§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
When the Gracious Speech from the Throne was before the House recently a few of us in this House tabled an Amendment which contains the germs of practically all I want to say to-day. This Amendment was:That this House humbly regrets that there is no indication in the Gracious Speech that the maximum use will be made of political and economic pronouncements to the people of the world in order to bring the present conflict, with its incalculable misery, destruction and waste, to an end at the earliest possible moment.It is no secret that since this war began a small group of Members belonging to the Labour Party in the Lords and Commons came together to try and find out whether there was any means of bringing this conflict to a close apart from, or even in addition to, the use of force. We called ourselves the "Parliamentary Peace Aims Group," and ever since 1939 we have been trying to induce His Majesty's Government, with the United Nations, to declare to the peoples of the world, and of Europe in particular, what we are fighting for. I think it is due to the men who are fighting at the several fronts that 1874 an answer should be given to that question. Everybody knows what we are fighting against, but the real issue which has arisen in this, the fifth winter of the war, is: What is it that the United Nations expect to achieve at the end of this war? In the time available to me I will dwell on that particular issue.
On 8th November, 1939, before the Coalition Government was formed the present Deputy Prime Minister made a declaration on behalf of the Labour Party. It is as well to resurrect some of the statements he made at that time, because the right hon. Gentleman then clothed in words in advance what in the end came out in the form of a skeleton as the Atlantic Charter. The right hon. Gentleman and I both belong to the Labour Party, and it is worth while reading what he then said:What, then, should be the principles of a peace settlement?Of course, he assumed that even this war will come to an end some day. Peace will be restored, I hope, in my own lifetime. The right hon. Gentleman answered his own question by saying:The first principle is that there should be no dictated peace. We have no desire to humiliate, to crush or to divide the German nation. There must be restitution made to the victims of aggression. All ideas of revenge and punishment must be excluded.I could never command better language than that to express what I am trying to say to-day. Since that statement the Atlantic Charter has been issued, and, of course, that Charter was welcomed by all people like myself and my hon. Friends who believe that mankind should not rest exclusively on the elements of force even in war-time. Men and women are, after all, inspired by something much more elevated than mere battleships, bayonets and guns. Consequently, I would like my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to take note of what I am trying to say, because there has been a gradual descent in the aims of the United Nations towards a peace settlement since the declaration of the Atlantic Charter. Where do we stand now? If we listen to certain members of the Tory Party, their language is, "March to Berlin; crush Germany; strip Japan." One member of the Government even went so far as to say that we must put an end to Germany as a nation. I have travelled almost all over Europe, and I have seen Germany at close quarters. 1875 To say that you can put an end to a nation is just as foolish as saying that you can blot out the sun. If you could destroy a nation by persecution and murder there should not be a single Jew left in the world to-day, but the Jews live nevertheless. I do not like the descent from the high principles set out in the Atlantic Charter to the present position. What is the official attitude now? Unconditional surrender! Let me examine what that means. That is what we told the Italians; and if ever there was a complete and abject failure of the gospel of unconditional surrender, it has been proved up to the hilt in the case of Italy. There probably never was such a mess, diplomatically and militarily, in the history of Europe than there is in Italy now. I should have thought that His Majesty's Government and their associates would have appealed to the Italian people on higher grounds if they wanted that country out of the war, as I imagine they did. Once you declare that there is no alternative to unconditional surrender, what happens? You turn the very people you want to be friendly and on to your side into your enemies. There must be millions of working-class people in Germany, miners, railwaymen, metal workers and others who do not like the Hitlerite régime. But when we declare to those Germans that there is no alternative for them but unconditional surrender what happens? Those ordinary folk in Germany who dislike Hitler will rally to him because they will say that we have pronounced what is equivalent to a, sentence of death upon them. For my part, I should imagine that it would have been a better course for His Majesty's Government and their associates to go underneath or over the heads of the Hitlerites and appeal to those millions, who cannot come out in open revolt whether they desire to do so or not.
Next, I would like to know what is the mind of the Foreign Office on the old problem of the balance of power in Europe? People who do not agree with me about war and peace, some in high places, admit now that it is a great error on behalf of the British purple to play the game of fighting with Germany against France in one decade and with France against Germany in another and then urge those two great Powers deliberately 1876 to quarrel with each other so that neither will ever be strong enough to challenge the might of the British Empire. But now another Colossus has arisen to upset all that. Russia has emerged as a mighty power in Europe; and if the British Government wish to pursue the policy of the balance of power in Europe I am not so sure that they will not be confronted in future with the views of the Soviet Union on this vital problem. The British Government might, therefore, find itself faced with complete failure if we continue to pursue that same policy at the end of this war. If the House and the people of this country want a pointer as to what is likely to happen in that connection, they have it in the recognition of General Tito, the Croat Communist. The British Government, on behalf of a capitalist country, forsooth; and the United States Government, a still more capitalist country, are at last recognizing a leading Communist in Yugoslavia as their champion in the fight against Fascism in the Balkans. I am not suggesting for a moment that they should not—that is not my point—I want to show that it is an indication of the trend of events in Europe. It looks as if, with the complete crushing of Fascism in Europe, there will arise the enthronement of Sovietism all over the continent in its place, Where would His Majesty's Government stand then, on an issue like that?
In the lengthy speech made by the Foreign Secretary the other day he devoted only a few sentences to peace aims because, as I have stated, the slogan is now "Unconditional surrender and nothing short of that." This is what the right hon. Gentleman said:What we are seeking, what we are working for, when we approach these matters in harmony with the United States and Russia, is not to impose a three-Power will upon Europe—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1943; col. 1432, Vol.395.]I welcome that statement nevertheless.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Hall)
Will my hon. Friend read a little further into the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, when he dealt with this question of the balance of power very fully?
§ Mr. Davies
The right hon. Gentleman did not deal with it as I desired; that 1877 is why I am referring to it now. On this point of building up a group of great Powers like Great Britain, the United States, China and Russia, we are told that they are to determine the form of world organisation for peace at the end of this war. If I know human nature at all I am confident that there is no possibility of peace in the world if three, four or five great Powers join together and imagine that they can police the whole world with the power they possess. They will automatically incite another group against them. As this is a total war, I am all in favour of total peace; if it is a global war, I want a global peace too.
I do not know whether hon. Members know what happened to the United States at the end of the last war. The fact that America did not come into the League of Nations resulted very largely in the emergence of this present world conflict. I doubt if this war would ever have occurred if America had come into the League, and it is worth while therefore asking ourselves why she did not. Woodrow Wilson returned to his native country at the close of the 1914–18 conflict and propagated the League of Nations. It was a noble idea, but strange enough, the country that gave birth to that idea did not join the League. I am told on the very best authority that at least one of the reasons was this. The British Commonwealth comprises this country, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada and Australia; and, although all told we only muster about 70,000,000 or 80,000,000 people, we entered the League as five separate units. On that basis the United States, with 130,000,000 people, would have to come in as a single nation, and that in spite of the fact that they regard themselves as 47 separate units federated in what is called the United States of America. I am not bold enough to suggest a remedy for that in the future. I am only arguing that the issue ought to be considered. If we are to have a world organisation for peace, what is going to happen, for instance, to Russia, with its 160,000,000 people, made up of very many separate republics, inside that country, each of which may regard itself as important as Canada, New Zealand, Australia or even South Africa? I consider this as one of the most important points that can be raised in connection with a future world organisation for peace.
1878 I was very glad to read the statement, very much on the lines that I am trying to argue, of the Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday. I have been very disappointed with the Christian Church. I have belonged to it all my life; I still belong to it. I have been disappointed that the Church in this country and all over Europe has not taken a leading part in trying to bring the war to a close. But the Archbishop put his finger on a point that ought to be mentioned in a Debate of this kind. Some people imagine that Hitler arose because of his genius and that the Hitlerite régime is just a lot of gangsters who have collected themselves together for mischief. The Hitlerite régime however is just the result of the foul economic conditions that prevailed in that part of the world. We may therefore destroy the whole of the Hitlerite régime, but if the causes that made it are still there, I do not see that peace is possible in Europe even when the present war is over. The Archbishop put it very clearly, and I am glad he did. May I read one statement that he made:There is still in some countries a notion that while no State—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
Is the hon. Gentleman quoting from a speech in the House of Lords?
§ Mr. Davies
I will leave it at that except to say that for once—I should not say I agree with his Lordship; I should be too impudent if I said his Lordship agreed with me.
I should like to ask the people of this country who are willing to listen to my voice what they propose doing in the field of economics and finance at the end of the war. There is no peace possible in this world unless nations are willing to throw their resources into some sort of international pool. If, for instance, Japan is able to keep Malaya and those other territories in the Pacific, and retains for herself 90 per cent. of the rubber of the world, there will be another war about that later on. It is commonly known that Great Britain possessed all the Colonies in the world fit for white men. You cannot possibly therefore get a stable peace until the 1879 nations that possess raw materials in abundance are willing to share them with those who have none.
We went to war ostensibly to safeguard the independence of Poland. I did not expect the Foreign Secretary to say what happened at Teheran on that score. I am not influenced, by the way, one bit by official communiqués. I do not expect the Government to disclose all that transpires at conferences, but I should like to know what is going to happen to Poland. Poland had attached to it in 1939 a patch of the Ukraine with 7,000,000 Ukrainians. The people of this country are bewildered about the war. They are inquiring as to whether, after all the bloodshed and devastation that have taken place, the Poland for which we went to fight in 1939 will be the Poland that will emerge at the Peace? It would be worth while knowing whether the Government have anything to say about the future of that country. Then, what of Finland, Latvia, Esthonia, Lithuania and Bessarabia? Is it too much to ask my right hon. Friend to give us some idea about the destiny of those countries? I am very sad to see countries devastated by war; I suppose everyone will join me in that sentiment. A devastated Europe, however, must mean a bankrupt Britain in the end.
Now the slogan is to shorten the war. I agree. I wish it would end to-morrow. The other slogan is: Try the war criminals! I do not understand that at all; it seems to me that everyone who takes part in a war commits a crime against Christianity anyhow. Although I agree with him, I did not like the very pessimistic tone of General Smuts' speech when he said that Great Britain will emerge from the war with glory, prestige and honour, but with nothing in the till. The appropriate comment to that is a simple one. You cannot pay rent with glory; you cannot purchase a suit of clothes with your honour, and you cannot get a ton of coal in your cellar by parading your prestige. But, of course, people do not like the truth, and I am very much afraid he told us a mouthful of it when he spoke thus.
Now let me come to the economic problem. What is to happen, for instance, to the cotton trade of 1880 Lancashire? I do not blame the Americans for what they are doing; they are at the moment capturing the cotton trade of the South American Republics. The Lancashire cotton trade was very nearly destroyed in the last war. My right hon. Friend knows better than anyone what happened to coal and shipbuilding. I want to plead therefore that in entering the peace conference when it comes, we shall make up our minds that, whatever our views may be about Bolshevism and Fascism, we will do nothing, as was done in the Treaty of Versailles, to try to import revenge in the new arrangements. It was the spirit of revenge in 1918 which put millions of our people out of employment, some of them for 10 or 15 years. I trust that we shall not enter the next peace conference with that spirit animating us.
It is certain that the longer it takes to achieve military victory the more remote is the possibility of recovery when peace returns. I should wish that those who believe in force as a weapon for settling international conflicts would sometimes use their reason as well as their Armies, Navies and Air Forces.
We drop propaganda leaflets, I understand, over Germany on occasions. I should like to appeal to my right hon. Friend that anything we do in that respect will not convey the impression that we intend punishing the German working classes, because in my view the ordinary people of any belligerent country have very little or nothing to do with war. Wars are made by Governments and sustained by propaganda in order to keep up the morale of the masses. I cannot believe that the ordinary coal-miner in the Ruhr had any more to do with the Hitlerite régime than my right hon. Friend and I, or the miners we represent, have with some of the great capitalist companies of this country and America. I should like if I can to resurrect reason among all this terrible hatred and fury which has gripped mankind. When I was in Central Europe I came across an old fable translated into English. Perhaps it will describe better than I can convey what I am thinking at the moment. It was a fable of an old woman who spent all day begging candles and matches in order that she might do her work when darkness came. It never occurred to her to work during the day 1881 and to sleep at night. Although I do not profess to know my Bible too well, I think there is a verse that says:And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light.I do not profess either to propagate the light, but I hope that what I have said will, at any rate, lead the right hon. Gentleman to the conclusion that something can be done to shorten the war, apart altogether from military and naval operations. May I quote what the late Woodrow Wilson said in a speech at St. Louis, Missouri, in 1919? Whatever hon. Members forget of what I have said I trust that they will remember this. It is a most striking statement:I feel like asking the Secretary for War to get the boys who went across the water together where I could go and see them. I would stand up before them and say, 'Boys, I told you before you went across the seas that this was a war against war, and I did my best to fulfil that promise, but I am obliged to come to you in mortification and shame and say that I have not been able to fulfil that promise. Boys, you are betrayed. You fought for something that you did not get, and the glory of the armies and navies of the United States is gone like a dream in the night'.I want, in any modest contribution that I make, to help shorten this war, and to make it impossible for any British statesman at the conclusion of hostilities to have to say like Woodrow Wilson that they stand up in mortification and shame, having made so many promises during the conflict that they are unable to fulfil when the war is ended.
§ Mr. Montague (Islington, West)
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down may I put two points to him, not in any antagonism? In his speech he referred to the federated republics of Russia and the federated states of America and compared them with the British Commonwealth. In that comparison does he not forget the fact that these states and republics are federated? I should like to know what he has in mind in respect of the status and the relations of the British Commonwealth with these two federations. On the question of raw materials, he said that peace could not be guaranteed unless raw materials were made available for all nations, In what way are the raw materials which are supposed to be monopolised by the British Empire not available to other nations, and in what way were they not available even before the war?
§ Mr. Davies
I thank the hon. Gentleman for those questions and I will do my best to reply to them. I pointed out that the attitude of mind of the Americans was that it was unfair to have five, separate countries within the British Empire with five separate voices within the League of Nations, whereas they had only one voice with twice the population. I did not argue in favour of their contention; I said that that was their argument. I do not know what the attitude of Russia will be towards any new world organisation for peace, but if the Americans would not come into the League of Nations because of that argument I have a fear that Russia may keep out of the next international organisation for the same reason. I want our Government to meet that argument in advance. With regard to raw materials, the hon. Gentleman knows more about that subject than I do, but I should have thought that the Ottawa Agreement is a sufficient answer. Raw materials can of course be bought and manufactures sold freely. When, however, you have a wall of tariffs, giving one country preference for the same article over another, it develops enmity. There is nothing that creates hatred between nations more than that one nation is shut out from the markets of another by tariff walls.
§ Commander King-Hall (Ormskirk)
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), who introduced this subject, has covered a wide field and raised a large number of issues, and I am sure that he will not expect me to follow him in all of them. One of his remarks remained in my mind. He did not think that three, four or five great Powers would be able to work together for the peace of the world. I would agree with him if they attempted to do it in a dominating manner, but it must now be accepted as one of the principal lessons that emerged from the period between the two wars that although might may not be right, it is essential that right should have plenty of might behind it. If we cannot get agreement between three or four principal Powers where the might will be concentrated, because in total war military might is to all intents and purposes a factor of industrial power, the outlook for peace will be very uncertain.
The hon. Member raised this matter about a year ago, and I did not find myself in agreement with him. To-day I am 1883 in agreement to this extent, that he has brought to the notice of the House a subject of great importance from the point of view of the practical conduct of the war. That is the use that is being made or might be made of political warfare. On several occasions, in the past two years, I have endeavoured to make some remarks in this House on that subject, and I am bound to admit that possibly I have been prejudiced or have been accused of being prejudiced in having attached too much importance to political warfare and its possibilities. If that charge is true, I have been pushed into an exaggerated position by the fact that those persons who could only conceive of war in terms of military operation seem to have had a completely blank mind on the subject of political warfare and to have completely missed what I was brought up to believe in the two staff colleges which I attended, that the object of military operations is to bring about a state of affairs in which one can achieve a certain political result. Military operations are only a means to that end, but naturally, being dramatic and terrible, once a war starts and military operations begin to take place they tend to drive other considerations out of men's minds. That could be proved to the House historically if I had time. It was argued that we could not carry on political warfare until we have had military successes. I did not accept that argument, but I do not wish to discuss that issue, because it no longer arises.
We have now had a considerable measure of military success, and therefore I think that even on the grounds of those who maintain that we should have a good measure of military success in the background before we do propaganda, the time is now ripe to do something about it. The strategy of total war is a combination of political warfare and military warfare—a combination of the battle of brains and the battle of the bodies or brawn. To put it crudely, it is difficult to kick a man in the stomach and at the same time have an argument with him on lines of reason and put other ideas into his head. One is only attacking a man's body as part and parcel of the process of changing his mind, because the object of war is simply to change the enemy's mind. I defy the whole of the members of the Imperial General Staff to say that this definition 1884 of the object of war is incorrect. They will agree with me.
As regards the particular issue of what we can do in this total war, we have had this series of important Conferences on military and political subjects, and on the political intentions of the Governments it seems to me that three important decisions have been announced. We hear from the Moscow Conference that Austrian independence was one of the objects and aims of His Majesty's Government, including a rather vague statement that it might be advisable for Austria to be linked up economically with a larger area. With that I think most people would agree. There was also an implication that if the Austrians revolted or took some action hostile to the Nazi régime, it would go down to their credit in any settlement that may be arrived at. Secondly, we have had the general statement that Japan should be stripped of the overseas possessions which she has accumulated since the Sino-Japanese war in 1894 up to the present time. That again is a definite statement. Thirdly, we had the rather curious communiqué which assured one of our Allies, Iran, that they need not be in any apprehension about their independence. No doubt they found this encouraging.
Nothing was said about what our intentions are as regards the key to the whole problem, Germany. I perfectly accept the view that one cannot expect the Foreign Secretary to come back from these Conferences and do much more than clothe in Parliamentary language what we have already read in the newspapers. I cannot, however, see that if there is any agreement as to the general lines on what we are doing about the German problem after the war, it can possibly be called a military secret. If we do know what we are going to do with the Germans why do we not say so? It can be very useful to the war effort if used in the right way. A large number of ideas are floating about and have been mentioned in this House as to what to do to the Germans. It is extremely instructive to collect into one document the various official and semi-official statements that have been made since the beginning of the war. They show a great lack of consistency. The hon. Member for Westhoughton asked what we were fighting for, and he said he knew what 1885 we were fighting against. I am not in any doubt, up to a certain point. What we are fighting for, apart from the fact that we are fighting for self-preservation, is for the opportunity of doing certain things, and I am clear in my own mind that the principle behind those certain things can be broadly expressed as the principle of re-establishing freedom and liberty, but that is only a principle. What we have to face is how these principles are to be translated into practice.
Among the various ideas that are floating about are: Germany should be divided up again into small States: Germany should be de-industrialised and German industry controlled by the Allies for a certain period. I exclude from my list fantastic ideas such as that the German nation should be exterminated. What I would ask is whether or not the Government have any views as to what, broadly speaking, is to happen to the Germans. We must remember that the German propaganda machine, as far as I am able to follow its activities, makes no bones about putting to the German people what it alleges to be our views on this matter. The views that it alleges we hold are, of course, that the most terrible and frightful things are going to happen. German propagandists are put up by Goebbels with the obvious intention of persuading everybody in Germany that however severe the privations they are undergoing they must hold on till the last possible moment and fight to the last man, woman and child because nothing could be more frightful than what the British intend to do to the Germans. I do not for a moment believe that that bears any relation to the truth. I simply do not know what the official reply is to that statement.
Before I sit dawn, I would only make one remark to indicate my own view on the economic side. I would beg the House to believe that this is not a sentimental view. I am not in the least sentimental about the Germans. I claim that it is a strictly practical point of view. The longer this war goes on the greater will be the problem of the reconstruction of Europe and undoubtedly from information one receives many parts of Europe are in a pretty bad way. In the "Sunday Pictorial," a paper which I do not usually commend to the attention of this House, I saw an interesting despatch last Sunday from the Italian front describing 1886 conditions in Italy and in Naples and what the troops were saying about the fact that there was a 10 years job in front of the world in trying to get Europe square again it the conditions in Italy were in any sense typical. If that is the practical problem in front of us I simply do not believe as a matter of practical politics that it is going to be possible to reconstruct Europe it we are to have in the middle of Europe an area of 70,000,000 people in a state of chaos, anarchy, disease, famine and so forth. There is nothing sentimental about that. It is purely a matter of practical administrative fact, because Germany and the Germans, whatever we may think of them, are an integral part of Europe just as we are an integral part of Europe. I know that some people have tried to argue that we do not belong to Europe, but that is not so. It is no good trying to pretend that 70,000,000 people situated geographically in the centre of Europe and with the raw materials which they have under the ground they live on can be ignored. They will have to play a part of some kind in Europe, however humble that part may be, and for however long we may keep them in a humble part. Therefore, I ask this final and concluding question: What are the views of the Government? In view of what happened after the last war, I think tins should be a matter of public discussion as far as the House is concerned and that we should know what the views of the Government are, whether those views are in agreement with those of our Allies as to the part, however humble, which we visualise Germany playing in Europe in the years immediately after the war.
§ Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)
I do not desire to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall) in all his speech because I cannot attach quite the same weight as he did to the importance of propaganda. But I should like to support what he has so clearly indicated, and it is that we must clarify our minds as to what is to be the position of these 80,000,000 Germans in Europe at the end of the war. When I read suggestions about sending a handful of young men from Balliol to re-educate the German race; or dividing up the German State, which has found its full unity only at this fate stage; or of de-industrialising the Ruhr, I ask myself whether 1887 I am living in Britain or Laputa. I cannot visualise any economic reconstruction of Europe without taking full account of the productive and consuming power of these 80,000,000 people in the centre of the Continent, and I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend who represents the Foreign Office, if he cannot discuss it now, will keep that point clearly in mind.
I want to bring this House back to the speech of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). He made great play with the Atlantic Charter. May I remind him that there are four freedoms in the Atlantic Charter, but that those four freedoms are one freedom, because unless we succeed in banishing fear there is nothing left in the great principles behind that great pronouncement? I cannot see in the present conduct of the war and of foreign affairs any recession from those four fundamental principles. I have sat in this House fairly regularly, and I have heard the hon. Member make many speeches, but I never remember a single occasion when he has made any contribution to the banishing of that one fundamental freedom, on which hang all freedoms, and that is freedom from fear. I would ask him to take that Charter away and think of it very seriously in connection with the line he pursues in the discussion of foreign affairs.
He also made great play with the Allied demand for unconditional surrender and tried to persuade this House that that demand had had a prejudicial effect upon the course of events in Italy. Has he read or studied anything of what is taking place in Turin and Milan to-day, that great industrial part of Northern Italy which is under the heel of Germany, where there is intense resistance to Nazi domination and an intense desire to throw it off and join in with the United Nations as an ally—unconditional surrender or whatever the terms may be? Yet these people are held down by that very fear which we are out to banish. On no occasion in this House or outside this House has he made any contribution to the successful prosecution of that mighty effort which the United Nations are putting forth.
The hon. Gentleman talked about the revival of the balance of power. Who has ever heard of the revival of the balance of power? He objects to the 1888 speech of General Smuts. Of course he does. General Smuts told us too many plain blunt truths for those who live in a world of illusion to digest, and when he said that the old balance of power in Europe had disappeared for generations, if not for all time, he was saying a thing which is absolutely and unassailably correct. Something far bigger than the defeat of France occurred in June, 1940. It was the disappearance from Europe of a system which had existed for 10 centuries and which cannot be restored either in our time or possibly for ever. When he talks about three or four Powers dominating the world, is it because of the lust of power among those States? Is it not because this position has inevitably arisen from the very conditions which General Smuts disclosed and which he drove home with all the force of his eloquence and all the strength of his immense knowledge? No, this is not the lust of power on the part of the United States, the British Commonwealth, Russia and China—if we include China—but it is the inevitable course of events, the responsibility thrown upon them and the responsibility which they and they alone can discharge if the next generation is to live in freedom from fear. For my part, I can see no future for the peace of the world either now or in the future without the closest co-operation between the British Commonwealth, the United States and Russia and China, a co-operation which must be exercised through power and strength, until there has grown up a new generation in Germany and a new generation in Japan brought up in the conviction that war is not a pleasant and profitable enterprise for themselves.
Further, the hon. Member talked about an appeal to the German working classes over the heads of the Nazi tyranny. Before the last war a great friend of mine, Sir Valentine Chirol, was standing with Karl Liebnicht while a body of German troops was marching down Unter den Linden. Liebnicht said to Sir Valentine Chirol, "Yes, and when the time comes all of us, all of our great Social Democratic Party, will march with them into war." And so it happened. That is the position to-day, and that will be the position until such a situation has been built up that Germany will realise that war is not a profitable enterprise. After all is said and done, whatever happens in this war, there will be 80,000,000 Germans in the centre of 1889 Europe, and whatever happens in the Pacific, there will be 90,000,000 Japanese in Japan and in the islands she dominates, and in Korea and Manchuria—90,000,000 people nerd in the iron tyranny of the most dreadful despotism the world has seen for untold centuries, brought up, disciplined, organised and trained in the idea that war is the be-all and end-all of their existence. How is tear to be banished in those conditions? Only by the knowledge that the over-riding strength of the three or four great Powers who have been drawn together by the pressure of events will be exercised to see that war does not pay.
In the plain blunt situation we have to face to-day no contribution to the future peace of the world can be made by those who handicap either by word or deed the peoples who are determined to see that this horrid despotism is crushed, and that aggressors are taught to see that war does not pay. That is a situation which, whatever words we use, does exist and must exist and there is a responsibility on the United Nations which must be exercised. It may be said—it is one of the few things said by the hon. Member with which I agree—that one of the great causes of the present war was the decision of the United States not to enter into the League of Nations when it was constituted. But that refusal did not spring mainly or primarily from the large collective vote of the British Commonwealth; that was only a minor factor. There were many others. If the hon. Member will pursue his political studies a little further, he will find that opposition to the weight of the British Commonwealth vote emerged as a sort of red herring to lead the American people astray. Why did the League of Nations fail? That is a question on which there is no possible doubt whatsoever. It failed because it entered into great international responsibilities and sought to exercise those responsibilities without the power to make its decisions felt. The power to make decisions felt when this war is over rests, and must rest, whether they like it or not, on the four great associated Powers; and upon their determination to accept that responsibility and to exercise it the whole future of the world and the whole peace of the world rests and must rest.
I should like to follow my hon. Friend a little into his economics, only they are so extraordinary that I really cannot. He talked about freedom to obtain raw 1890 materials, a point which was answered by the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague). Every producer of raw materials wants to sell them and welcomes any buyer from any quarter; the reason Germany went short of raw materials was that she preferred to buy materials for armaments rather than the materials for industrial development. As for his statement that the textile industry of Lancashire was ruined by the last war, because we lost the South American market, I really must ask him not to try to delude the House with such grotesquely inaccurate descriptions of events. The Lancashire textile industry lost its great market in India and other markets because of its complete inability to organise itself on anything like modern lines of industrial production. But these are minor matters. The great fact is that the hon. Member believes in the Atlantic Charter, even if he uses it only to charge the Government with not carrying it into full effect. I agree with the Atlantic Charter, and most of us do, but we realise that that Charter's four freedoms are one freedom, and that is freedom from fear, and we are determined to use every atom of strength and make any sacrifice which may be laid upon us now or in the future to see that that basic fear which has caused all the miseries imposed upon the world is banished because there can be no peace for the world until fear is exorcised for all time.
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West)
There was a time when I thought the following line might be very applicable to this House:shall fold their tents like the Arabs and as silently steal away.One Member after another retired, and I thought we were going to have a miniature Labour Party Conference, but we have now had an augmentation of strength. It was interesting to follow the speech of the last hon. Member. I cannot follow him as far as agreeing with what he says, and had time permitted I should have been very pleased to take up some of the points he advanced. I cannot quite understand, however, what he means when he declares that war does not pay. I should have thought that war has paid the British Empire very sound dividends indeed. It paid us in Canada, for by war we secured Canada from the French. It paid us in China, for there 1891 we secured certain territories, including Hong Kong, from the Chinese. It paid us in Burma, which again was acquired by war, and it paid us in South Africa, where large portions of the southern part of that continent were acquired by the sword. But I do not wish to pursue that, because I have my own line of thought which I wish briefly to express.
I think the last speaker and other hon. Members at least will agree with me when I say that we have had many warnings in recent months against undue optimism regarding the end of this war. It is quite true that there might be unforeseen events, as happened in 1918, to bring this war to an unexpected conclusion. I hope that will be so, but in the absence of such events I think we must face the facts that this war may last a long time yet. It may go on until 1945, 1946, 1947, or even longer. When it does end, the aftermath will taste like bitter herbs, for it will be an aftermath of profound disappointment as well as distress.
There is a Member in this House who, in the course of his speech this week, uttered the following words:Most people think that when Germany surrenders the war will be ended, that prosperity will automatically return and that there will be no necessity for further sacrifices or hard work. That is an extraordinarily dangerous outlook. The war against Japan is going to take very much longer and to require very much more from us than most people realise. We shall not be able to start the great task of reconstruction to which we look forward, because we shall not have the men or the materials.If you will permit me, I should like to make another quotation:There is another thing which the Government could do on this problem of demobilisation. They should make a statement here and now that after this war compulsory military service is going to remain. If people know that military service in the future is going to be an ordinary part of our life, I do not think there will be the same haste as there would otherwise be to get out of it directly the German war is over.I do not mention the Member's name, because I have no intention of attacking him, and I merely quote these sentences because I think they are representative of the opinion of quite a large number of Members of this House, not confined to one set of benches. That being so, I think we should appreciate that the war may last many years, and I notice that we have 1892 given up the one-time illusion of perpetual peace. We no longer talk in this war, as we did in the last, of a war to end wars. There is a certain number of perverted idealists still remaining who have resurrected the old conception of a personal devil, only they have now called him Adolf Hitler. Even then, they were rather dubious, and so they expanded their conception and included within that category 200,000,000 of their fellow human beings in Germany, Japan, Italy and elsewhere. This being so, it seems to me as we have now reached the stage where we are attributing congenital devilry to some 200,000,000, we must appreciate the force of the argument of the hon. Member to whom I referred when he claims we must have post-warconscription.
Why should we have post-war conscription if the devils of Germany, Italy, and Japan are completely defeated? Do we suspect any danger from the United States of America or from the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics? God forbid. But perhaps I ought to omit any reference to the Deity, seeing that with many Members any association of religion with politics is looked upon, as I think by the last Member, with some suspicion. There must be a sort of neat division between the priest, on the one hand, and the politician on the other. We must remain in the arena of conflict while the parson can remain in his pulpit or in his study. If I may paraphrase a familiar line of Kipling's: "Priest is priest and politician is politician, and ne'er the twain shall meet"—save presumably at morning prayers or evening dinner.
I agree that as we have given up any belief in perpetual peace, it might be just as well if we openly admitted we did believe in perpetual war. Indeed, I would go further and say it is quite possible to look upon war as a natural condition of mankind and, with a certain amount of adjustment, to go on for an indefinite period if we can ration goods and so adjust our mechanism that when we find ourselves in short supply we can restrict the amounts distributed. I think that could be applied to coal, on the one hand, and to children on the other. If that sounds morbid or cynical, I would ask hon. Members to look at these facts. The peoples of the Axis Powers are now associated with all that is violent and degrading. I do not deny for a single 1893 moment the great deal of devilry that has been apparent in the last few years and which has been perpetrated by some section of the German people. But, on the other hand, there is hardly a nation under the sun which we have not hated at one time or other and to whom we have not ascribed wickedness. There is Spain; how we hated her in the days of the Spanish Armada. There is France; for 400 years France was the great military Power of Europe, reaching her climax in the Napoleonic war when, indeed, she was defeated.
If Members go from here into the Royal Gallery, they can still see the mural painting in which German and British Field Marshals, astride their horses, celebrate victory on a field cumbered with corpses of French militarists. In those days it was Napoleon who was the incarnation of devilry. We have hated the country from which my name is derived, for we bombarded Copenhagen under our great Lord Nelson. We have hated the Dutch more than once, when they were our commercial rivals and, again, in the Boer War. We have hated the Chinese and called them "cruel Chinks," and, as for the Russians, I had hardly dare mention that name for even in this war our own Prime Minister has openly stated:Now we see how Communism rots the soul of a peopleA few years ago he was describing Bolshevism as "Bloodthirsty baboonery." When one considers this, one is inclined to be ironical. And if we look through our own history we shall find also ourselves guilty of many things for which we have condemned others.
At the same time, this has to be said: Italy has changed places since the last war. Then, she was with us and she was everything that was good. In this war she was just a poison because she was against us and now, I suppose, she is a sort of shandy-gaff. Finland was praised by us at the beginning of this war, but is now to be annihilated. Again, there is Japan. In the last war we referred to the Japanese as the "gallant little Japs, "but now we refer to them as the "yellow devils of the East." If the Japanese had not come into the Axis and had remained out at their discretion, would we have said anything about their military conquests and annexations? I suggest that we should have said nothing 1894 about that. We should have welcomed them again as the "gallant little Japs." It does seem when we look back on the sorry story of mankind as if Fate is continually organising a kind of diabolical whist-drive in which we change partners after every game. Be that as it may, we are now involved in a dreadful struggle and I know, too, that Members in this House genuinely believe everything must be done to the bitter end, even if it means the destruction of our civilisation in the process. We must destroy those with ill-gotten gains and who are drunk with despotism even if we destroy ourselves. But even if that nemesis is not reached I do beg the House to realise what the cost may be.
The newspapers have told us that the Cairo conference means that Japan is to be reduced to a third-rate Power. What effect is that pronouncement going to have on the Japanese people? It may be said that they will ultimately cringe with fear and ask for mercy. It is equally likely, and I think more probable, that such a declaration will steel the resistance of the Japanese people. On the other hand, I think it could be said, although I do not necessarily subscribe to it, that this very declaration is itself but a piece of evidence of what some people describe the European war to have been until Russia was attacked—an "Imperialist gang fight." If it is not this, then we have to ask ourselves whether our condemnation of the actions of Japan cannot be made more impressive by our consistency. After all, I think we should agree that a teetotal lecturer is more likely to be impressive if it is known that he has no shares in a brewery company and is not the proprietor of a public house, even if he be temperate himself, and when we are prepared to indicate what we propose to do with those territories in the world which we have acquired by war then it may be that our moral condemnation will be more impressive.
What are we going to do with Burma which we acquired by war? What are we going to do with Malaya, with India, with our African colonies and with the Italian colonies? I do not ask this because I want to see a wholesale transference of peoples. On the contrary, I believe we have shown many signs of liberal development, but, on the other hand, I suggest it would be well for us to appreciate what is the answer of some of our critics whom 1895 we have tried to win to a sounder outlook on life. It is true that we are now restoring, or will restore, those extra-territorial rights we took from China under duress—now that we have lost them. It may be that Hong-Kong will be restored, but it is we who decide. If anybody tried to decide for us we should promptly tell them to mind their own business. As the Prime Minister said, "We intend to hold our own." If that arrogant attitude persists then, in only a short space of time, this war will be followed by another. If that is our attitude other countries will say, It you intend to hold your own, having secured it by the sword, we, by a sharper sword, will try to take it from you." And perpetual war will continue.
There is one other question I would ask, before I come to a conclusion. Who is responsible for the aggression of Japan? The Japanese war lords no doubt, in large measure; but in 1854 it was Admiral Perry of America who arrived off the coast of Japan with four gun boats, threatening to bombard Japan if she did not open her land and grant certain concessions. Because in the following year it was not clear that Japan would make those concessions, Admiral Perry came again with ten gun boats and then, of course, Japan had to climb down and grant concessions to the Western Powers. No wonder the good Admiral wrote, as the last entry in his diary:Thus ends my expedition to Japan, for which thank God.After that, it was Britain, America and Germany who taught Japan the art of modern militarism and navalism. It was our Western industrialists who assisted Japan and encouraged her to build up great modern industries. In the-last war, it was our alliance that endorsed the procedure which Japan had followed. Indeed, just before this war and as a contributory factor to it, let us remember, the scrap iron that Japan is using came from America, the oil and rubber from our own "Imperial Estates." Therefore, I submit, if we are going to put Japan in the dock, there are accessories before and after the fact who might very well accompany her.
A more fundamental issue is this: What are we to do with 90,000,000 human beings in Japan, in an area little larger than the British Isles, the habitable part 1896 of which is not much more than half this Island? They have got to live, and if they are to live and if we are to benefit by their production, as we could, we have to answer the questions which they address to us, and not only they, but the Chinese people who are their victims, and the Indians and all the peoples in Asia: What do we propose as an alternative to the economic order which the Japanese militarists have tried to impose upon the East? The East is awake, and it may very well respond to the seductive siren voice that proclaims "Asia for the Asiatic." I do not want them to do it, but if not, we have to persuade them not simply to copy our democratic principles and to accept our democratic faith, but to "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them," and to join with us in the common task of creating, politically and economically, a co-operative world. If we do not do that, war will succeed war. But if the future world is to be truly co-operative we are involving the future of Europe as well as Asia.
We have now secured military unity among the "Big Three." Have we as yet secured political unity for a common purpose? I hope we shall do so. I am not certain this will be achieved, but it is imperative that we try to reach it. After this war is over, Europe will be distracted and devastated, hungry, chaotic and embittered, and unless we are careful we may find we are nearing the end of Western civilisation. I say that in no morbid spirit, but because, when we look back through the course of human history, we observe how great Empires have had their day and ceased to be—Babylon, Egypt, Assyria, Greece and Rome—and there is no inherent reason why the Western world, closely knit to-day, should not follow and become one more pile of wreckage on the road of time. It is true as never before that, whether righteous or unrighteous, saints or sinners, if one member suffers, all other members suffer with it.
I am afraid not only of the economic consequences of the peace and of the previous sombre forebodings of Professor Keynes that may now be applied to this war, but of the psychological and ethical mess that will confront us, of the impulse to revolution on the one hand and of the despair and despondency on the other. We who are involved in this shocking 1897 paradox between our ethical professions and our economic and political practice—we who are Christians and while talking of the Sermon on the Mount are also trying it blow it up; we who are Socialists and who having described capitalism as the cause of modern war, yet now attempt to segregate 200,000,000 of our fellows, as if they were the cause of it all. Our responsibility is to prepare in every way possible for the world that should emerge out of the travail and tribulation of today and that could be in some measure a compensation for all that we have suffered. Could we not learn just one significant fact embodied by Milton in his "Paradise Lost":Reyenge, at first though Sweet,Bitter ere long, back on itself recoils."?Those are words whose content should be learned by us all. Revenge may be sweet, but in the end it recoils, and because of that I would just add one or two final words of appeal.
I was very moved to read some weeks ago that Lord Derby, father of our own estimable Colonial Secretary, addressing a meeting in Lancashire, said that he felt grieved and heart-burdened for the mothers of this country. Then he went on to add, "and for the mothers of Germany too." It was a fine and splendid sentence. I will not say that it was courageous, for it should not be courageous to utter those things, but I shall remember that pronouncement always. I wish our statesmen would sometimes strike the same note. Why cannot they sometimes state boldly to enemy peoples their appreciation of the sanity and humanity that are still there, at least as firmly as they do of the ugliness and the devilry? It would not hurt us, and it might gain a great deal. Why cannot we repeat that note, and say now to the peoples of Japan, Italy and Germany that the world we shall have after this war will not be a world of revenge and not a world even of penalty, not a world of domination and exploitation, but a world in which they, with us, on equal terms, can build up a new society in which liberty shall be the very breath of our souls, but a liberty firmly related to economic security? Without that foundation of economic security liberty will perish as the proverbial house did on its foundations of sand; but with it, indeed, there is hope that humanity will at last 1898 have learned its lesson and will rebuild its world on that sure foundation which can and will, to use a great and wonderful Quaker phrase, "Take away the occasion of all wars."
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Hall)
The Debate, which was opened by my hon. Friend with his usual eloquence, has certainly produced a number of very excellent and thought-provoking speeches. As I stand here, I just ask myself the question whether this nation adopted the right course when it decided to take up arms against the Nazi terror. Looking, back to that time over four years ago, I believe there was no doubt in the mind of almost every person in this country, irrespective of position, as to the right course to adopt. I well remember sitting at the Trades Union Congress and later at the Labour Party Conference when resolutions were passed, not by what may be regarded as majorities but almost unanimously, as to the right course to adopt before the menace with which Europe and the world were faced.
I have long been associated with my hon. Friends on the other side of the House, and still am. As members of the Labour Party, we did not lightly throw over or postpone the constructive work on which we were then engaged with other members and organisations in this House; we did not turn from those activities lightly to support an effort which had for its purpose the defeat of a menace which we knew would impose conditions upon the people of this country, compared with which the conditions which we then knew or which we shall know after the war, would be infinitely preferable. If this nation had not stood, as she did, in the breach, to defeat the group of gangsters, they would have imposed those conditions not only upon the British nation but upon the world.
With a number of my hon. Friends, I fully realise what this war means. We have no need to be reminded of the speech of the Prime Minister in which he referred to the ordeal of "blood, sweat, toil and tears" through which this and other nations would have to pass before the conclusion of hostilities. Indeed, while it is true that victory is in sight, no one knows how soon or how long it will take to achieve, and it is fitting that we should discuss 1899 some of the matters which have been raised to-day. We must not forget the fact that, while we have the right of criticism of any peace proposals, or peace conditions which will be agreed to in Europe, or Japan and throughout the world, unless this war is won it will be a dictated peace without this nation or the people of any other nation having any consideration or say as to what those proposals should be.
I have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) on numerous occasions in this House and in party meetings and conferences, and I have heard him in the country, but, as the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) rightly said, I have not, even during the darkest days of the war, heard him make a single suggestion as to how we could bring the war to a successful conclusion. The war has caused sorrow, suffering and sacrifice to many of us, and if we could see a way of bringing it to an end, we should do so to-morrow, but not as the result of a stalemate or indeed, of surrender. I wonder if my hon. Friend fully realises, if after what he has propagated and advocated for the last four or five years, the war ended in retaining Hitler in Germany with all the power he possesses, that the occupied countries of Europe, although handed back to their sovereign Governments, would be still under the economic domination of the 80,000,000 of people in Central Europe referred to by my hon. Friend.
I think we have said too little about one of the great issues of the war. While I would not yield to anybody in my zeal for democracy and freedom, I think that one of the great issues which affects this country as much as any other is the economic issue. Rightly or wrongly, the economy of this nation has been built upon export and import trade for a period of 100 or 150 years. What would be the economic condition of this country unless we could retain and indeed improve upon our pre-war export trade? We may talk of great reconstruction schemes—and I want to see not only a new Britain or a new Europe but a new world—but unless the economic basis of this country is right, and unless this war is won, I am afraid we shall not be able to fulfil the promises made to the people of our own country.
1900 This is the third day on which we have had a Debate on foreign affairs. A number of questions put to me to-day have been already covered in the very excellent speeches made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on Tuesday and Wednesday. There has been much criticism to-day about these Conferences, but I have not heard a single suggestion that the Conferences were not worth holding. They were worth holding. We have for the first time brought into conference representatives of the four great Powers of the world. They have been discussing, of course, in the first instance how to win the war.
Political matters were also discussed. My right hon. Friend could not disclose to the House very much about the military discussions, but he did point out, that as far as some of the political discussions are concerned, there is no ambiguity whatever with regard to them. My hon. Friend referred to the balance of power. That matter was fully dealt with by my right hon. Friend. He especially referred to the four great Powers acting together, but that did not exclude the smaller Powers, and indeed an invitation was extended to the smaller Powers to join the greater Powers in order to bring about in the world a situation such as my hon. Friend himself desires.
It is true he is concerned with the position of 80,000,000 people in Germany, as is my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall) and the hon. Member for Aylesbury, and also the position of the 90,000,000 people in Japan. As far as the European situation is concerned, I think it is generally admitted that it is impossible to bring about economic restoration in Europe if you leave out that great mass of population in the centre. But is not that one of the questions which the European Advisory Commission which is now sitting in London is considering? That Commission was set up as a result of the Moscow Conference; and while it is true that U.N.R.R.A., that organisation representative of almost all the nations of the world with the exception of the Axis Powers, has for its purpose the relief and rehabilitation of Europe during that period which has been so eloquently described by some of my hon. Friends—
§ Commander King-Hall
I am anxious not to misunderstand this. Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that the European Advisory Commission is charged with considering the future of German economy?
§ Mr. Hall
My understanding of the functions of the European Advisory Commission is that they are charged to consider almost any question with regard to peace problems which might arise when the war is over. I have no doubt that when it is required the position of Japan will also be considered in exactly the same way. I do beg my hon. Friend to understand that His Majesty's Government are endeavouring in every possible way to see that the sufferings shall be minimised to the smallest extent possible in the post-war years and will consider of course all the great economic and political problems which arise. My hon. Friend also referred to political propaganda. Of course consideration is still being given to political propaganda. It is impossible to disclose what is being done, but much is being done in connection with that matter, and it will continue to be done.
My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) made more than one reference to the terms of the Atlantic Charter. I can assure him that the terms of the Atlantic Charter are not whittled down in any way whatsoever by this nation or any other nation. It must be remembered that the Atlantic Charter was not issued by Britain alone. It was a joint declaration by Britain and America, which was afterwards approved by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and a number of other Allied nations. It would be inadvisable to attempt to put any glosses upon the Charter. The Charter was a statement of general principles which will guide any nation subscribing to it. It is not a specific treaty and its exact interpretation must often be sought in agreements between the States based on the general principles which it contains.
For instance, the Four-Power Declaration signed in Moscow on 30th October represented a more formal engagement on the part of the signatory bodies to follow certain policies after the war. Equally the Anglo-Russian Treaty of 26th May, 1942, committed Great Britain and the Soviet Union to certain definite courses of action. These and similar instruments are the means whereby the 1902 general principles of the Charter are being translated into more positive action, and they constitute one of, the main reasons why it is not possible for His Majesty's Government for their part to make any authoritative statement on the exact meaning of certain clauses of the Charter itself.
We should be deceiving ourselves if we did not take into account the economic difficulties which are likely to arise in Europe after the war. Our first efforts, as I have mentioned, should be directed by all means in our power to shortening the war, for the longer it goes on the more difficult the situation will become. Apart from that, there are certain preparations to meet immediate distress which we are now making together with our Allies. The first meeting of the Council of U.N.R.R.A. showed that there was very substantial agreement on measures to be taken in regard to relief and rehabilitation, and His Majesty's Government for their part are determined to do all in their power to combat distress and to ensure that the re-establishment of European economy as a whole, and principally that of our European Allies is effected at the earliest possible moment. We should not delude ourselves as to the enormous difficulties which will be in our way. But we may well reflect that there is an immense natural recuperative power in Europe generally, and when their countries have been relieved of the German incubus the free peoples of Europe are likely by their own exertions to assist greatly in remedying some of the obstacles which at the moment seem formidable enough.
My hon. Friend referred to the question of access to the resources of the British Empire. I want to repeat what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury. There are and have been no restrictions upon the purchase of raw materials in the Colonial Empire. Each country has had free access for this purpose—if, of course, it had the money to pay for its purchases—and I have no doubt that in the reconstruction of Europe and indeed the world, the British Colonial Empire, in common with the Dominions and Great Britain and our Allies, will make their full contribution towards relief and rehabilitation. As the result of the recent Conferences there still can be but one thought in the minds of all of us, and that is, What can we do to defeat the 1903 enemy as speedily as possible? For that effort we shall need all the courage and strength which have brought us safely through to this point. For there is no doubt there are still in store for us enormous difficulties, and great sacrifices will be asked for. The attainment of victory will be hastened only in proportion to our industry and our exertions. There must be no relaxation of our effort to accomplish this. After victory we can then move to the next stage with our minds open to new ideas, ready to grasp the possibilities of any new situation by bringing every kind of skill, economic, political, social, industrial and technical, to the solving of the international problems with which we shall then be faced. We can, I am convinced, restore peace, freedom and security to a war-weary world and establish social and economic justice for all the peoples of all that world.