with good will on both sides, to arrange some sort of understanding or accommodation between those two great countries. The question also arises whether there happens to be in Russia at the present time any number of Allied subjects, prisoners of war or otherwise, 998 who might be available if released for the purposes of the common effort. I do not know whether there are any considerable numbers, but it is a matter to which I am sure my right hon. Friend will give attention.
Lastly, I am very glad that the Government have come to the decision which they have taken, and have made it known at the earliest possible moment, and, above all, that they have acted wholeheartedly. One of our great mistakes in the past in our relations with Russia has been hesitancy, a holding off, taking the attitude, "You are not like other people." I am very glad to see that that attitude has now gone. We could not have acted more reasonably and generously in the circumstances, and I hope that that spirit will be recognised. No doubt Russia has made great mistakes in foreign affairs, but there are other countries which have made great mistakes too, and are suffering as a result. Let us hope now, that with united effort and forces, we shall be able to put an end to this monster in Central Europe and prevent it from ever raising its head again.
§ Mr. Granville (Eye)
Like the hon. Member who has just spoken, I hope that the Debate will not end on a note of ideological differences. For weeks past, the Goebbels propaganda machine has been working on this aspect of affairs day and night. It suggested that there were differences in America and very considerable differences of opinion in this country. It played on the Hess affair and used all its technique of power politics. I hope that this House will not fall into the error of assisting that propaganda.
I have risen to make one or two observations, but primarily to pay my tribute to the Prime Minister for his broadcast on Sunday night. When we heard the news on Sunday morning that Russia had been attacked by Nazi Germany, we remembered the general political atmosphere created by propaganda; and then later we listened to the Prime Minister. I thought it was the finest broadcast that the right hon. Gentleman had ever made. It was one of his greatest because, in that moment, he gave us his highest qualities of leadership when he told the country and everybody in the world where this country and the War Cabinet stood. I would pay my tribute to the right hon. 999 Gentleman for the way, and for the speed, with which he conveyed that information to the people of the world. At nine o'clock on Sunday night he scotched the whole campaign and intrigue of the Goebbels propaganda machine for the past three weeks. We often criticise the Minister of Information in this country, and no doubt, in the Debate on propaganda, hon. Members will have had a good deal to say, but the Prime Minister rose to the occasion with magnificent leadership and showed the finest propaganda of which belligerent democracy is capable.
The Foreign Secretary made one announcement. He said that we were going to send economic and, in the widest sense, military experts to assist Russia in her fight against Nazi Germany. I hope the Government will remember the vital importance of speed. Everybody hopes that Russia will defeat Germany, but the whole might, power, weight and concentrated striking force of the Nazi war machine is being hurled against Russia at the present time. In the next few vital hours and days we can lend the maximum help possible to Soviet Russia. I hope the Government will remember that help given now is worth ten times the value of help given in several weeks' time. The experts should be got to Russia at the earliest opportunity. Germany has war on two fronts. In modern war, airpower is a vital factor and I hope that speed will be remembered by His Majesty's Government. Every bomb dropped upon German communications and German industrial and military targets now is worth ten times the same bombs dropped in two or three weeks' time. I hope we shall have a propaganda campaign on all fronts and that the whole striking force of this country will be concentrated upon giving assistance to Russia now.
The attempted invasion of Russia by Nazi Germany is a warning to this country. I hope we shall work day and night to intensify our war production and that those who have obstructed the war effort in the factories will now give us their fullest co-operation, whether they be shop stewards or officials or misunderstandings of any kind. I hope they will help this country to produce day and night the vital war armaments, which we 1000 shall use when the day comes on which this island has to fight the greatest fight in its history. I emphasise again to His Majesty's Government the need for speed as the vital factor. I hope they will remember the vital lessons of the last 20 months and apply them.
§ Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)
As one who saw Russia during the last war at close grips with the enemy on the Eastern front and who has been gravely disappointed at the role of Russia in the present war up till now, I confess that the news on Sunday morning of Russia's stand against German demands, whatever they were, was a very great relief. I always felt there was a point beyond which Russia could not possibly recede. Those who knew Russian history and traditions must have known that she would never tolerate the Ukraine falling into the hands of a foreign Power or of a puppet Government under the control of a foreign Power. Her history and tradition came from the South-West. At a time when Moscow was little known, the Ukraine was the centre of Russian culture. I felt that the time would come, if Hitler failed to play his cards well in the attempt to get control of Russia, when he would be forced to strike at this heart of Russian culture and tradition. It is unfortunate indeed that during the last 18 months Russia should have adopted a neutral role, and made the way of Anglo-Russian relationships a difficult and chequered one. There is probably no plant in our foreign relationships which requires more tender cultivation than Anglo-Russian relations. We have, alas, all through the last century at various periods, had hostilities with Russia; the Crimean war, the Russo-Turkish war, when Lord Beaconsfield sent the British Fleet into the Sea of Marmora to defend Turkey against Russia, on the Afghan frontier, and in central Asia. Throughout that period there was potential Anglo-Russian hostility which sometimes broke out into open war. That was broken during the last war, when Russia was on our side.
But in a way we had no reason to be too disappointed when at the outbreak of this war we found Russia not only neutral, but neutral with a latent hostility towards us. For, the tradition of Russian Government has been that of dictatorship, 1001 both under Czarist rule and again since the revolution. The whole tradition of Russian government has been quite different from that of this country, and there has throughout her history been a tendency for Russia to co-operate with the dictators of Central Europe, of which the Holy Alliance between Russia, Prussia and Austria last century was only an example. But just as Napoleon, when he made his agreement with Alexander I at Tilsit, found that the agreement did not last very long and that once more Russia and the dictator of that day in Europe were at death grips, followed by the march on Moscow and the fall of Napoleon, so we may hope to-day that what has happened may be a harbinger of something better to come. Dictators have a way of falling out. They have fallen out now.
It is a difficult task indeed to convince Russia of the sincerity of this country, but I feel that the speech of the Prime Minister broadcast on Sunday has gone a very long way in that direction. I have had some experience in dealing with Russians, and it has always convinced me that plain speaking is the best possible way of dealing with them and that they have a latent respect for Englishmen, for the simple reason that we do, in the main, speak our minds. We may have been stupid in our handling of our relations with Russia during the last 20 years— stupid almost to the point of criminal folly—but through it all, in spite of all that has happened, there has been a latent respect for us when we have spoken clearly. The Prime Minister did speak his mind clearly. He did not hide anything either of his past convictions or his past attitude to Russia. I am sure that will be appreciated in Moscow.
Now we must tackle a very difficult task, that of trying to co-ordinate between this country and Russia our propaganda aims in this war. It is no easy task. I do not agree, and I do not think many hon. Members of this House will agree, with the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) in the remarks he made indicating that propaganda is not a major weapon in this war, and indicating too that there are no people in Germany who can be appealed to by propaganda and whose war effort cannot be weakened. Just as I believe that if we can, we should get an agreement with Russia to enable us to 1002 co-operate in war aims and propaganda, so I believe that if we do so, it will have a tremendous effect in undermining the morale of the German people and weakening their war machine. Ever since the revolution Russia has aimed at keeping out of any international struggle of this kind in order that she could develop her own particular form of society, but we must not forget that Russia has shown, during the short time in which she cooperated with us at Geneva in the League of Nations, that she is capable of rising out of her pure insularity and of cooperating in an international system which is not necessarily the system which she sponsored at the outbreak of the revolution. With these thoughts in our minds, therefore, we should, I think, redouble our efforts—and great efforts they must be—to give Russia every possible assistance on the Western front to help her in the East, as she helped us when the Germans were within a few miles of Paris in the last war. We must redouble our efforts not only in the military sphere but also in the sphere of propaganda, in order to organise a solid front on the war aims of our two great countries.
§ Major Vyvyan Adams (Leeds, West)
I shall not keep the Chancellor of the Exchequer more than a very few moments; I understand he has come to ask us for a very large sum of money. His appetite is very much like Hitler's, since it has to be sated or else his patience becomes exhausted. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), who made such an interesting speech earlier to-night, said that Russian action had been justified when, in the assault on Finland, they took steps to block the road to Leningrad. This is the only debating point I want to make to-day; I think it is a serious one, and it is this: If the Russian action was justified against Finland, by the same line of argument we should, I suppose, have been equally entitled to block the German road to the Channel by invading Holland and Belgium before Germany did. If the hon. Member reads what I say, I would like him to remember that you cannot repudiate in practice the main principles for which you are supposed to be fighting.
The other thing I wish to say, with great respect, is directed to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwich 1003 (Mr. H. Strauss), who made such a very subtle speech a little time ago. I hope he will not object to my saying that I do not think his speech was a very helpful one. Our memories are not nearly so short that we have forgotten already the many regrettable things that have happened in Russia over the last two decades. While I was listening to my hon. Friend enumerating the sins and mistakes which he alleged the Russians have committed I could not help wondering whether it might not be about him that the legendary conversation in the motor omnibus occurred. If we are going to indulge in recriminations about the past at this grand climacteric, as the Prime Minister so rightly describes it, we have only to recall how we ignored Russia at the time of Munich, and the response— or lack of it—to the Russian suggestion of a conference after the German invasion of Prague. With great respect to my hon. Friend, let me say that there are occasions when the performances of skilful lawyers are more intellectually admirable than politically helpful, a lesson which was never learned, I regret to say, by a Foreign Secretary who had very intimate dealings with Russia—Sir John Simon, as he then was.
We could all waste time, and a very great deal of time, by saying how cordially we detest Communism. If I had chosen, I have no doubt I could have unleashed the most violent language about Communism, but that does not really matter to-day. I suggest that it has not really mattered for the last 10 years, since the Russians stopped industriously interfering with the internal affairs of other States by perpetual Communist propaganda. All that really matters to-day was expressed ably in the final sentences of my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich. To-day the interests of Great Britain and Russia do not clash; they have not done so for many years now. The Foreign Secretary made the same statement to-day in his speech, and the plain, simple unadorned fact is this, that it is in the interests of the Russian and the British peoples that the German nation should be defeated and its dominion disintegrated. I thought that when the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) made a plea for a Secret Session on more recent events, and the possible immediate future, 1004 he was on very strong grounds. I myself think that this would be one of the rare occasions when a Secret Session could be not only excused, but strongly justified, because here one must pick one's words very carefully.
The present moment seems to be a superb opportunity for the strongest possible offensive action against Germany. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will pay attention, as I am going to hint more than I can actually say. I leave it to him to infer what I mean. It is quite impossible for any Member of the House, in public and open Session, to define the quality of that offensive action. We cannot say to-day, because it would be the height of indiscretion, whether it should be limited, for example, to the air weapon. All that could be said openly about this was well, and indeed perfectly, said in the Prime Minister's great and unsurpassable broadcast on Sunday night. I think it was much easier for the Prime Minister to say those things than is commonly recognised. Although 20 years ago the Prime Minister may have used very interesting language about the manner in which the Russian nation was being governed by the Bolshevik rulers, I do not forget that for the last half dozen years the Prime Minister has striven consistently to bring Russia into active co-operation with the comity of nations. He was foremost in the days of the Chamberlain pre-war administration in trying to persuade the Government so to wield their foreign policy that Russia could be brought into the collective peace front. The German war machine, as the Prime Minister truly said, is attacking the Russian people. Their danger is our danger; our victory—and heaven send it may come sooner than we dared to hope a few days ago—will be theirs.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
During the whole of last week I wondered what would be the development of the German-Russian issue. I wanted, in my heart, a clash to take place. I felt that it would not happen, that it would, in some way or other, be smoothed over. I was delighted on Sunday morning when I heard that Germany had declared war on Russia, because I felt that the time had come when something like that ought to happen to get the world into its proper 1005 alignment. 1 took confidence and courage from it in this way. Hitler has made a bold move, one meant to achieve victory very quickly, or one meaning ultimate defeat. I asked myself the question as to what had caused him to take this step. It must be because of distress, either in himself or in Germany, and that our war effort was having more effect on the German people and Hitler than we realised. Therefore he had to take some other bold measure to help himself out of the difficulty. That is why I took encouragement from that, because I had had in my mind the thought that the war might go on for years, we defending ourselves and trying to survive the terrible ordeal of being starved out. Secondly, I have always had a great leaning towards Russia. I wanted Russia to align themselves with us, because, whatever else may have happened, Russia has tried to bring about a better set of conditions under their present regime than existed under the Czarist regime. With the knowledge in my mind that the Russian people were trying to uplift themselves and bring themselves closer to the European standard of life, they have always had my sympathy. I had hoped that we might range ourselves alongside them at some future date. Now it has come.
I wish to say to the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) that I wish he had not made the speech he has delivered. I know that in matters like this there are times when we all feel keenly about what has happened in the past, but, when a major issue comes before us, that transcends all other things, and it is as well for the moment to try and forget what has moved our emotions to get the full benefit of what is happening now. I do not want one word to go from this Chamber that might in any way discourage Russia in the severe ordeal which they are facing. That is why I want to see all the strength possible in the war effort, because complete victory means as much to us as to Russia.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
May I intervene to say this to my hon. Friend? I do not differ from him at all in my desire to avoid recriminations about the past. What I am most anxious about is this, that we should not, for that reason, allow ourselves to say over the wireless or elsewhere anything that might appear to condone the action which Russia took in the 1006 Baltic States. That would do us an injury not only now but in the future.
§ Mr. Tinker
The hon. Member is quite right in putting his point of view, but I am anxious, as he is, for united effort, and I do not want one word to be said which might retard it at all. Just a word to the Foreign Secretary. I have complete confidence in those who are controlling our war machine. What I do hope is that whatever can be done to strike with all our might at Germany will be done. It has been said that in the past we have made mistakes, that we have not put out our whole efforts when other countries have been involved. On this occasion it is a supreme issue, and we must take tremendous risks to hamper Germany all we can. I do not want a Secret Session to discuss that. I have complete confidence in the Government. I want the Government to know that men like myself are behind them in whatever risks they may take that will help us in that way, so that once and for all we may crush the Nazi machine. In conclusion, I am very glad indeed at something which I think will mean a speedy termination of the war.
Motion, "That this House do now adjourn," by leave, withdrawn.