HC Deb 08 September 1942 vol 383 cc113-7
Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

With your permission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, is it not possible to make a speech now? Apart from the question of Army pay, there are one or two matters of the greatest importance which ought to be discussed today. One question which was not dealt with in the Prime Minister's statement was the situation in India.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

We disposed of that by reporting Progress. We are now on the Adjournment of the House.

Mr. Gallacher

Arising out of the proposal to report Progress—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That has already been decided.

Mr. Neil Maclean (Glasgow, Govan)

Is it not possible for a Member who rises on the Motion for the Adjournment to revert back to something which has transpired already and continue the Debate on that subject?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

No. The general rule—I think the custom anyhow—is that once a matter has been disposed of and we have reported Progress, a Debate cannot be re-opened on it on the Adjournment.

Earl Winterton

Is it not a fact that it has been more a custom than a matter of procedure and that, although a Member may not in such circumstances refer to a previous Debate, he can raise questions which he would have raised provided he does not refer to the previous Debate?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

It depends upon the Member's Parliamentary agility.

Mr. Gallacher

I cannot claim to have the Parliamentary agility of my Noble Friend who sits below me, although I am always amenable to the Ruling of the Chair.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I ought to warn the hon. Member that the Prime Minister made his speech in Committee, and the House has no knowledge of it. Therefore, the hon. Member may not refer to the Prime Minister's speech.

Mr. Gallacher

Well, I am not keenly interested in the Prime Minister at the present time. What I am interested in—and I do not know whether we can get any information from the Deputy Prime Minister or the Leader of the House—is whether any attempt is to be made to reopen negotiations with India? I am deeply concerned about this, because I feel that the situation which confronts us is a dangerous situation and need not exist. I believe it will be possible, with good will, to meet the Congress Committee and put proposals before them in order to draw the great masses of the people away from this unfortunate and undesirable policy of civil disobedience into the closest possible unity with the people of this country. I would also like to refer to another question on which we ought to have some information, namely, the all-important question of the second front in Europe. There has been much discussion in the Press, and much feeling in the country, and many arguments are now being presented against the question of a second front. There are those who say that people have no right to mention the second front if they are not going out to be killed. If that is suggested, it means that no Member of the House of Commons or the Government would have any right of any kind to say anything about our military operations, which means that this House might just as well shut up and leave everything to the "brass hats." Members, their constituents and soldiers would have no right to speak. Only the "brass hats" would be left to—

Sir Edward Grigg (Altrincham)

Surely the hon. Member has forgotten that the House does not leave such matters to what he calls the "brass hats." It leaves them to its own Members who happen to form the War Cabinet.

Mr. Gallacher

If a member of the War Cabinet has a right to his opinion on strategy, I say that I have that right. If I have no right to an opinion because I am not going out to be killed, then no member of the War Cabinet has the right. It is absurd to present an argument of that kind; anybody in this House has a right to express an opinion about a second front, and their constituents have the same right.

Sir E. Grigg

That is not the argument I used. The hon. Member said we left matters entirely to the "brass hats." They are left to the Cabinet.

Mr. Gallacher

I said that the use of an argument that no one has the right to express an opinion on strategy, unless he is going out to be killed, should not be tolerated. The important thing this House must face is whether we are to wait until the second front is set up here or whether we are to take the opportunity that lies before us of setting up a second front in Europe. There will be sacrifices, I know, in setting up such a second front, but if we co-operate with our Allies there is no question that the back of the war could be broken by the end of 1942. Everybody understands that the situation in the Soviet Union is very critical.

It is a very critical situation not only for the Soviet Union, but for Germany. It is a crisis that works both ways. If the balance is thrown in the proper direction, there can be a final catastrophe for the Nazi armies. Hitler himself has said that last winter the Nazi armies were faced with near catastrophe. If the blows are struck now, as they might have been struck last winter, it can be made complete catastrophe for the Nazi armies. I see from the "Daily Worker"—a very valuable newspaper; I have it here, and it is as well that hon. Members should see that it is on the road again—that very strong feelings are being expressed in many parts of this country—and in America President Roosevelt has come out very strongly on this question within the past day or two—so that we should have no hesitation whatever in discussing in the House the all-important question of strategy and the general principle of a second front in Europe. That does not mean that we should say when, where and in what circumstances the second front in Europe will be created; those things must be kept in the strictest secrecy.

I want also to say to hon. Members that we must show the greatest care in any activities that we engage in and in any material that we may issue. Last week, I saw a manifesto—I do not know who issued it—asking for Socialism, and a number of Labour Members of Parliament had been persuaded to sign their names to it. That sort of thing can do incalculable harm. Nobody will hand them Socialism on a plate. The idea of that manifesto seems to be that if the Government will hand over Socialism, those signing the manifesto will be in favour of fighting the war, but if not, there is no use the workers producing, or doing anything—that there is no use fighting or winning the war if we have not got Socialism. I say to those Labour Members who were foolish enough to allow themselves to be persuaded into signing such a swindling document that we cannot advance towards Socialism unless we fight against Fascism, and we must fight against Fascism with all the ruthless power that we can muster for that task. I say also that in the fight against Fascism there must be the greatest measure of national unity. The right hon. Gentleman the Deputy Prime Minister will agree with me on the need for national-unity. But we cannot get national unity unless we get basic working class unity. We cannot conceive of national unity if the working classes are not united. Yet the Labour party issued last week a document attacking the Communists, as if there were no Fascist menace, no Nazis in existence and no concentration camps, and as if they had learned no lesson from events in Germany, where a lack of unity opened the way to Hitler. Cannot they understand that it was lack of unity in Germany that brought upon us the present catastrophe? You may blame the Communists or you may blame the Social Democrats, but it was lack of unity in Germany that brought upon us this conflict, with all the terror and suffering that have to be endured.

Yet the Labour leaders brought out a document last week as though there were no crisis, no war, no deadly menace to this country, a document making an attack upon the Communists and asking where their money comes from. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary can tell them where the money comes from. The late Mr. Lees-Smith, at the time the ban was placed on the "Daily Worker," went to the Home Office to make inquiries on that very point, and the Chief of the Home Office told him—I have seen the typewritten document—that every penny the Communists get for the newspaper and the party comes from the people of this country, and that there is no need for and no evidence of a penny coming from any other source. I challenge the Home Secretary on that. But let us forget these things. Let us forget the bitter mistakes of the past, whoever made them, and let us get basic unity of the working-class movement on which can be built real national unity for the prosecution of the war against Fascism and the advance towards Socialism.

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