§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. James Stuart.]
§ 11.21 a.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)
In opening this Debate I find myself in a position to read to the House again some extracts from the carefully considered statements that I made to them in February, after I had returned from Teheran, and also in October, of the present year. I rely upon those statements, and when I read them over again last night in preparation for this Debate I found it very difficult to improve upon them or alter them in any way. This may accuse me of infertility of mind, but it also gives me some confidence that I have not misled the House or felt myself stultified, in all respects at any rate, by the harsh and unforeseeable movement of events It is not often that one wishes to repeat what one said two months ago, and still less 10 months ago, but I propose to do so, because in no other way and in no other words that I can think of can I remind the House of and bring home to them the grim, bare bones of the Polish problem.
On 22nd February, I said:At Teheran I took occasion to raise personally with Marshal Stalin the question of the future of Poland and I pointed out that it was in fulfilment of our guarantee to Poland that Great Britain declared war upon Nazi Germany and that we had never weakened in our resolve, even in the period when we were all alone, and that the fate of the Polish nation holds a prime place in the thoughts and policies of His Majesty's Government and of the British Parliament. It was with great pleasure that I heard from Marshal Stalin that he, too, was resolved upon the creation and maintenance of a strong, integral independent Poland as one of the leading Powers in Europe. He has several times repeated these declarations in public and I am convinced that they represent the settled policy of the Soviet Union. Here I may remind the House that we ourselves have never in the past guaranteed, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, any particular frontier line to Poland. We did not approve of the Polish occupation of Vilna in 1920. The British view in 1919 stands expressed in the so-called Curzon Line which attempted to deal, at any rate partially, with the problem. I have always held the opinion that all questions of territorial settlement and re-adjustment should stand over until the end of the war and that the victorious Powers should then arrive at formal and final agreements governing the articulation of Europe 1479 as a whole. That is still the wish of His Majesty's Government. However, the advance of the Russian Armies into Polish regions in which the Polish underground army is active makes it indispensable that some kind of friendly working agreement should be arrived at to govern the war-time conditions and to enable all anti-Hitlerite forces to work together with the greatest advantage against the common foe.During the last few weeks"—I may remind the House that I was speaking on 22nd February—the Foreign Secretary and I together have laboured with the Polish Government in London with the object of establishing a working arrangement upon which the Fighting Forces can act, and upon which, I trust, an increasing structure of good will and comradeship may be built between Russians and Poles. I have an intense sympathy with the Poles, that heroic race whose national spirit centuries of misfortune cannot quench, but I also have sympathy with the Russian stand-point. Twice in our lifetime Russia has been violently assaulted by Germany. Many millions of Russians have been slain and vast tracts of Russian soil devastated as a result of repeated German aggression. Russia has the right of reassurance against future attacks from the West, and we are going all the way with her to see that she gets it, not only by the might of her arms but by the approval and assent of the United Nations. The liberation of Poland may presently be achieved by the Russian Armies after these Armies have suffered millions of casualties in breaking the German military machine. I cannot feel that the Russian demand for a reassurance about her Western frontiers goes beyond limits of what is reasonable or just. Marshal Stalin and I also spoke and agreed upon the need for Poland to obtain compensation at the expense of Germany both in the north and in the west."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1944; Vol. 397, c. 698.]I said that nearly a year ago. I have nothing to alter in it from the point of view of His Majesty's Government. On 27th October, more recently, I reported upon my last visit to Moscow and I said:The most urgent and burning question was of course that of Poland, and here again, I speak words of hope, of hope reinforced by confidence.I am afraid this does not hold in the same degree at the present time.To abandon hope in this matter would indeed be to surrender to despair. In this sphere there are two crucial issues. The first is the question of the Eastern frontier of Poland with Russia and the Curzon Line, as it is called, and the new territories to be added to Poland in the north and in the west. That is the first issue. The second is the relation of the Polish Government with the Lublin National Liberation Committee. On these two points, apart from many subsidiary and 1480 ancillary points, we held a series of conferences with both parties. …I wish I could tell the House that we had reached a solution of these problems. It is certainly not for want of trying. I am quite sure, however, that we have got a great deal nearer to the solution of both.—I say that this-part is subject to some review in the light of events—I hope Mr. Mikolajczyk will soon return to Moscow, and it will be a great disappointment to all the sincere friends of Poland, if a good arrangement cannot be made which will enable him to form a Polish Government on Polish soil—a Government recognised by all the great Powers concerned, and indeed by all those Governments of the United Nations which now recognise only the Polish Government in London. Although I do not underrate the difficulties which remain, it is a comfort to feel that Britain and Soviet Russia, and I do not doubt the United States, are all firmly agreed in the re-creation of a strong, free, independent, sovereign Poland loyal to the Allies and friendly to her great neighbour and liberator, Russia. Speaking more particularly for His Majesty's Government it is our persevering and constant aim that the Polish people, after their suffering and vicissitudes, shall find in Europe an abiding home and resting place, which, though it may not entirely coincide or correspond with the pre-war frontiers of Poland, will nevertheless be adequate for the needs of the Polish nation and not inferior in character and quality, taking the picture as a whole, to what they previously possessed.These are critical days and it would be a great pity if time were wasted in indecision or in protracted negotiation. If the Polish Government had taken the advice we tended them at the beginning of this year, the additional complication produced by the formation of the Polish National Committee of Liberation at Lublin would not have arisen, and anything like a prolonged delay in the settlement can only have the effect of increasing the division between Poles in Poland and also of hampering the common action which the Poles, the Russians and the rest of the Allies are taking against Germany. Therefore, as I say, I hope that no time will he lost in continuing these discussions and pressing them to an effective conclusions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1944; Vol. 404, c. 494–5.]The hopes which I thought it proper, and indeed necessary, to express in October, have faded. When Mr. Mikolajczyk left Moscow my hope was that he would return within a week or so with the authority of the Polish Government in London to agree about the Polish frontiers on the basis of the Curzon Line and its prolongation to the Southward called "the Curzon Line A", which comprises, on the Russian side, the city of Lvov. I have several times drawn Mr. Mikolajczyk's attention to the dangers of delay. Had he been able to return after 1481 the very friendly conversations which passed between him and Marshal Stalin, and also the conversations which he had with the Lublin National Liberation Committee; had he been able to return, with the assent of his colleagues, I believe that the difficulties inherent in the forming of a Polish Government in harmony with the Lublin Committee, might well have been overcome. In that case he would be at this moment at the head of a Polish Government, on Polish soil, recognised by all the United Nations, and awaiting the advance of the Russian Armies moving farther into Poland as the country was delivered from the Germans. He would also be assured in his task of the friendship and help of Marshal Stalin. Thus he could at every stage have established a good relationship between the Polish underground movement and the advancing Russians, and a Polish Administration would have been set up by him in the newly delivered regions as they expanded.
I have the greatest respect for M. Mikolajczyk, and for his able colleagues who joined us at Moscow, Mr. Romer and Mr. Grabski. I am sure they are more qualified to fill the place of the late General Sikorski than any other of the Polish leaders. After endless discussions, into some of which we were drawn, on Mr. Mikolajczyk's return from Moscow the Poles utterly failed to obtain agreement. In consequence, on 24th November, Mr. Mikolajczyk, Mr. Romer and a number of other Polish Ministers resigned from the Polish Government, which has been almost entirely reconstituted in a form which in some respects I certainly am not able to applaud. Mr. Mikolajczyk and his friends remain, in the view of His Majesty's Government, the only light which burns for Poland in the immediate future.
Just as I said that if the Polish Government had agreed, in the early part of this year, upon the frontier there never would have been any Lublin Committee to which Soviet Russia had committed herself, so I now say that if Mr. Mikolajczyk could swiftly have returned to Moscow early in November, as he hoped and expected to do, with the power to conclude an agreement on the frontier line, Poland might now have taken her full place in the ranks of the nations contending against Germany, and would have had the full support and friendship of Marshal Stalin and the Soviet Government. That oppor- 1482 tunity, too, has been, for the time being, suspended. This prospect has vanished like the last. One is reminded of the story of the Sybilline books, in which on every occasion the price remained the same and the number of volumes decreased, until at last they had to be bought on the most unfavourable terms. Mr. Mikolajczyk's ordeal has been a most severe and painful one. Torn between the love of his country and the intense desire to reach a settlement with her mighty neighbour, which was most abhorrent to many of his fellow-countrymen, confronted with the obstinate and inflexible resistance of his London colleagues, whose veto was like the former Liberum Veto, which played so great a part in the ruin of Poland, with these circumstances around him, Mr. Mikolajczyk decided to resign. Almost a month has passed since then, and now I imagine that the prospects of a reconciliation between the Polish Government and the Lublin Committee, with the Soviet Government behind them, have definitely receded; although they might perhaps advance again were Mr. Mikolajczyk able to speak with authority for the fortunes of the Polish nation.
The consequences of this rescission of hopes of a working agreement between Russia and the Poles have been masked to British eyes by the fact that the Russian Armies on the long Vistula front have been motionless, but when they move forward, as move forward they surely will, and the Germans are expelled from large new tracts of Poland, the area administered by the Lublin Committee will grow, and its contacts with the Soviet Government will become more intimate and strong. I do not know what misfortunes will attend such a development. The absence of an agreement may well be grievous for Poland, and the relationship and misunderstandings between the advancing Russian Armies and the Polish underground movement may take forms which will be most painful to all who have the permanent well-being of Poland and her relationship with Russia at heart. The fact that a Prime Minister resigns and that a new Government is formed does not, of course, affect the formal diplomatic relationship between States. We still recognise the Polish Government in London as the Government of Poland, as we have done since they reached our shores in the early part of this war. This course has been continued up to the 1483 present by all the rest of the United Nations, excepting only Russia which is the Power most concerned and the Power whose Armies will first enter the heart of Poland. It is a source of grief to me that all these forces could not have been joined together more speedily against the common foe.
I cannot accept the view that the arrangements which have to be proposed about the frontiers of the new Poland are not solid and satisfactory, or that they would not give to Poland that "abiding home" of which I spoke to the House in February. If Poland concedes Lvov and the surrounding regions in the South, on the line known as Curzon Line A, which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will deal with in more detail later on in the Debate—if Poland makes this concession and these lands are joined to the Ukraine, she will gain in the North the whole of East Prussia West and South of the fortress of Koenigsberg, including the great city and port of Danzig, one of the most magnificent cities and harbours in the whole of the world, famous for centuries as a great gathering place of the trade of the Baltic, and, indeed, of the world. This will be hers instead of the threatened and artificial Corridor, which was built so laboriously after the last war, and Poland will stretch broadly along the Baltic on a front of over 200 miles. The Poles are free, so far as Russia and Great Britain are concerned, to extend their territory, at the expense of Germany, to the West. I do not propose to go into exact details, but the extensions, which will be supported by Britain and Russia, bound together as they are by the 20 years' Alliance, are of high importance. Thus, they gain in the West and the North territories more important and more highly developed than they lose in the East. We hear that a third of Poland is to be conceded, but I must mention that that third includes the vast track of the Pripet Marshes, a most desolate region, which, though it swells the acreage, does not add to the wealth of those who own it.
Thus I have set before the House what is, in outline, the offer which the Russians, on whom the main burden of liberation still falls, make to the Polish people. I cannot believe that such an 1484 offer should be rejected by Poland. It would, of course, have to be accompanied by the disentanglement of populations in the East and in the North. The transference of several millions of people would have to be effected from the East to the West or North, as well as the expulsion of the Germans—because that is what is proposed: the total expulsion of the Germans—from the area to be acquired by Poland in the West and the North. For expulsion is the method which, so far as we have been able to see, will be the most satisfactory and lasting. There will be no mixture of populations to cause endless trouble, as has been the case in Alsace-Lorraine. A clean sweep will be made. I am not alarmed by the prospect of the disentanglement of populations, nor even by these large transferences, which are more possible in modern conditions than they ever were before.
The disentanglement of populations which took place between Greece and Turkey after the last war—my noble Friend opposite may remember—was in many ways a success, and has produced friendly relations between Greece and Turkey ever since. That disentanglement, which at first seemed impossible of achievement, and about which it was said that it would strip Turkish life in Anatolia of so many necessary services, and that the extra population could never be assimilated or sustained by Greece having regard to its own area and population—I say that disentanglement solved problems which had before been the causes of immense friction, of wars and of rumours of wars. Nor do I see why there should not be room in Germany for the German populations of East Prussia and of the other territories I have mentioned. After all, 6,000,000 or 7,000,000 Germans have been killed already in this frightful war, into which they did not hesitate, for a second time in a generation, to plunge all Europe. At the present time, we are told that they have 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 prisoners or foreigners used as slaves in Germany, who will, we hope, be restored to their own homes and lands when victory is gained. Moreover, we must expect that many more Germans will be killed in the fighting which will occupy the spring and summer and which we must expect will involve the largest and fiercest battles yet fought in this war. 1485 When these ideas, which arose at the Teheran Conference, were first foreshadowed by me to the House, the British and American Armies had not landed on the Continent. France was not liberated. She was powerless, not like now when she is rising with great rapidity to a strong and fine position among the nations of the world. The Armies of General Eisenhower did not stand along the Rhine when these matters were discussed. They were still gathering in this island, not along the Rhine, where they are now growing in strength as the waves of American manhood cross the Atlantic and take their places in the crusade and in the line of battle. Nor had the Russians advanced to the Vistula; vast distances separated them even from the frontiers of Poland. Nor was one large German army cut off in Courland, the peninsula which has Memel and Libau at its base. Nor was there that great position which the Russian Armies held in the extreme North, with their right hand, nor was their left hand reaching out beyond Budapest in the South, threatening an advance into the very heart of Austria. Nor had Rome been occupied, nor the Apennines pierced.
In those days, the Poles might well have had some show of reason in asking whether the great Allies would have the power, even if they were so minded, to deliver the new territories to Poland which were to compensate her for what she was giving up in the East, but the situation has changed vastly in favour of the Allies, and it seems to me extremely unlikely that, after the spring and summer campaigns have been fought, if it be necessary to go so far in the business—and we shall go whatever distance is necessary to complete our object—it seems extremely unlikely that the evil and hateful forces in Germany, who plotted, planned and began this war, will have the power to resist the decisions of a peace or armistice conference, at which the principal victorious Powers will be assembled. The prospects of final victory have, in the time that has passed since these matters were first discussed at Teheran, become for the Allies solid and spacious. Therefore, as I say, it has always been said by the Poles, when I have been discussing the matter with them here, "We know what we have to give up; what certainty have we of receiving compensation in other quarters?" They have much more 1486 certainty of it now than at this time last year. In fact, I cannot see any doubt whatever that the Great Powers, if they agree, can effect the transference of population.
I find great difficulty in discussing these matters, because the attitude of the United States has not been defined with the precision which His Majesty's Government have thought it wise to use. The friendship of the United States Government for Poland, no less than our own, the large mass of Poles who have made their homes in the United States, and are, or are becoming, American citizens, the constitutional difficulties of the United States in making treaties and foreign agreements of every kind—all these have not enabled the Government of that great nation to speak in the terms which I have thought it my duty, with the assent of my colleagues, to use in this House. We know, however, that the Government and people of the United States have set their hearts upon a world organisation to prevent the outbreak of future wars, and that this world organisation will be fatally ruptured by a quarrel between any of the three most powerful Empires which compose the Grand Alliance of the United Nations. The President is aware of everything that has passed and of all that is in the minds both of the Russians and of the British. He had, at Moscow, in Mr. Averell Harriman, the U.S. Ambassador, a most accomplished representative, who in the capacity of observer was present at all, or nearly all, of our Polish talks on the occasion of our last visit. The President has, therefore, been kept fully informed, not only by His Majesty's Government, but also by his own highly competent and distinguished representatives, and by all the many sources and channels that are open to the unceasing vigilance of the State Department.
I am particularly careful not ever to pretend to speak in the name of any other Power unless so directed before-hand, and I hope the House will make allowances for the care with which I pick my words upon this point. All I can say is that I have received no formal disagreement in all these long months upon the way in which the future of Poland seems to be shaping itself—or is being shaped—but no doubt when the time comes the United States will make their own pronouncement on these matters, 1487 bearing in mind, as they will, the practical aspect which they assume and also that failure on the part of the three greatest Powers to work together would damage all our hopes for a future structure, a world government which, whatever else it may fail to do, will at any rate be equipped with all the powers necessary to prevent the outbreak of further war.
It is asked, Why cannot all questions of territorial changes be left over till the end of the war? I think that is a most pertinent question and it is, in fact, the answer which I and the Foreign Secretary gave in almost every case that has been presented to us. Well, Sir, I understand the argument. The armies, it is said, may move here and there, their front may advance or recede, this country or that may be in occupation of this space of ground or the other, but it is at the peace table alone that the permanent destiny of any land or people will be decided. Why cannot that be said in this case? It can be said in every case, or almost every case, except in that of Poland. So why should Poland be excepted from this general rule? It is only for Polish advantage and to avoid great evils which might occur. The Russian Armies—I know nothing of their intentions, I am speaking only of what is obvious to anyone who studies the war map—will probably, during the early part of next year, traverse large areas of Poland, driving the Germans before them. If, during those marches, fierce quarrels and fighting break out between large sections of the Polish population and the Russian troops, very great suffering—which can still be avoided—will infallibly occur, and new poisoned wounds will be inflicted upon those who must dwell side by side in peace, confidence and good neighbourliness if the tranquillity of Europe is to be assured or the smooth working of the world organisation for the maintenance of peace is to be created and maintained.
All these matters are among the most serious which could possibly be examined as far as our present lights allow. Our British principle has been enunciated that, as I have said, all territorial changes must await the conference at the peace table after the victory has been won, but to that principle there is one exception, and that exception is, changes mutually agreed. It must not be forgotten that in 1488 the Atlantic Charter is I think inserted the exception that there should be no changes before the peace table except those mutually agreed. I am absolutely convinced that it is in the profound future interest of the Polish nation that they should reach agreement with the Soviet Government about their disputed frontiers in the East before the march of the Russian Armies through the main part of Poland takes place. That is the great gift they have to make to Russia, a settlement now at this time which gives the firm title of mutual agreement to what might otherwise be disputed at the Peace Conference. I must, however, say, because I am most anxious the House should understand the whole position, speaking on behalf of His Majesty's Government in a way which I believe would probably be held binding by our successors, that at the Conference we shall adhere to the lines which I am now unfolding to the House, and shall not hesitate to proclaim that the Russians are justly treated, and rightly treated, in being granted the claim they make to the Eastern frontiers along the Curzon Line as described.
The Foreign Secretary and I have laboured for many months, we have spared no labour of travel, no risk of political rebuff and consequent censure, in our effort to bring about that good understanding between the Poland whom we still recognise and the mighty Ally which has so heavily smitten the German military power. We have never weakened in any way in our resolve that Poland shall be restored and stand erect as a sovereign, independent nation, free to model her social institutions or any other institutions in any way her people choose, provided, I must say, that these are not on Fascist lines, and provided that Poland stands loyally as a barrier and friend of Russia against German aggression from the West. And in this task, of course, Poland will be aided to the full by a Russian and British guarantee and assistance and will also, I cannot doubt, though I cannot declare, be aided by the United States acting at least through the world organisation which we are determined to erect—that she and the whole of the United Nations are determined to erect—for the salvation of mankind toiling here below from the horrors of repeated war.
Another great war, especially an ideological war, fought as it would be not only 1489 on frontiers but in the heart of every land with weapons far more destructive than men have yet wielded, would spell the doom, perhaps for many centuries, of such civilisation as we have been able to erect since history began to be written. It is that peril which, according to the best judgment of this National Government of all parties, which has so lately renewed its troth to stand together for the duration of the war against Germany—it is that peril that we have laboured and are striving sincerely and faithfully to ward off. Other powerful States are with us on each side, more powerful States perhaps even than the British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations. We can only try our best, and if we cannot solve the problem we can at least make sure that it is faced in all its sombre magnitude while time remains.
I have spoken of fading hopes and of disappointment at the failure to reach a Russo-Polish Agreement, but there has been another disappointment. It has been impossible to arrange any meeting of the three Great Powers. We had good grounds for believing that we might have met before Christmas. Indeed, I confidently expected that we should, but so far, however, although the prospect is earnestly looked forward to, nothing definite has been settled. Therefore, the strong, authoritative, if provisional decisions which are now required, not only on the Russo-Polish question, but on a host of vital matters, political, international, military and economic, apart from such progress as can be made by correspondence and individual visits, stand at the bar and wait. There ought to be a meeting at least of the three great Powers at the earliest possible moment. So far as I and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary are concerned, we can only repeat what has been said so often, that we will proceed to any place at any time, under any conditions, where we can meet the heads of our two chief Allies, and we should welcome, above all, a meeting in this island, a meeting in Great Britain, which has waged war from the very outset and has risked, without flinching, national annihilation in the cause of freedom.
§ 12.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)
The Prime Minister has spoken with a frankness for which I am sure the House will be 1490 grateful, and for which all those who, in a much humbler way, have been trying to bring about a reconciliation between Russia and Poland will be especially grateful. His vast knowledge of the issues involved in the maintenance of international peace after this war, his knowledge of those conditions, which are dependent upon the maintenance of an alliance between the three great Powers and, subsidiary to that, good Russo-Polish relations, are matters which we know he holds very dearly, as does everyone in the House who thinks about them. I feel very deeply the tragedy of the situation that has arisen between Russia and Poland, and I do not want to say anything which will make that situation worse. I also hope that hon. Members below the Gangway, on the opposite side of the House, who, I know, have many friends in Poland, and who espouse the Polish cause, will also say nothing which will make the situation worse.
But it is as well occasionally to speak a little frankly, as the Prime Minister has rightly done to-day. In regard to the meeting of the three great Powers, to which he referred in his closing remarks, I hope that the Prime Minister will not risk his health in going abroad again, as he did last year. I hope that it will be possible to induce Marshal Stalin, or some nominee of his, to come out of Russia and meet, if possible, in this country. When we last discussed the Russo-Polish situation in September we hoped that the elements in Poland friendly to Russia would be able to bring about a reconciliation on these important matters. But, alas, I fear that the spirit of Pilsudski still broods over the Council Chamber of the Polish Government in London. There are two great national characteristics which the Poles have; the first is unexampled bravery, and the second is complete inability to get out of the world of make-believe in which they love to live. It was their undoing in the 18th century, and it led to the partition which bedevilled European politics for over a century. This is the world of make-believe in which some Poles, I do not say all, are living to-day. They think they can perpetuate that highly artificial and quite temporary predominance, both military and diplomatic, which they enjoyed in Eastern Europe 1491 between the two wars. At that time Russia was passing through her "troublous time," as she has done before in her past history, and was weak, but now, of course, that period has passed and Russia has become once more, as she has been in the past, a great military power in Europe. A whole system of French Alliances after the last war was built up on the assumption that Russia did not count, and that Poland and Czechoslovakia were the lynch pin of the system which was then built up. That system collapsed with Munich, but I fear that some Poles still do not realise that fact. They still think that Russia can be kept back in the East and remain a weak Power, and that the Polish Eastern frontier can stretch far towards the Eastern Baltic and the Black Sea.
Moreover, I am very much afraid that there are those in the Polish Government in London who think they can utilise two possible factors to attain their ends. They hope to mobilize Roman Catholic opinion throughout the world, and to obtain the diplomatic support of the Vatican, but, more serious than that, they are stipulating on a possible development of friction between ourselves and Russia, and between the United States and Russia. I think it is time to speak a little bluntly. Our patience in this country is not altogether inexhaustible. We have been treated for years to cataracts of propaganda from Polish sources, printed on paper the like of which we have not seen since the beginning of the war for our own use, much of which has tried to create the impression that, although Germany may be the enemy now, Russia will be the enemy in the future. It is argued that these frontier questions ought to be put off until after the war. I think the Prime Minister has answered that very well to-day. If it is possible to bring about agreement by consent there is nothing to prevent it. Moreover, what reason is there why there should not be agreement on the Eastern frontier question? The Curzon Line, if looked at from the point of view of the racial and religious aggregations of population in that area, is obviously the soundest and most commonsense line. I know it is argued that people in those disputed territories do not speak Russian. I knew those territories well during the last war, and I know that the population there do not speak Great Rus- 1492 sian but speak White Russian and Ukrainian. They certainly do not speak Polish, or only a minority do; and as for their religious persuasion, they are Greek Orthodox, with a minority in the Uniate church, which accepts the Eastern liturgy and the authority of the Pope, but these are only a minority and are mainly Eastern Galicians. I happen to be one of the few, I think perhaps the only Englishman, except Sir Bernard Pares, who is now in America, who was with the Russian Army during the last war when they occupied Eastern Galicia, when General Brusiloff defeated the Austrians at the battle of Rawa Ruska and very soon after came into Lvov. There is no question that Lvov is mainly a Polish town—I am quite prepared to grant that—and on this particular matter I should like to see the Russians give way and compromise, provided the Poles recognise themselves that the people in the rural area round there are Ukrainian to a man and that Russia is entitled to a frontier across the Carpathians adjacent with Czechoslovakia.
There, I think, is a basis of compromise. I have reason to think the Russians might be reasonable on this provided they knew that they had a Polish Government friendly to Russia to deal with, but unfortunately they still do not think they have. I know that there are elements in Poland who have been trying, sincerely I think, to bring about an understanding. Such is the Polish Socialist Party and the party to which I belong are in close contact with it, but unfortunately they are so hag-ridden by fears of Communism, seeing a Communist round every corner, that their judgment is, I am afraid, far too often deflected by those fears. Then, of course, there is the Peasant Party of Mr. Mikolajczyk, for whom everyone has the greatest respect, and I think that is the party which is more inclined to and ready to make a settlement than any other. Moreover, they have hitherto shown great interest in and desire for agrarian reforms in Poland, which have gone on in a desultory manner for the last 20 years but are still far from complete. Indeed, it is a tragedy that the internal conditions in Poland have helped to make the international situation more and more difficult. There is no question that Poland was ripe for big agrarian reforms, as Russia was ripe for them and got those reforms in her revolution. Russia went very far, but in Poland they hardly went 1493 any distance at all. Under the so-called Nieswicz Agreement Pilsudski came to an understanding with the big landlords which partially suspended agrarian reforms, but meanwhile the big landlords got increased subsidies and tariffs. But the Polish peasants remained in the most poverty-stricken conditions. I understand that 64 per cent. of the Polish peasants have no more than 12 acres. Between the wars only a little more than 2,000,000 hectares were distributed to those peasants, which is a mere faction of what the Lubin Committee are now proposing to give them.
The Lublin Committee have set themselves up in the occupied part of Poland and are apparently preparing to be the Polish Government. I want to be frank and say that I do not consider them to be fully representative. They represent a very important element, certainly, but not everybody, and it would be the wise thing, if it were possible, to get other elements to join them. If the Lublin Government is not fully representative in its personalities, by its actions, at least, it shows itself very representative of the age-long desires of the Polish peasants and that is the thing to remember. The agrarian reforms which the Lublin Committee are proposing and are going some way to carry into effect meet this demand of the Polish peasants. Moreover, according to all the information which comes to me, it is a falsehood to say that they are indiscriminately collectivising the land there. Of that there is no evidence at all; the peasants are having their existing holdings increased. It seems to be a perennial tragedy that the Poles throughout their history have had their great reforms carried out by foreigners. That is not generally known. For instance, chattel slavery in Poland was abolished by Napoleon and by the Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia, and it was the Russian Tsar Alexander II who emancipated the serfs, who in 1864 were a very large part of the population of what is now Poland. The Poles themselves fought heroically in the great rebellion of 1863 for a freedom which they could not give themselves. That is the tragedy with Poland, and the same thing applies to-day. It is the Lublin Committee which, under Russian influence, I fear, is doing what the Poles ought to be doing themselves.
1494 What is to be done? The Polish Government in London is, I believe, fast losing its hold on the situation in Poland. It may still have a romantic appeal for those Poles who are in exile, but it cannot live on that. I do not know what Mr. Mikolajczyk and his Peasant Party intend to do, but I feel that unless he comes to some terms with the Lublin Committee he will very soon "miss the bus." In that case what will be the use of our continuing to recognise the Polish Government in London? The withdrawal of our recognition of the Polish Government in London is not a step which we could contemplate with any pleasure, having regard to the gallant units of the Polish Army and other Forces that are fighting over here; but the sands are running out. It looks as if we are witnessing once more a Polish tragedy, because the Poles are a people, it seems, who are capable only of grasping a shadow and losing a substance.
§ 12.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Raikes (Essex, South-East)
It is not a pleasant task to be obliged on this occasion to take an entirely divergent line from that taken by the Prime Minister. I feel bound to say openly that I believe—and that is why I am speaking—that the whole future peace of the world depends beyond all else upon a freely negotiated agreement between Poland and Russia. I use the words "freely negotiated" and I underline them. I have listened to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. What is the picture before us to-day? We are faced with a Poland which has been devastated by years of war, a Poland which we guaranteed—though not its exact frontiers—in 1939, a Poland that is asked to-day to hand away practically half her territory, territory which was agreed to by Russia herself under the Treaty of Riga, first in 1920 and then again in the 1930s. I could not help wondering while the Prime Minister was speaking what would have been said if, during the great days of 1940, when Britain stood alone with her honour untarnished, the one hope of civilisation in the world, any hon. or right hon. Member had got up and said "Of course the guarantee of Poland does not mean more than that when Poland regains her liberty she will have at least half of her former area." I wonder what the people of this country would have said at that time, when Polish airmen, almost 1495 alone among those of the nations of the world, were dying by the side of our men in the Battle of Britain, when Polish troops, alone of any troops in the world at that time, were fighting beside us on every battle front.
§ Mr. Woodburn (Clackmannan and Stirling, Eastern)
I agree that it would be desirable to have an agreement, but if people will not agree to give up anything there cannot be agreements. If two parties want to get agreement each must give up something—[HON. MEMBERS: "Each"]—but the hon. Member has gone further and said that in 1939 we guaranteed Poland, and that no hon. Members in this House doubted whether we had the ability to enforce that guarantee.
§ Mr. Raikes
I was referring to the fact that it was obvious in 1939 that Poland, although guaranteed, would be overrun, but I challenge the hon. Member or anybody else to say that it was not the view of practically everybody in this country that by challenging the might of the aggressor Poland, though at first defeated, would be restored to her former greatness after an Allied victory. What was the position at Moscow? The Prime Minister dealt very sketchily with the Moscow conversations, and I propose, therefore, to go into them in a little more detail, because it is just as well to know how these romantic Poles feel who are accused of demanding the impossible. Mr. Mikolajczyk, for whom I have the highest admiration, went to Moscow under great difficulties. There was the background of Eastern Poland, already occupied by Russian troops, the background of Eastern Poland already being treated as Russian territory without any agreement, mutual or otherwise.
It was with that background that M. Mikolajczyk went to Moscow. What are the terms—the Foreign Secretary will correct me if I make any mis-statement of facts, which is the last thing I should desire or intend to do. First, we understand that the Polish Government were told categorically that they had to give up all territories East of the Curzon Line, and that at once—at once. There was no question of a demarkation line until hostilities were over, but those territories were to be given up at once. Those territories 1496 included 33 per cent. of the Polish population and 47 per cent. of the pre-war territory of Poland. It was rather a big bite. Secondly, the Polish Government in London were to amalgamate with the Lublin Government. I think we might sweep away at any rate one subterfuge. Neither the British Government, nor the Russian Government, nor the Polish Government regard Lublin as anything else but a fake. M. Mikolajczyk was told I understand at Moscow, first, that in this amalgamation Lublin must have 75 per cent. of the representation of the Polish Government and the rest of the parties 25 per cent. I believe it was indicated that if a proper arrangement could be made, if M. Mikolajczyk was sufficiently accommodating it might be worked out on a 50–50 basis—a good old British compromise. I wonder what the Prime Minister and his Government would say if it was suggested by a foreign Power that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) should have a 50-50 representation.
§ Mr. Raikes
Judging by the representation of the Communist Party in the Polish Parliament in the years between 1920 and 1929 I think, on the whole, the comparison is an apt one, but I am not going to be drawn away by a red herring.
§ Mr. Raikes
There is nothing very red about it except the Lublin Committee. Regarding these two reciprocal offers to which the Prime Minister referred as compensation for the Poles, all I say is that the offer of East Prussia means East Prussia without Konigsberg, without Pilau, the fortress of Konigsberg which would dominate the Gulf of Gdynia and also control the Port of Dantzig. As regards the offer of German lands to the Oder, it is easy enough to consider on the map depopulating millions of people. But does the House appreciate what that means—4,000,000 Poles East of the Curzon Line dragged from the homes in which they have lived for generations, 4,000,000 Ukrainians left to be Russian citizens, whether they wish it or not, and 5,000,000 Germans again forced from 1497 their homes and transferred to Western Germany? What a sum of human misery. I do not know that the basis of the settlement of a new world after the war would be improved by removing 5,000,000 Germans from one side of the Oder to the other, not the sort of settlement the Atlantic Charter proposed to stand for in the days before the Atlantic Charter had become merely a ghost and that ghost was laid to-day finally by the Prime Minister.
I believe that the error that has been made throughout the negotiations with the Soviet has been the assumption that the Soviet will get angry and annoyed if you talk to them in tough language. There is not the least question of any Polish Government being intransigent if there is one real gesture of friendship from Marshal Stalin. It is more important for Poland to be friendly to Russia than it is to Russia to have a friendly Poland but we can, I think, ask that it should not all be given by the small State and all take by the big State. Supposing this Government, even at the present stage—and Governments do listen to one of the few free Parliaments left in the world—speaks out boldly with the strength of the British Parliament behind it and talks to Moscow in terms of free negotiation and a fair and reasonable deal in which concessions are to be made by both sides and not only by one, we might achieve much. Certainly we would play a very much more satisfactory part for Poland than we are playing at present.
There is one thing that I deeply regret. Many people may feel that M. Mikolajczyk is the ablest Prime Minister Poland has had, but the differentiation between the degree of help likely to be given by our Government to the present Polish Government as compared to the last was an unfortunate phrase on the part of the Prime Minister of England. If we could shoulder the present Polish Government and merely back M. Mikolajczyk and the Government of which he is a member we should allow the Prime Minister to turn into a "king-maker" like the Earl of Warwick in the 15th century. I do not think it will pay in the long run for the Government of this country to be strongly partisan in regard to the personalities in Cabinets formed by 1498 friendly Allied Powers who have a right to select their own Ministers as they will. We have still before us an unsettled Russian-Polish problem. I think it can still be settled but it will only be dealt with effectively if Great Britain is prepared to raise her voice as she has done in the past as a great supporter of international morality and honourable dealing. May I remind the Foreign Secretary of words spoken 100 years ago by a Foreign Secretary, perhaps even greater than he is, Lord Palmerston?I hold that the real policy of England is to be the champion of justice and right. As long as England keeps herself in the right, as long as she wishes to permit no injustice, as long as she sympathises with right and justice, she will never find herself altogether alone.That principle has been the foundation of our greatness as a nation, that principle has given us the moral leadership of Europe. When we became weak, when Ministers have found themselves in the past obliged to stand up feebly without a policy, with the hands of irresolution fumbling up and down the sleeves of uncertainty, then the power of Britain for good in the world has diminished and faded. I hope the Foreign Secretary to-day and in the time that lies ahead will take a little of the vigour, the fire and the buoyancy of the great Lord Palmerston, and play his part in talking strongly and firmly to the great nations of Europe and by doing justice to the weak lay the foundations of a new world in which there will be peace and freedom and honour.
§ 12.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
I think the hon. Member is refusing to face the facts. He is not looking at the world at all as it is at present. I think the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary in their negotiations with the leaders of the other great Powers have done the very thing that he asks. They have struggled and used their influence to secure just what he himself wants to achieve. I do not think the best way is to have Debates in this House. It is much better to have confidence in the known views of the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary so that they may do all they possibly can to secure the results the hon. Member wants. He has made, as is so easy in these circumstances, an emotional and sentimental speech. There 1499 is an immense amount of emotion and sentiment about the Poles. We all have the most profound admiration for the unforgettable deeds that they have performed in the war. They are, as a race, brave, attractive, talented and romantic. They have a keen historic sense and they have long memories—and they have something to remember, their grievances in the long past and in recent days too. But sometimes we have to teach ourselves to forget certain things and not bear them in mind too long.
One thing that the Poles have not had is the opportunity in recent years of practising democracy. We, in this island, have been more fortunate. We have been able to bring it very near to perfection, but they have not had that opportunity. I believe they desire to attain true democracy after the war. I was in a Parliamentary delegation which visited the Polish Army in France in May, 1940, just before the great storm began. I attended a great open air service on Sunday near Nancy. The whole Polish Army was there with the President and the Commander-in-Chief, and the Chaplain General preached, from a pulpit made up of boughs, what appeared to me to be a most eloquent sermon in Polish. I could not understand it, but I ascertained afterwards that it was a plea not only for Polish victory but for a victory for Polish democracy. I thought that was a true and impressive account of what we were fighting for.
If one is a friend of Poland I do not think that necessarily means that one must encourage them to pursue a path which one thinks will lead them to disaster. Surely a friend can speak frankly and give advice even if it is not altogether palatable. We have to face the facts as they are. First of all, there is no hope for a strong and independent Poland without a real and cordial friendship with Russia. One can understand Russian suspicion and their doubt as to the good will of certain sections of the Poles. We know that there is a great deal of anti-Soviet feeling, and the Russians have to be reassured that any Polish Government after the war will be genuinely friendly with them. But I go further, and say that not only does the whole fate of Poland depend on Russian good will but the whole fate of Europe and 1500 the world depends on the cordial and genuine co-operation of the three great Powers. If that fails, all fails and the war will come to an end only as a preparation for another struggle later on. That was the foundation at Dumbarton Oaks on which the new world organisation was, rightly to my mind, to be built up. There has been some comment on the undecided question of the veto of the great Powers. Theoretically I should have thought there was everything to be said against it, but in practice I should have thought there was a great deal to be said for it because, if you once get to a stage where these three great Powers cannot settle their difference by agreement and are contemplating action of some kind, the whole thing comes to an end.
I should prefer to see the old Polish boundaries restored after the war. It is natural for Poles to desire that, and for the friends of Poland too, but time has marched on, events have changed and it is a wholly impracticable solution at present. If any attempt is made to insist on that, they may lose all. The hon. Member wants to restore Poland to her former greatness, but his policy would very likely destroy Poland altogether. That is the danger that we have to face. I know that some of my hon. Friends are inclined to say that Poland is going to be Sovietised in any case. I do not take that view. I believe that the Russian Government are not particularly interested in Communists outside Russia and have no desire to set up their own system in Poland if it is a friendly country. It may be a capitalist or a Socialist system, but I do not believe they have any intention of insisting that it should be a Soviet system. They have given no indication in Rumania and other places that that is their policy. It is a great mistake to assume that Marshal Stalin's enthusiasm for Communism is unbounded, and I do not think we ought to assume that he has any designs on the Sovietisation of Poland.
I cannot help regretting that the policy of this distinguished statesman Mr. Mikolajczyk is not to be pursued. It was extremely wise. I do not want to be in the position of suggesting to a foreign country what Ministers they should have, but his policy of collaboration with Russia should be pursued to the end under whatever Minister is placed in charge by the Polish authorities. I understand that a great 1501 part is played in Polish affairs by that distinguished man, the Polish President, of whom I desire to speak in terms of the deepest respect. At the same time, I cannot help wondering whether all his actions are in the real interest of his country. I think that that is a note which ought to be sounded, if I may do it respectfully in that manner. Reference has been made to the settlement of all boundaries. It would be desirable, no doubt, and it is an attractive proposal, but the Prime Minister has given reasons why it does not seem practicable at the present time. Then there is the question of the guarantee of the frontiers. I should have thought that we got that guarantee in the Dumbarton Oaks proposals in another way. The three great Powers have made it clear that they intend to act together in the maintenance of the order that is set up. It cannot think of any other method by which we can obtain that guarantee. I think that to ask the United States for a direct guarantee is most impolitic. We shall get it indirectly through the world organisation.
The Prime Minister referred to the word "compensation" in connection with the sacrifices which Poland has made in the East. I have never felt very happy about that word. It seems to me that it is not compensation that is contemplated, but a change on strategic grounds. East Prussia, for instance, has always been a great danger to her neighbours. Germany was able to strike from there, and on those grounds alone there is a good case for taking it away from Germany. I think it is quite right to give it to Poland and to transfer the populations. It is tragic that we should have to come to things of this kind. Transfers of population are taking place in Europe under conditions of the most incredible brutality, but an orderly migration such as is contemplated is a wholly different matter. As a matter of fact, I imagine that at the end of this war there will not be many Germans left in East Prussia. There may not be many in the Eastern parts of Germany, because I fancy that, as the Russians approach, they will make rapid strides towards the interior of their country.
There are voices, one knows, in this country—I do not say necessarily in this House—which are giving to the Poles what, to my mind, is very bad advice. There are military persons as well as political persons who are saying to them "Play 1502 for time, delay as much as possible." [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is not necessary for me to specify the persons. It is known to all of us that there are people who sincerely hold that view. I am not accusing hon. Members. The people who hold that view advise Poland, "Play for time and hope that the Allies will quarrel after the war, and then you will have an opportunity of getting back East Prussia." Nothing could be more foolish or disastrous than to give our Polish friends advice of that kind. The new Polish Government that has been set up does not seem to me, from the point of view of succeeding in the negotiations, one that is too impressive. After all, the National Peasant Party is not represented in it. It is true that they are still represented in the underground organisation in Poland, but that is quite a different matter and does not involve representation in the Polish Government. When one looks at the other Polish Government, the Lublin Government, one sees that that is even less impressive. The desirable thing is one Polish Government to which all Poles can give their allegiance, one that is really impressive and will rally the nation and we want to see that Government situated in Warsaw at the earliest possible moment. I say to my Polish friends, with deep sadness, what, I think, ought to be said in kindness to them, "Act as quickly as you can in collaboration with the Russians along the lines of the wise policy of Mr. Mikolajczyk. Do it for your own sakes and for the sakes of Europe and the whole world, and so make possible a Polish nation which, in peace as in war, will make a noble contribution, a contribution worthy of her historic past."
§ 12.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
This has been so far a very sad Debate and, if I may say it without in any way intending to assume superiority, I think rather a disappointing Debate. I do not attribute any blame to anyone—I think it is due, perhaps, to a series of accidents—that this House has, in fact, discussed His Majesty's Government's foreign policy, in the course of the last three weeks, in a way, in my humble judgment, most of all calculated, if it had been a calculation, to make it difficult. We had a two-day Debate leaving out all those parts of foreign policy which 1503 really excite most Members of the House; then we had a one-day Debate on one exciting bit of foreign policy; and now we are having another day's Debate on another bit. It seems to me absolutely inevitable that before many more weeks are out we shall have to have a Debate on Yugoslavia. I am anxious to be as short as I can; therefore, I do not wish, although it would be in Order strictly speaking, to draw parallels, but I think this way of debating does mean that hon. Members are rather precluded from comparing what is happening in one part of Europe with what is happening in another, and is not the manner most likely to enlighten us, or our constituents, upon foreign policy.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
There is nothing whatever on this Motion to stop Members discussing any subject of foreign policy.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I not only know that, but if the Noble Lord had been willing to pay attention to me, he would have known that I said it. And, incidentally, one of my minor disappointments was when the Noble Lord said that the worst Foreign Secretary he could remember was Palmerston. I thought I knew of better candidates for that position.
We have been warned by one former speaker not to say anything that might make things more difficult for Poland. I will certainly do my best to heed that warning. On every previous occasion on which this matter has been discussed, we have been warned by His Majesty's Government, by "The Times," and by other superior persons and institutions to be very careful not to say anything that would do harm. I think we have been very careful. I think it is at least arguable that we have been so careful not to say things that might do harm, that we have slipped into the opposite error, which is the last error a Parliamentarian ought to slip into, that is, the error of keeping quiet, the error of keeping quiet about things about which public ignorance does harm. It was to avoid that error that Parliaments were invented and developed to the point where they now are.
I make no apology for quoting the Prime Minister. I was going to say 1504 I wish he were here, but that might sound like a complaint, and I have no complaint at all.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
I have had a conversation with the Prime Minister, and it is only fair to tell the House that there are some particularly important problems at the moment which are claiming his attention.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I was not meaning to complain in any way, but when one quotes a speech of another hon. Member, even of the Prime Minister himself, one likes as a rule to tell him one is going to quote him, or to have him here. I am the less reluctant to quote the Prime Minister this time because the Prime Minister himself quoted from his earlier speeches at considerable length, and with a great deal of the spirit of Tom Moore, I think, who was moved to tears by admiration for his genius when younger, on an occasion when somebody sang to him a song he had composed some years before. The Prime Minister quoted for us to-day the speech which he made on 22nd February, and I agree that it is the best point from which to begin. In this speech he said:It was with great pleasure that I heard from Marshal Stalin that he, too, was resolved upon the creation and maintenance of a strong integral independent Poland as one of the leading Powers in Europe.I have never known very clearly what "integral" means, but "strong" and "independent" are words which most of us can understand. The Prime Minister went on to say that His Majesty's Government adhered to the principle that territorial changes should be reserved for the permanent peace settlement. But he made it very difficult for anybody to believe that the principle would be very effective when he said:We did not approve of the Polish occupation of Vilna in 1920. The British view in 1919 stands expressed in the so-called Curzon Line."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1944; Vol 397, c. 697–8.]I think that the Prime Minister's history is mistaken on that point. I do not think the Curzon Line does express what had been the British view as to the permanent frontier. But that I would not urge; all I am saying is that the Prime Minister on 22nd February, when stating this principle in regard to territorial changes, indicated that it was to be expected 1505 that when those changes did happen, they would be the changes desired by one side rather than any change that might be suggested by the other. It did rather whittle away that principle. With great respect to my right hon. Friend, I would like to refer to what he said about the Atlantic Charter. I have never been an excessive admirer of the Atlantic Charter. It has always seemed to me that making large promises to everybody, in the manner recommended to us by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) when he suggested that we need, none of us, desire locks on our front doors or guarantees from our next door neighbours, because we should all get a holus bolus, panacea guarantee from Dumbarton Oaks, or Hot Springs, or somewhere else——
§ Mr. Mander
The hon. Member is making a frivolous reference to my speech, but I can assure him that I referred to the decision at Dumbarton Oaks in all seriousness.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
The hon. Member should not think that nobody has ever been serious who is not being solemn. He rebuked my hon. Friend who spoke before me from this side of the House for being emotional or sentimental. I hope that I do not sound emotional or sentimental, but one of the best ways of avoiding that indictment when one feels deeply is, not the Liberal method of speaking with a solemnity even greater than that of the subject, but the opposite method of speaking with a certain irony, and even occasionally with what may appear to opponents to be a disagreeable facetiousness.
The Atlantic Charter always seemed to me likely to do more harm than good, by promising everything to everybody, and making it easier not to keep those comparatively small promises for which there was a genuine obligation. My fears about the Atlantic Charter were very much strengthened by my right hon. Friend to-day, who did not appear to have read it, which was rather surprising. I do not know who composed it.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I had supposed that the Prime Minister had read it. He told us—naturally I have not got HANSARD before me, but I am sure that I am right in my recollection—that there was a special proviso in the Atlantic Charter 1506 about mutual agreements for territorial changes. I think I am right in saying that there is nothing of the sort in the Atlantic Charter.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
It may be a secret clause. I had not thought of that. The Atlantic Charter announced that the United Nations desired to see no territorial changes that did not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned. That is the proviso,the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned,and not any proviso about mutual agreement.
I do not wish to argue where the frontiers ought to be of Poland. For all I have to say to the contrary the Eastern frontier of Poland should be the Chilterns and the Western frontier the Alleghanies; but I beg hon. Members, and especially Members on the Government Front Bench, not to use the argument against us that this country has never guaranteed any specific frontier. If anybody ever guaranteed the British Isles or the British State, it would be taken to guarantee its boundaries at the time of the guarantee. If, at the time of the guarantee to Poland, there was any secret proviso either that the guarantee was to work or that it was not to work in circumstances not then immediately contemplated, I think the time has come when the Foreign Secretary ought to tell us about it. If there was not any such secret proviso, I hope we shall never again hear any argument about our not guaranteeing any specific frontier.
On the specific-frontier point and on the guarantee point I should like to ask the Foreign Secretary another question. The Prime Minister, speaking in this House, said to us the other day that it was to be hoped that there would be a guarantee from the three great Powers. "It was certainly to be hoped that the three great Powers will guarantee an independent, sovereign, free Poland." That is what the Prime Minister said to us not so many days ago, on 27th October. Within the month, Mr. Stettinius said:The specific question of a guarantee of the Polish frontier by this Government was not, and could not have been, at issue since this Government's traditional policy of not guaranteeing frontiers in Europe is well known.1507 I suppose it was well known to the Foreign Office. I suppose it was well known to those who advised my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he spoke in this House on 27th October. If that was well known to them, when did it become well known to the Polish Government, who are not perhaps so familiar as we are with the constitution of the United States? We have had a good many reasons for familiarising ourselves with that matter in the last 150 years. Perhaps not everybody else has. I would like my right hon. Friend to tell us when certainty was reached that the Poles were aware of that traditional U.S. policy of not guaranteeing frontiers.
But I would not put the main question upon definings or sharings of frontier or of guarantee. Some hon. Member from the other side begged friends of Poland to be careful. I am not a friend of Poland. I am a friend of England, and if I am a friend of any other country in the world, perhaps Scotland and France might compete for that friendship. I speak in this House not in the least as a friend of Poland. I think it is not the business of this House to consider the interests of Poland as such, and that the specific business of this House is to consider the interests of the British Empire and the British people. I am forced to say that it did ring like a knell in my heart—with apologies to the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton for being emotional—when the Prime Minister said to-day, for the third time in the last three or four weeks, that this country has two great Allies, "perhaps greater than us." Not greater than us, and if we think them greater than us, greater than us they will be. In my judgment, if they are greater than us, or either or both of them think themselves greater than us, there is no chance of peace in Europe in any time while anyone now present in this Chamber lives.
There is only one chance of peace in Europe and that is that this continent, which has suffered, which has had its morals and its habits and its whole equipment disturbed in a way we can hardly imagine, and only one chance of peace when the war is over, and that is that the new growth of mutual confidence should be quick. There is only one chance, in my judgment, for such growth of mutual confidence, and that is that there should be 1508 one State through which the confidence can spread from State A to B and from X to Y, and I cannot see how that can be any State but us. If we are to be the State in Europe most trusted by the other States of Europe, then, in that position, the country which is the Ally of the United States and of the U.S.S.R., and which is the metropolis of the British Empire, will be, at the very least, as powerful as any other State upon earth. But only if we have that confidence—and that is why I am concerned with the matter before us to-day. I am not concerned about where Polish frontiers should be. I think it is a very interesting question that we might discuss on another day. What I am concerned about is, wherever the Polish frontier is and however small or great Poland is, will the countries of Europe, at the moment when Germany is defeated, think that those lines of frontier were drawn wherever they have been drawn as a result of complete fidelity on the part of the British Government, or will Europe not think so? I believe that on the answer to that question depends the chance of any peace at all before all of our sons are dead.
Therefore, in a sense I attach much more importance to the Lublin Committee than I do to the actual frontier. In one sense I agree, respectfully, with the hon. Member who said that we need not waste time with the Lublin Committee, because everybody knows it is bogus. Is there anybody who will dare to say that it is less bogus than the Vlasov Committee? The thing is completely and absolutely bogus, and it is not therefore worth while going through the biographies of the members who compose it and guessing which of them have been lifelong paid employees of the O.G.P.U. or who have not, and who have been imprisoned for what and who had not. I do not think that is worth doing. There are two things which I hope the House will forgive me for thinking worth mention, two things which do prove the bogus nature of this Committee.
One is what happened in Warsaw in August and September. That rising, whatever else anybody may think about it, was perhaps the most heroic episode of the war. The whole population rose. Nobody ever denied that the whole population rose. Even broadcasts which were most against Warsaw, both the German 1509 controlled and the Russian controlled broadcasts in the early days, when both sides were trying to play the thing down, agreed that it was a 100 per cent. affair, and that the whole city rose. That is more convincing than any plebiscite. You could have a plebiscite that gave you 99.99999 "Yesses" and you would not have so convincing a proof as that was, where the allegiance of the Poles went. The allegiance of the Poles went to the so-called "émigré" Government. In that respect, I think we might be a little careful about describing our Allies as émigré Governments, which has become almost a term of abuse, and threatens to be a terrible term of reproach against us. One day, a country which stands up on the same side as ourselves has "found its soul" and two days or two months, no, but at any rate less than two years later, it is an "émigré Government." Anyway, that was one proof that the Polish Government are certainly a legitimate Government and also have the highest ground for legitimacy, that it is a Government which are taken for granted and taken as a matter of course by those for whom they are speaking.
The second reason for saying that the Polish Government is the legitimate Government of Poland and the Lublin Government is not, is in the words of the Prime Minister, which he quoted again to-day. I do not think I can find the exact words, but I think I can quote them fairly exactly. He said: "If only the Poles had taken the advice we tended them at the beginning of this year, the additional complication produced by the formation of the Lublin Committee would not have arisen." I think those words are near enough. He said those in October or February, and he repeated them to-day. It seems that the Prime Minister has no doubt that the whole thing is bogus, artificial, factitious. There is not the least doubt about it.
What, in those circumstances, becomes the duty of His Majesty's Government? I will tell the House as plainly as I can, I hope without offence to any State or any individual. The duty of His Majesty's Government is to make quite certain, at very nearly whatever risk, that the world knows that whatever regime is set up in Poland, if it is not obviously on the face of it a wholly independent regime, and whatever frontiers are drawn for Poland, 1510 if those frontiers are in any respect unfavourable to Poland, that those unfavourable decisions have not been facilitated by us; and, above all, that we have not been parties to any plan for using the Lublin Committee as a lever for squeezing, putting a squeeze on, the Polish Government, to whom we are bound by every tie of honour, or on the Polish people, for whom our hearts must, even in Wolverhampton, continue to bleed.
There is very much more that might be said on this matter, but I do not wish to say any more, except one thing, one thing only. In peace time it is fun to attack the Government, especially if you are in opposition, or to make speeches which appear critical of the Government. In war time I do not think it is fun at all; indeed, in matters of foreign policy and strategy I never thought it legitimate, even in peace time. I always thought that every private Member ought to make a rule for himself equivalent to the Standing Order about money, the Standing Order of Queen Anne, which forbids any back bencher from moving the expenditure of money. I have always thought each one of us should, in the proper sense of the words, be "a law unto himself" in the matter too of spending blood, and should practically never argue for something which might possibly cost the blood of one more British soldier. In time of crisis, most of all in time of war, it is extremely difficult to make any criticism, even any suggestion, to His Majesty's Government about high policy, without running the risk that one might have that guilt upon one's head. But there are times when it is necessary to make clear what some back benchers feel to be the proper action of this country, and the reason why they so regard it. I think those of us who have spoken in this Debate have been justified in trying to do that. I hope we, all of us, will be acquitted of having said anything that could be embarrassing.
§ 1.18 p.m.
§ Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)
I shall not speak long, and I shall not speak at all on the vexed question of Polish frontiers. My opinions on that subject are forming themselves only slowly, and I should not be justified in inflicting them on the House. I want to raise two issues which I approach purely from a humanitarian point of view. The first is the issue of the deportations from 1511 Poland and the Russian parts of Poland to the U.S.S.R., and I shall give the facts as presented to me by those who have studied the question very closely, both British and Polish people. But, mark you, I do not take responsibility for the accuracy of all these facts. The figures may have been, and I think, probably have been, exaggerated; certainly they are only approximate, and the descriptions of hardship which have been brought before me are possibly also exaggerated, seeing that they must be mostly based on hearsay or through very slow-moving underground channels. But I do submit that making allowance for maximum exaggeration possible, the whole position is decidedly disquieting, and we should be very careful lest we take any responsibility for acquiescing in it.
As to deportations, there are two periods to which I wish to refer, the earlier date being from February, 1940, to June, 1941, at the time when Russia was forced into the war by German aggression. I believe it is not disputed by anyone that during that period vast numbers of Poles and other people besides—the latter I do not intend to discuss—were deported to distant parts of the U.S.S.R. The alleged figures given to me are that some 880,000 civilians plus a great number of prisoners of war—and also great numbers who were forcibly mobilized—in all well over 1,000,000 persons, were affected. The civilians included several hundred thousands of women and children. They were sent to various distant parts of European Russia, to Siberia and to Central Asiastic Republics and elsewhere, and owing to the haste with which they were sent off they were sent with exceeedingly inadequate provision of food and clothing and in overcrowded conditions so far as transport was concerned. They are said—all those that were fit—to have been put to forced labour, many in an Arctic climate, in such conditions of underfeeding and underclothing that thousands are said to have succumbed. It is reported that in April, 1943, over 270,000 Polish citizens were benefiting from the relief organisations of the Polish Embassy set up in Kuibishev, including 95,000 men, 98,000 women and 78,000 children, when the work of the Polish relief organisations was brought to an end by the rupture of diplomatic relations between the two countries. After that relief stopped and 1512 since then, except during a brief period when the Australian representative had some access, there has been no access allowed to those persons by any impartial persons, and neither the International Red Cross, Quakers, nor any other international body, were allowed access.
The second series of deportations is much later—during and since August of the present year. It is alleged to affect large numbers, including many officers and men who had fought actively with the Red Army in the common fight against Germany, and who were afterwards seized upon, and for one reason or other, deported. The facts about that are rather more doubtful. Obviously they come from underground sources which may or may not be reliable. The position is unsatisfactory but the extent of it is less fully established than in the case of the earlier deportations. I merely want to say that all this is very disquieting, and the question is whether the Russian authorities have anything to be ashamed of, anything they would not like impartial people from other countries to see. If not why cannot they allow access, not to any busybodies, but to recognised organisations?
My second point raises the same kind of issue. I will deal with it very shortly. It is a less important issue, but it was confirmed on Wednesday at Question Time that the U.S.S.R. has so far made no reply to the request received from U.N.R.R.A. to be allowed to send a delegation and supplies through Russian territory into Poland and to Russian-occupied parts of Poland. Permission has not been refused, but it is delayed. Bearing in mind that Russia was one of the bodies that helped to set up U.N.R.R.A. and to designate its functions, could not this permission be more quickly expedited? My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said it was clearly a matter for the U.S.S.R. themselves, but considering the United States and ourselves were the other Powers mainly concerned in setting up U.N.R.R.A., we have a right to be interested in it officially.
I am going to speak rather bluntly. What is the use of university representation if university representatives cannot speak the truth as they see it, and without thinking of anything else but what is the truth? All these delays and these difficulties about the deportees must in- 1513 evitably strengthen the fear, just or unjust, that the Soviet have reason to dislike impartial witnesses. I see in many quarters, including friends who might be described as more to the Left than to the Right, but also some in quarters in which I would not have expected it, a disposition to treat Russia as a doctor treats a highly hysterical patient, to say, "She is very sensitive, she may have made mistakes, but do not say anything that might displease her." That is an insult for leading Russians, who surely have too much sense of humour and commonsense to want to be treated like that. If we are looking forward to 20 years' post-war close co-operation with Russia, to which we are bound by a Treaty already in existence, let us put it plainly. The Russians have to get accustomed, whether they like or not, to our habit of speaking our mind, not only to our own Government—no one can doubt our free exercise of that right—but about other Governments with which we are in alliance. In the long run there cannot be much hope for the future of the world, or this great international organisation foreshadowed at Dumbarton Oaks, about which I shall say nothing, though the Russian views about that are also disquieting, unless there is that kind of speaking.
I do not often agree with the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) but I never agreed with him more than when he said that where we have, through force of circumstances, to give assent to something to which our conscience or reason demurs, do not let us pretend that our conscience or reason does not demur; do not let us say that these things have our full assent. I am justified in asking my right hon. Friend, who will reply, whether he can give us some assurance about these matters, and above all, did he, when he was in Moscow, or will he, in his representations to Moscow, raise this question, "What about the deportees, and why do you not want people to visit them?" And "Why should it not be possible to send supplies to them?" Do not we owe at least that to our hard tried Polish Allies?
§ 1.28 p.m.
§ Captain Alan Graham (Wirral)
May I say first of all how extremely refreshing it has been to listen to the manly forth- 1514 rightness of the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone). This Debate of course centres round the Russian-Polish situation, and our British attitude towards it, but it seems to me that far bigger issues are involved, namely, the whole future of European civilisation. What is the key-note of our civilisation in contrast with Asiatic concepts? It is surely the infinite value of the individual human soul. In the East, where nature is so colossal in its features, and so terrifying in its operations, the river Yangtze in China overflows its banks, and a million Chinese are swept away to destruction. If the water level has not reached a certain height another million or so also die of starvation, because the rice crop has failed. To them the individual is next to nothing, but in Europe he is all important.
This is the basic concept on which all our hopes of man's progress are founded: the social services, to assist his bodily infirmities; freedom of religion, so that his soul may prosper; our democratic institutions, so that the State may derive the greatest possible voluntary service from every free, individual citizen. This is an idea of which Nazi Germany is the mortal foe; and for this idea Poland, France and ourselves drew the sword in September, 1939. For this idea, in 1940, when Europe lay prostrate under the Nazi heel, we alone continued to fight; for which Europe and the whole civilised world still pay us their tribute of admiration. Consequently, we were, and we are still, considered the champions of European civilisation. From this rôle we cannot withdraw without shame, dishonour, and material danger. The Polish nation has always been a member of our European family, and a worthy contributor to European civilisation—indeed, for centuries one of its doughtiest champions. At this moment, the Polish nation is in grave danger of extinction at the hands of our enemy, Germany, and, I am sorry to say, at the hands of our other Ally, Russia. We cannot afford, nor can Europe afford, to allow this to happen.
What does Russia demand of Poland? She demands half her territory, and that she should be governed by the Lublin Committee, which, the world knows, is 1515 an utterly unrepresentative body of Poles, provided by Russia, and whose authority and power rest solely on the Russian N.K.V.D., or political police, the child of the O.G.P.U., and Russian bayonets. In other words, the Polish Government are to surrender half their country to Russia, and to accept Russian government in all but name over what remains. Is it any wonder that both M. Mikolajczyk and the present Polish Government refused to set their hands to what would have been nothing else but the suicide-warrant of their country and their nation? Further, it was expected of them to agree to this without any positive guarantees of the independence of Poland. We know for a fact that the United States Government have definitely refused any guarantee for Poland. There were some verbal assurances given by the Prime Minister when last he spoke on this subject, and there have been statements by Mr. Stalin; but, unfortunately, there have been other statements by Mr. Stalin which have not subsequently been implemented. Naturally, Mr. Mikolajczyk's Government were unable to agree to these terms and signified their unanimous refusal to the British Government on 3rd November. Therefore, it seems unfair that any persons should charge the present Polish Government with being necessarily less willing to meet the Russian demands than the former Polish Government. It May be asked, What is the moral justification for such demands being put to Poland, our martyred Ally, who gave us such indispensable aid at the time of the Battle of Britain, and who was the first Power to fight against Nazi Germany? The answer is, Absolutely none. In fact, we are morally and textually bound, by Article 3 of our guarantee of 1939 to Poland, to support Poland not only against armed aggression, but against any attempt "to undermine Polish independence, by processes of economic penetration or in any other way." When Hitler, in August, 1939, sought to persuade us to dis-interest ourselves in the fate of Poland, the British Government of those days replied:The German Government will be aware that His Majesty's Government have obligations to Poland, by which they are bound, and which they intend to honour. They could not, for any advantage offered to Great Britain, acquiesce in a settlement which put 1516 in jeopardy the independence of a State to whom they have given their guarantee.That was the voice of Britain in August, 1939, when we were materially a very weak Power; but our moral courage then was indeed great. Has anything happened since then to make us weaker in material force or in any degree less courageous? Has Poland since then done anything to lessen our esteem for her? Perhaps the behaviour of Polish troops at Monte Cassino and at Falaise may be mentioned. Has Poland done anything to justify us in ignoring those solemn obligations in which she, then and now, has placed her trust? If any nation has spilled her blood more readily in the common cause than Poland, I have yet to hear of it. Five million Poles have so far died in the struggle against Germany—one in every seven of the population—and they are still dying, in Poland and on every battle front. And why? Are 5,000,000 Poles dying for half their territories to pass at once under an alien yoke, and the rest of their territory to be governed by a stranger? If the Briton of 1944 or 1945 were to consent to such an outrage, the Briton of 1939 would be the first to testify against him, and to disown such dishonourable behaviour. Why should we now shamelessly cast away our reputation as the defenders of honour and European civilisation? Our armed might was never stronger than it is to-day; our moral standing, in spite of some things that have happened, is still high. But we are honest neither with ourselves nor with Russia if we pretend that we can disinterest ourselves in the fate of Poland.
It is actually said that for the last month—whether or not because of the change in Government I do not know—we have sent no further supplies to the Underground Army in Poland. Can we afford to ignore this organised army of 160,000 combatants against Germany, recognised by ourselves three months ago as combatants? I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether that statement is true, that we have taken the occasion of the change in the Polish Government to refuse to go on supplying these forces of the Polish Underground Army, who, against heavy odds, are still fighting our battle. They will get arms from somewhere, if not from us. Is not such action calculated to drive them into the arms of Germany? If His Majesty's 1517 Government do not now stand up for full Polish independence, they will force all Central Europeans to rally around Germany, even in defeat, and to make Germany, as she claims to be, Europe's defender against the Eastern invader. Poland is the test-case for European civilisation. If we desert Poland, Europe will desert us; and that will be our ruin. France, a Power by no means at the maximum of her strength to-day, has hastened already to declare her concern in what goes on in Eastern Europe, and she considers it of vital importance to her, Western Power though she is. The days are past when the Channel served us—as a moat. … Against the envy of less happier lands.V.1 and V.2 and the progress of aviation have made those sentiments completely obsolete long ago. Even Lord Baldwin admitted, in 1936, that the Rhine was our frontier, although, of course, he did nothing about it. To-day our frontier is the Vistula; to-morrow it may be the Dnieper. In the underground war in Germany, which will follow the defeat of her regular armies in the field, the support of these 100 million people living between Russia and Germany may well prove decisive. In any event, all Europe is now so near that, whether we like it or not, we are both in and of it; and that intimately. For our own material safety, therefore, as well as for every moral reason, such as honour between man and man and regard for treaties and for the whole fabric of our European civilisation, I say to the Government that the moment has come to say to our great Ally Russia, of whose many services we are abundantly conscious, that she must treat Poland as what she is, a civilised, Christian, European nation, and not as if she was a paltry Asiatic tribe of Uzbegs or Tajiks. Firm and definite language now will save a deal of mounting troubles later on. From my own experience of the Russian nation, I know that there is nothing they despise more than concessions, and there is nothing to which they respond with greater readiness than to firmness.
Lastly, I will make a personal appeal to the Prime Minister. In many Polish towns to-day the principal street is called Churchill Street, because he is looked up 1518 to by the Poles as the saviour of Poland and of Europe. In martyred Warsaw, during the last rising against the Germans, 20 barricades in Churchill Street alone were soaked in Polish blood. That happened because they believed that, whatever might happen to them, he at least would see that in the end Poland was free. I cannot believe that, when history comes to award his due to the greatest Englishman since Chatham, it will say, "But he deserted Poland!"
§ 1.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)
Anyone thinking about the Polish problem must start from two premises, and I shall mention them at the outset, lest I forget, and in order that I may avoid being misrepresented, as otherwise will be the case. Friendship with the Soviet Union is the first essential for the existence of an independent Polish State; and the friendship of the Soviet Union, the United States, and ourselves is essential for the maintenance of world peace. To say that is not to solve the problem, but merely to state it. This Polish problem is the most intractable in the whole field of our foreign relations at present. I have never risen to speak with such a heavy heart as I do to-day. It is melancholy to think that after more than five years of fighting, in a war which we entered to defend the independence of Poland, we should be debating whether Poland is to be a State at all. For, make no mistake, that is the issue before us. The frontier question is entirely subordinate. I shall develop that in a few moments; but let me say now that if the proposals made by the Prime Minister this morning are in fact carried out—and I am not criticising the Prime Minister, because I think he may have been caught in what the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson) recently called a chain of circumstances—if these proposals are carried out, the real victors will not be the Lublin Committee. They will be my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) and my hon. Friends who, on most other days except Fridays, sit on the benches below the gangway; if their case is not indeed proved, it will be greatly strengthened, for their case is that war settles nothing. If, at the end of six years of fighting, we see the causes for which we entered the war trampled underfoot, then, indeed, that case will be very much strengthened, and it will lead to a sense of cynicism and shame which will 1519 make it very difficult to get the people of this country to go to war again, however sacred the cause. And the Prime Minister's speech has left me with a feeling that the future is very uncertain. That speech was composed of the dragon's teeth which are said to be the seeds of future wars.
I have said that the frontier question is not the most important one, and it is not, but, even so, there are certain considerations which I think ought to be borne in mind. The hon. Gentleman the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), with whom I so often disagree but whose eloquence is always worth listening to, was perfectly right when he said that the Prime Minister was not reproducing correctly the British attitude after the last war. The facts can be stated quite briefly. On 8th December, 1919, when the Supreme Council first proposed what later became known as the Curzon Line, it was simply proposed as a line behind which the Polish Government could get on with its administration, leaving the sovereignty of territories East of that line to be settled later. It is true that on 11th July, 1920, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. David Lloyd-George), in conversation with Mr. Grabski, indicated that line as the legitimate frontier of Poland, but, on the next day, 12th July, when Lord Curzon communicated this line officially to the Polish Government, it was not as a frontier, but as a temporary line of demarcation along which hostilities might cease; it was not the case that this Line was proposed as a permanent frontier between the two countries.
There are many more important considerations to be borne in mind. What is proposed by the Prime Minister is that Poland should be shifted bodily Westwards. The right hon. Gentleman did not seem to realise all the problems which that would involve for Poland. She is already involved in considerable hostility with the Soviet Union, and, if anything is calculated to make a permanent enemy of Germany, it is such a proposal. I do not say that it should not be carried out; it looks to me as though it will have to be, but it is certainly going to create immense problems for Poland, and, if the Allies urge the Polish Government to adopt such a solution, they must do one 1520 thing more—they must give a joint and several guarantee to Poland. That raises formidable problems for us, because we are traditionally averse to giving such guarantees. But we have no right to urge on Poland a solution bristling with such difficulties unless we are prepared to make our own contribution to it.
The Prime Minister has said that, if the Poles had agreed to the Curzon Line as a frontier—and, really, I wish we could drop the name "Curzon Line"; why not call it the Supreme Council Line, because "Curzon" is a misleading name and has done much harm—if the Poles had adopted the Supreme Council Line, the Lublin Committee would not have been set up. We have no assurance of that, and I am extremely doubtful myself whether that would have been the case. We are not without experience in this matter. Let us consider the case of General Sosnkowski. It may well be that he ought to have been dropped. For what it is worth, I am of that opinion myself. But when the Poles acceded to British pressure and dropped General Sosnkowski and appointed General Bor in his place, what happened? Within a few hours, General Bor, to whom no one in this Assembly is fit to hold a candle, was denounced by the Lublin Committee as a traitor, and the head of this Committee had the impudence to suggest that he should be brought to trial for his life. I am speaking strongly, but as hon. Members have already said, we ought not to be afraid to speak strongly, and I believe the Soviet Union is influenced by opinions expressed in this country and in this Chamber. I think nothing is gained by not speaking according to the light within us.
So much, then, for the question of the frontiers, except that I ought to make one more comment on the Prime Minister's reference to the subject. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that Poland, under these proposals, would lose a great deal of territory. I think the right hon. Gentleman under-estimated the amount, because I think it is as large as 46.5 per cent. of the area and one-third of her population. The Prime Minister said it contained the large areas of the Pripet Marshes, which are of no value to anybody. I would point out that it also includes the only oilfield in Poland and 1521 valuable deposits of phosphates, which are immaterial to Russia but of great value to Poland.
§ Mr. Thomas
When my hon. Friend says a minority, he is speaking of a figure just short of 50 per cent. The question which I would like to put to him is: Why does he assume that the Soviet Union alone has the right to be a multi-national State? There are many nationalities in the Soviet Union—about 200—and why should there not be two or three nationalities in Poland? I cannot see the force of the argument that the Soviet Union has the right to include all Ruthenians and all Ukrainians——
§ Mr. Thomas
My hon. Friend the Member for Queen's University, Belfast, has given the answer. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend says I am in bad company. Well, there are occasions when we must speak our minds, and I am prepared to do it to-day even if I am in strange company. It was painful to me earlier on to hear the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), who claims to carry the banner of Russell, Palmerston, Gladstone and Asquith, making the speech that he did; his party was once the champion of the rights of small nations. He is not alone; I note that many hon. Members last week were saying very different things in the Greek Debate from what they are saying to-day about the rights of small nations. Be that as it may, the point I wanted to make, when I was led into a digression, was this. The Soviet Union is asking for Westward extension on strategic grounds. Surely, we have learned by now that no security can be guaranteed by strategic frontiers?
§ Mr. Thomas
Moscow will not be saved by the westward extension now proposed if unhappily any future war should break out.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
Are you seriously contending that you know, from a military point of view, what is better for the Soviets than the Soviets themselves? What military experience have you?
§ Mr. Thomas
I will only reply to that observation by saying that I have had much the same experience as the hon, Member himself.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
The hon. Member for Oxford Mr. Hogg) has been saying "you" once or twice and that refers to me. He must not use "you" in that way. Perhaps we may adjourn this conversation.
§ Mr. Thomas
Regretfully, I obey your ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I think you ought to allow me to say that I have served in the Army.
§ Mr. Thomas
That is true. It is claimed, on strategic grounds, that the Russian frontier should be extended to the West. That may be right and inevitable, but it makes nonsense of the Atlantic Charter. I thought that the Atlantic Charter still stood for something in this country. I do not believe that the proposal will produce security, which must be based on a general organisation for peace and, still more, on confidence and mutual trust between the nations. I think we ought to have urged upon the Soviet Union that she should attempt to secure the peace in a different way. In any case, if the Soviet Union is afraid of further aggression from Germany, it is very hard that Poland should be the sufferer.
So much for the frontier question. I have said that, although Poland is being very hardly treated in this matter, it is not the most important matter and, no doubt, could be adjusted. There have been many changes in the Polish frontiers in the past, and, no doubt, there could be changes again. What is important is the question of independence, and that word is apparently understood differently in different quarters. We cannot do much in this Debate to-day. In fact, I think it is rather ominous that we are having a debate at 1523 all; if the Government had much hope that the Polish problem would be solved we should have been asked not to speak at all. There is, however, one thing we can do, and that is to get a firm pledge from the Government that they will not recognise the Lublin Committee. We are entitled to get a firm assurance from them that they will continue to recognise the Polish Government of which Mr. Arciszewski is the head in London. I very much agree with my hon. Friend that we should not refer to it as an émigré Government. We are entitled to a firm assurance that the British Government will continue to recognise the Polish Government as the only Government of Poland.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
Should the Government lay it down that, under no circumstances, will they recognise the Lublin Committee, even though the circumstances may be that the Polish people themselves desire to recognise the Lublin Committee?
§ Miss Rathbone
Is it not very dangerous to ask the Government to make an announcement that they will only recognise a certain Government in a foreign country? Are we not criticising the Russian Government for doing that very thing? Should we not rather say that we will recognise whatever Government it is, even a compromise Government, if it really represents Polish opinion as far as it can be ascertained?
§ Mr. Thomas
No British Government will enter into the hypothetical future. All I am dealing with is the immediately foreseeable future, and I think we are entitled to the assurance for which I have asked. With regard to the hon. Lady's suggestion about a compromise Government, I will deal with that later. What is the general character of these two bodies? I agree with an earlier speaker that it would be idle to go into the personal lives of the members of the Lublin Committee, but I think I may say that, if ever it became a Government, it would be the most curious medley since the administration of Uncle Tom Cobleigh.
It is a Government composed of one party and one party only; nine out of the 14 members of it are avowed members of the Communist Party. It is true that the Union of Polish Patriots, out of which it has arisen, is said to be composed of 1524 a very large number of different parties, but we in the Labour Party at least are sufficiently familiar with that technique. We have learnt to recognise the Communist Party under many different names, and at any rate nine out of the 14 members of the Lublin Committee are open members of the Communist Party. The Polish Government is solidly based on four parties which, in pre-war times, could count on the support of 80 per cent. of the electorate against the two per cent. of the Polish Communist Party. The Polish Communist Party was so infected with Trotskyism that in 1937 it had to be disbanded and it does not dare, even now, to call itself the Communist Party, but calls itself instead the Polish Workers' Party.
It is perhaps appropriate here to say something—because the Prime Minister referred to it—about the composition of the present Polish Government. Like the Prime Minister, I have the highest admiration, in common with most hon. Members, for Mr. Mikolajczyk, but it ought to be made perfectly clear that there is no breach between him and the present Polish Government. The reasons why he and his Foreign Secretary, Mr. de Romer—who has also won the admiration of so many of us who have come into contact wth him—resigned, are perfectly plain. When one method has been tried and has brought no results, it is necessary to try different methods and different men. That is all that need be said. The Polish Peasant Party have issued a strong public statement—I claim no esoteric knowledge in this matter—in support of the Government now headed by Mr. Arciszewski, which can therefore claim to be fully representative of opinion in Poland as it existed before the war and so far as it can be ascertained now.
Here I would like to address something to my Socialist comrades—I mean, colleagues—in this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Comrades or colleagues?"] I am sorry, I thought that I was still across the way. I cannot lightly abandon a Government which has a Socialist at its head with such a distinguished record as Mr. Arciszewski, and includes such men as Dr. Pragier and Mr. Kwapinski, supported by such men as Mr. Stanczjyk and Mr. Ciolkosz. At our Labour Party Conference across the road they have no doubt been singing to-day about "dungeons dark," but these men have lived 1525 in "dungeons dark." Mr. Kwapinski was sentenced to death on one occasion for his Socialist beliefs and only his tender years secured commutation to imprisonment. Mr. Arciszewski was leading strikes at the age of 13, and taking part in the revolution of 1905 before I was born.
§ Mr. Thomas
I was saying, and I do not think it can be refuted, that not one of us Socialist Members of Parliament in this Chamber—not even my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), who has had some experience of prison, which most of us have not—is fit to hold a candle to such men as Mr. Arciszewski, Mr. Kwapinski, Dr. Pragier and the others. It is alleged that they are undemocratic, and they are said to be committed to the undemocratic Constitution of 1935. I would point out to my hon. Friends on these benches that two of the Socialist Ministers were put in prison for their stand against the Pilsudski régime and General Kukiel was dismissed from his post for his opposition to it. There is not the slightest reason, therefore, to doubt that this Polish Government is a really democratic Government in the sense in which we understand the word, and that it has given the most practical proofs of its democratic faith.
I said that I would deal with the suggestion of the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) that there might be some compromise between this Government and the Lublin Committee. I understand that certain proposals of that nature have been made, but they remind me very much of the rabbit pie which was 50 per cent. rabbit and 50 per cent. horse, that is to say, one rabbit, one horse. The proposal, as I understand it, would give such a preponderance to the Lublin Committee that it would, in fact, simply be the Lublin Committee. Here again, I say, we have much experience on these benches of working with Communists and it is a very difficult thing to do; it is something we have done our best, hitherto, to avoid.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I would like to ask the hon. Member what experience he has had in dealing with the Communists in view of the fact that I, a Communist, was in the Labour Movement almost before he was born, and have done more than most members of it to build up the Labour Movement on which he is trading now for personal ambition?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Gentleman must not accuse other hon. Members of personal ambition; I am sure he will modify that.
§ Mr. Gallacher
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. If the hon. Member makes innuendoes against me by jeering at Communists in general, surely I have a right to retort to him?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Gentleman must be more careful. The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Thomas) was referring to the Communist Party, not an individual.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
What I was objecting to was the hon. Gentleman accusing the hon. Member for Keighley of personal ambition. I would ask him if he would not modify that statement.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Further to that point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The hon. Member was talking about his experience of the intrigues of the Communist Party. That reflected on the honesty of the Communist Party, and I represent the Communist Party in this House. If he casts reflections on my honesty, surely I am entitled to make reflections on his? I have a bigger opinion of my own honesty than I have of his.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I admit it is rather a difficult position, as the hon. Member is the only representative of a party, so perhaps, under the circumstances, it would be best if the hon. Member for Keighley continued his speech.
§ Mr. Thomas
If it will help to ease matters, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I would point out that this is not the kind of speech which is likely to further any personal ambitions I might have; in fact, for all I know, I might be signing a political death warrant for myself. Be that as it 1527 may, the point I was trying to make was that in the Labour Party we have had perpetually this problem of working with the Communist Party—not in this House, but outside—and have always been very careful to avoid it. I cannot bring myself now to recommend to another country what I am not prepared to do myself.
The most important thing I wish to say is this. The Polish problem is almost insuperably difficult, and my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench have my deepest sympathy in their responsibility for dealing with it. It may very well be that no satisfactory solution can be achieved, but may I ask one thing? It is, that they should not urge upon the Polish Government a solution which does not command itself to their consciences on its merits. If it cannot commend itself to them as a good solution in itself, let us ask that they shall not urge it upon the Polish Government. Let us cast our minds back to the days of Munich. As I understand the Munich agreement, the real evil was not that it was entered into; in the long chain of circumstances that was probably inevitable. The wicked thing to my mind was that we tried to compel the Czech Government to accept a solution which we knew was immoral, and that is the danger I see in this present situation, that His Majesty's Government should try to urge upon the Polish Government something which they know to be wrong. I would like to see His Majesty's Government urging a just and generous solution of this question.
I would like them to take up the matter with the Soviet Union and say, "You have every reason to be generous. You have one-sixth of the earth's surface. By 1970 you will have a population of 250,000,000. You have every raw material you can possibly desire in abundant quantities for yourself and for export. You have nothing to fear from any country in the world. What can it possibly matter to you whether you have a few hundred square miles of Polish territory or not? This will not guarantee your security; your security will come, above all, from the strength of your own resources, from the fighting qualities of your population, and from the faith that you have given to them since your revolution. These are the things that guarantee your security and, alongside that, will be the general international agreements into 1528 which we shall enter." In this spirit His Majesty's Government ought to urge upon the Soviet Union that they can afford to be generous with Poland, and that they ought to be generous, and if His Majesty's Government cannot secure such a settlement, then let us not urge anything else upon the Poles. Let us, as the United States appears to be doing, refrain from making any recommendations which we cannot commend to our own consciences.
We are bound deeply in this matter by our interests and by our honour. I say "our interests" not in any narrow sense, for I do not suppose that British citizens have any considerable material interests in Poland. Our interests are of a different order. The greatest of all British interests is to maintain peace and order throughout the world, and the Polish problem is the most serious threat to that order we have yet faced. If we cannot solve it justly and generously, the outlook for the future is indeed dark. We are bound also in honour by engagements we have signed. I cannot think lightly of that Treaty of Guarantee into which we entered in 1939, or of the Atlantic Charter, or of the other engagements that bind us. Those Treaties are not simply written in ink; they have since been sealed in blood. If it had not been for the Polish airmen who fought in the Battle of Britain we might have gone under in 1940, for the margin was very narrow. Ever since those days, wherever the fighting has been thickest, the Polish soldiers have been there—at Monte Cassino, at Breda, at Arnhem, and a dozen other places where valour is to be seen and distinction to be gained. On the high seas the Polish sailors have fought with a gallantry equal to our own. We have, therefore, a very special interest in trying to see a just settlement of this question, and I urge His Majesty's Government that they shall not lightly abandon the Polish cause, or give up hope too easily, but will urge the Soviet Union to be generous.
§ 2.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Tree (Harborough)
Whether we agree with the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) or not, I think everybody in the House will agree that he made an extremely courageous speech. Anyone who wishes to take part in this Debate to-day will do so with a very deep sense of responsibility that a chance word or phrase he might make may exacerbate a situation which all of us in this House 1529 deplore, and which we all hope may yet be capable of solution in spite of the Prime Minister's somewhat gloomy prognostications this morning. Before starting to express my own views, I would like to say a word or two of praise of the way in which the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have attempted, over many months and with infinite patience, to solve this extraordinarily difficult and complex problem. A journey to Moscow by air is at any time a difficult and a hazardous undertaking, but when it is undertaken in the autumn far advanced by a man of the age of the Prime Minister it does, indeed, show how deeply he has the matter at heart. The reason why the British Government are striving so hard to solve this well-night age-long problem is not only because we are bound by a treaty of Alliance, and guarantees with Poland, but because we owe to the Polish people a debt of gratitude which it is extremely difficult to express in mere words.
We welcomed their Government when they were driven out of their second capital four years ago and they have been our welcome guests ever since. As the last speaker said, wherever we have fought the Poles have fought by our side, whether it was on the sea with their ships, fighting beside our own, or doing convoy duty together, or whether it was fighting with our Armies in Norway and France before the fall of France, and afterwards through Egypt and Libya right up to the rugged mountains of Italy, and now in North-West Europe. I was told only recently of what a great honour was felt by a famous British regiment when, having fought side by side with their Polish Allies in Italy, they were asked to wear on their sleeves the insignia of the "Mermaid of Warsaw." We cannot forget either that it was in the Battle of Britain that we were so nobly assisted by a very large number of Polish airmen and that in Poland alone, of all the occupied countries, no quisling has yet been found. These are things we must not, and cannot, forget. Nor should it be forgotten either that we are bound by a treaty of 20 years' alliance with our Russian Allies and that we have a profound admiration for their war effort, which comes closest to our own in a total war effort, and of the way in which they have fought in order that the war may be brought to a speedy conclusion and 1530 of the casualties they have suffered. During the period in which we have fought with Russia, and they have been our Allies, there has been on both sides a gradual breaking down of the suspicion and distrust that existed between the two nations in the 20 years between the wars. I think everywhere in this country there is a profound realisation, as the Prime Minister said so truly to-day, that unless we and the United States and the U.S.S.R. can get together on some definite understanding the outlook for the world, for Europe especially, and for Poland, separated from us by many hundreds of miles, will indeed be dark.
It is with this general background in mind that we have to approach the complex and difficult problem that we are facing to-day—relations between Russia and Poland. It seems to be essential that we should do so not by taking sides or by attempting to aggravate what is already a raw and open wound——
§ Mr. Pickthorn
When my hon. Friend recommends that we should not take sides does he mean that we should not take sides with our Allies?
§ Mr. Tree
They are both our Allies. We must try to take the medium course, and mediate between them. Unless this understanding is arrived at, the outlook for the peace of the world is, as I have said, very dark. The dispute between Russia and Poland covers many issues, and on each of them much could be said. They go back into the dark recesses of history. Boundaries and cities, minorities, economics, religions and ideologies all play their part. But it surely all boils down to this: that the majority of Poles to-day are deeply suspicious of Russia's intentions in regard to them at the end of the war. They believe that Russia intends gradually to whittle away their powers until once more Poland occupies the status of a Grand Duchy, except that instead of having a grand duke there will be a commissar, and that instead of there being a grand duchy they will become a Sovietised member of the U.S.S.R. Therefore, because of that suspicion they believe it best to delay coming to any decisions on frontier or other matters, as they were strongly urged to do by the Prime Minister and Premier Stalin at Moscow, because they feel that if they are able to defer and delay, the Soviet 1531 Government and the Lublin Committee will get into great difficulties, owing to lack of support when they get into the liberated countries of Poland, and that rather than face a hostile Poland lying athwart their communications between Germany and Russia they will have to come to the Polish Government and ask for help in order to restore law and order.
I think the Prime Minister had the support of the whole House to-day when he said he would prefer that all discussions in regard to frontiers should be deferred until they could be discussed in the quieter conditions Of a Peace Conference, but surely the main thesis of the Poles, in wishing to defer and delay, is the wrong one. Premier Stalin has constantly said—and I think the Prime Minister reiterated it in his speech—that he wishes to see a strong and independent Poland and, moreover, that he has not the slightest interest in the internal affairs of a future Polish State. But he does insist, and I think rightly, that there should be a Polish Government that is friendly in outlook to its neighbour in the East. Further—and this is an important point—as more and more of Poland is liberated there is an obvious danger that if the Lublin Committee is the only Committee on the spot then to it will be assigned the job of administering the liberated countries. Somebody will have to administer them, and it will be to it that this job will be given. I have no more desire than any previous speaker to see more power being given to the Lublin Committee. I believe, from everything I have heard about them, that they are a seedy and obviously unrepresentative group of men. The suggestion, as I understand it, was made at Moscow, that as soon as Mr. Mikolajczyk could get back to this country, and obtain the consent of his Government, he should then return to Lublin and take part in a Coalition Government. While we may all agree that the Lublin Committee should not have, say, 50 per cent. representation in that Government surely, if they are not representative and have not got the support of the Polish people, they will ultimately disappear as personalities from the scene. I think it is a tragedy that this did not happen, and that instead a policy of wait and see should have been adopted by the present Polish Government. I quite realise that it is easy to 1532 suggest from London what should be done, and I do not think we have any right to interfere in the internal affairs of the Polish Government. Nevertheless, I would urge very strongly that they should make another effort to get into touch, once again, with the Russian Government towards a solution of this problem and that this effort should have the full support of the British Government.
In conclusion, I have one other concrete suggestion I should like to make to the Foreign Secretary. At the end of this war there will be a large number of Poles who have served in the Forces alongside us who, if there is a frontier rectification, will find themselves living outside their country and moreover in a country towards which they have no religious or political leanings. Many will be transferred to the new territories that will be handed over to Poland under the peace treaties, but it may be that a certain number will not wish to make their homes there. The suggestion I should like to make is that any of those people should be given the right, if they so desire, of becoming citizens of this country, and that arrangements should be entered into with the Dominions so that if they wish to settle in one of them they will be able to do so. We all know the intense love of the Poles for their own country. I daresay that only a few would choose to become British citizens, but I think it would be a gesture towards those who may have to be moved from the homes they love, and will do something to repay a debt of gratitude that we owe to Poland and the Polish people.
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles (Blackburn)
I can only speak on this matter as an average Britisher, but at the same time I should like later to speak as I think the average Pole is thinking. I have no particular knowledge of Poland, having been there only two or three times, and all my sympathies are on the side of Russia, because of the many kindnesses which I have received from Russian people. At the end of the last war, when I was asked to volunteer to fight in some of those side-shows at Archangel and down at Odessa I refused, because I did not want to be killing Russians, although I did not mind killing Germans. Certainly 1533 I have no prejudice against them, but at the present moment what has happened in Poland? What is the average British person thinking? He thinks that Poland has been murdered, thinks it has been murdered largely by the Germans, and also that many Poles have been murdered by the Russians. He thinks, rightly or wrongly, that a million Poles have been deported to Siberia and elsewhere; and those who have been sent to Siberia will be very fortunate if half of them ever see their homes or their relations again. The hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) mentioned all that, and there is no need for me to go into that matter again, but when Czechoslovakia was invaded by Germany in March, 1939, some of us remember a little peccadillo on the part of Poland, who seized Teschen. A lot of people are always inclined to blame their own country for anything in the nature of Imperialism, but occasionally some foreign countries make mistakes along those lines.
I want us to keep our feet upon the ground; not to think of the world as we would like it to be, but as it really is in 1944. Who is going to settle the Western frontiers of Russia? Who is going to decide how much of Finland Russia will take; how much of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; how much of Poland; how much of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Rumania? At any rate let us distinguish between those countries; let us remember those which fought with us and those which fought against us. I have every sympathy with those Polish statesmen who would not sign that agreement. It might have been very much better for this country if many of our statesmen had not signed these various agreements. It might have been better for the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald) if he had never signed that agreement giving away the Irish ports, so that 10,000 of our seamen are at the bottom of the sea through him. If I were one of those Polish statesmen I would refuse to sign that agreement unless the United States of America, this country and the British Dominions signed at the same time.
We signed a pact to protect Czechoslovakia—that was when the late Mr. Neville Chamberlain went to Munich—and Hitler broke it in March, 1939, when 1534 he marched into Prague. It is no use our signing anything which we cannot guarantee. We signed a pact to defend Poland. Have we done so? Goodness knows how many millions of Poles have died since we signed that pact, and we should be well advised not to sign any more pacts unless we are sure we can carry them out. But if the United States of America sign also it is a very different matter. The hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) spoke about ghosts. I think the ghost of Woodrow Wilson may be abroad just now. He signed a pact in the Treaty of Versailles, and when he went home to America the Americans rolled him in the gutter. It seems that we need more than the Prime Minister or the President of the United States to sign a pact, and I would say to the Poles, "Be very careful if there is to be a pact that the pact will be kept."
What about our Dominions? I never heard that there was any great enthusiasm on their part to come in with us at the time of Munich, but they did come in with us most wholeheartedly and gallantly when the Germans marched into Poland. Are we certain, with things as they are in Canada to-day, that Canada will put her name to a pact to guarantee the future frontiers of Poland? Are we sure about Australia? New Zealand we can perhaps rely upon. It took Field-Marshal Smuts all his time to bring South Africa into the war. We may as well face the facts as they really are. But if these various countries do come in and sign on the dotted line to guarantee the frontiers of Poland they would be very well advised to agree to this: I would not mind seeing those people transferred if we were sure that once they had been transferred they would be protected from the hatred of Germany and others who may perhaps be jealous of them.
Let us not forget that all these agreements and disagreements in Europe just now are meat for Hitler. They encourage him to hold out a bit longer, in the hope that the Allies may quarrel among themselves. I would advise the Poles that, if we get these various nations to agree, it would be very wise for them to reconsider the proposals put up by our Prime Minister to-day, remembering that the world is not what they would wish it to be but is as it is to-day
§ 2.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin (Southwark, Central)
I agree very cordially, with the sentence with which my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Tree) opened his remarks, reminding us how tragic this question was, because this is the saddest and most intractable story in the whole history of civilisation. I think it is rather melancholy that this House is tending to-day to divide itself into Right and Left in its sympathies in this matter, to make an ideological problem out of what is really a fundamental political question of the gravest importance to the future of Europe and the world. I came here this afternoon hoping to make a few remarks on the Russian and Polish aspect of this question, but after listening to the speech of the Prime Minister I should like to devote my time to directing attention to what I think is by far the gravest aspect of this situation, the problem of world peace and international relations, which it implies.
I do not think this is an occasion for considering what capital the Germans, Japanese or anyone else are going to make out of divisions amongst the Allies. I think the unity of the Allies towards accomplishing the defeat of the Germans and Japanese and dealing with them at the end of the war is something which cannot and will not be shattered by any differences about the future. I think it is patent that there is a profound distinction between the two great Powers at this moment on these questions. I felt my hon. Friend the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) put his finger on the fundamental point of the Debate when he said the American State Department has declared that it will not be responsible at present for guaranteeing in Europe. We have based our case largely upon the agreement between this country, the United States and the Soviet Union and that the Soviet Union is determined to alter frontiers in a certain respect in a final sense before the war is concluded and the Peace Conference assembles. That is a matter of great substance and importance. I have always hoped and humbly worked, as far as it was within my power, for the agreement with Russia and for the Treaty. I believe the Poles must face realities and will be obliged, in the nature of things, to understand that 1536 the Treaty of Riga and the non-aggression Pact of 1934 and all the other historical and political matters on which she has based so much of her case——[An HON. MEMBER: "Are mere scraps of paper."] I will not say that, but she must accept the fact that they are not altogether relevant to the situation as it is to-day I think the Russians are justified in maintaining that position and I think the Poles must alter their approach to the question. None the less, we have to face the question of drastic and decisive alteration of the frontiers of Europe. If it is true that it is necessary for the peace of Europe for us to agree to these alterations, involving the transposition of large numbers of people of three or four different races—perhaps millions—in circumstances which will involve deep and growing economic problems, what case have we for denying the same claim, or a similar claim, which may be made in a short time by other countries for similar alterations in the map of Europe? What case have we for denying to France the Rhine countries? What case have we for denying adjustments to Czechoslovakia, Denmark and hall a dozen other countries? If these adjustments one after the other are conceded to political agitation before peace is signed, we shall find ourselves at the peace table with a situation which it will be almost impossible to unravel. I well understand the position of the American people and the State Department in refusing to commit themselves at this stage.
I turn to the problem of the relations of the three great Powers. The Foreign Secretary is constantly reminding us—in the early days when he did it I had a great deal of sympathy with him—that the future of mankind is based upon the maintenance of good relations between the U.S.A., the U.S.S.R. and ourselves. I think that was profoundly true, and it is profoundly true to-day, but reiteration is perhaps giving it a false perspective. Although we shall never build a permanent peace system without unity between those three great Powers, I do not believe that any serious student of these matters believes that the future of the world can be indefinitely maintained on any dictatorship of a triumvirate, however admirable and powerful that triumvirate may be. I think the time must come when other nations will feel that the situation is intolerable. The time must 1537 come when, as a result of the psychological and political pressure of other nations, there must be moral and political strains between the three members of that group, and there must be moral and political concessions in which they do not really believe, made by one or other of these three members towards maintaining the harmony of that triumvirate, and when you come to that point you are back again at Munich and the policy of appeasement. What was wrong with the policy of appeasement was not that a concession made to another Power in the interest of peace was in itself necessarily wrong, but that a concession made against the political interests of the world or against the moral integrity of nations must fundamentally carry with it a gradual but increasingly rapid progress towards internecine conflicts between the peoples involved.
I gather from the set-up at present that the position is that we hope to try to tide over the immediate necessities of the moment hoping that after the war things may possibly improve. Unless this arrangement of the triumvirate is maintained from now on with the deliberate purpose of erecting a peace system which shall have functional value for maintaining harmony between the nations of the civilised world, I do not think we shall get anywhere at all. Gradually there is growing up in the world something comparable to the growth of great joint stock companies in the economic and industrial sphere during the last 50 years. We are gradually seeing the emergence of power in the sense of great aggregations of population in various parts of the world. We have Russia with nearly 200,000,000 people, the United States with over 130,000,000, Japan with 100,000,000, and China with 400,000,000. Then we have India, which will probably at no distant date join the comity of nations and may conceivably become a great Power and a great industrial nation with three or four hundred million people. All these great Powers are emerging on the civilised scene. It seems to me that the dangers of some sort of centripetal conflict between them all will gradually emerge after the war unless we can find some satisfactory solution to the problem of these complicated international relations.
I do not see, as I said just now, the tripartite arrangement lasting for ever, but I do see something appearing on the 1538 world scene which is not so very different from the conception of federal union advocated so strongly in the years immediately preceding the war. I think that the policy of the United States in the last few years shows that they are very carefully watching the political scene to see whether some kind of world State, some kind of world arrangement, some kind of world organisation can be evolved that is likely to function. If such an organisation does not seem likely to function, the United States have an alternative. That alternative has always been implicit in United States policy since President Monroe, with the approval of the most eminent of the surviving "Founding Fathers," propounded his famous doctrine, which may grow into a rather novel form of Imperialism.
The nucleus of that Imperial community must necessarily be the American Continent. Of the States of the American Continent, the most important to its success from the United States point of view must obviously be the Dominion of Canada. Canada is related to the United States, not only by ties of a common political outlook and sympathy, by many important racial ties and by the most important economic ties of any other American State, but by the fact that she is obviously in the key position for the development of American strategy in a world that is going to be preparing for conflict rather than for peace. I do think that that is an aspect of the matter we have to consider very seriously. Canada cannot, however, be loyal to—and I think she is very loyal to—and however much she appreciates the Imperial ideal, disregard the fact that her strategic, economic and political interests are bound up with those of the American Continent to a degree which must primarily dictate her political actions in every world problem that may arise. In that respect she is the most important and vital link between ourselves and the United States and can play a great part in that regard. But in the last resort the interests of Canada must follow the situation in which Providence and geography have placed her.
Beyond this we see emerging out of this nucleus of an American commonwealth two important buttresses. One is the Western buttress in the Pacific, consisting of Australia and New Zealand. They, too, must have their place in this 1539 new commonwealth. They, too, must play an important part in its development. We should remember that when the Australian Continent was threatened, as it was not long ago, with the most terrible disaster, what the Australians found happening was this. It was not the people of Fremantle and Perth who, looking out over the Western waters, saw the British Fleet coming to their aid; it was the people of Sydney who, from Eastern windows, saw the American Pacific Fleet coming to defend them from the Japanese. It was not to the Prime Minister that they were obliged to turn, but rather to President Roosevelt. It was not Lord Wavell but General MacArthur who became their supreme commander-in-chief. In these changes in the map of Europe we have to take into account that that kind of preponderance in the political set-up will gradually develop. If Austra is and New Zealand constitute the Western buttress of this new commonwealth, it is certain where the Eastern buttress is going to be. It is going to be in this island.
The only reason I have dwelt on this aspect of the matter is that we are no longer, after the war is over, if the world is to be a war preparing world again, going to be the deciding factor in the future of the British Empire; that we have to face the fact that major decisions will be taken in Washington; that we, as well as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, must accept the facts of geography; and that the gradual development of the political scene will be in favour of the loss of gravity and of the political importance of this island and of the shifting of the centre of importance to Washington and the United States. I commend these considerations, not so much to this House and this country, as to the Union of Soviet Republics. If the three great Powers are allowed to drift apart before they have built up an adequate peace organisation, if we begin the peace in a conflict of disagreements and hostility, if we have to accept always solutions to which we cannot give whole-hearted moral and political subscription, I suggest that the future trend of events is not necessarily in favour of a happy and progressive growth of the Union of Soviet Republics. I suggest that we may enter a fresh conflict in Europe, which will only be solved by a third world war far more tragic and 1540 terrible than anything that has been seen in this war.
I would urge that we turn from this manoeuvring to set up a new balance of power in Europe, and try really to solve the problems which the European conflict of a thousand years presents to us; to try, not in a hurry, to commit ourselves to frontiers or agreements or transpositions of population; and to try to accomplish just four things. They are, to defer the final settlements of the peace for a period of from five to ten years after the war with Germany ends and to set up, in that period, four commissions. One of them should be concerned with minorities and might study the problem which frontiers and minorities present; one to be entrusted with the control of certain exemplary raw materials and to see how far it is possible for the world to exercise a common control over important raw materials for an experimental period; one to study the question of international finance; and the last to superintend the problem of controlling national armaments and building up by degrees an international peace system.
None of those things is practicable in the present state of the world or ultimately in a world which consists of nothing but sovereign States, but all are matters upon which we can begin, slowly and carefully over a period of years, to work out, and on which, if we can get, after studied investigation, some reports, it might be possible, at a peace conference five or ten years after the war is over, to have the beginnings of an enduring peace system.
§ 3.3. p.m.
§ Mr. Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)
I will refrain from following my hon. Friend on the Cook's tour all the way round the Empire with which he has just favoured the House and, if he will permit me to do so, I will bring the focus of the Debate back to the question of Polish-Russian relations. When I listened to the Prime Minister to-day, I could not help noticing the feeling of the House, as one so often can. Instead of, as we have so often seen recently, cheers and counter cheers for or against the Prime Minister's policy, we heard, all the way through his, speech, hardly a cheer and a sort of awful, ugly, apprehensive, cold silence. That was significant, and the speeches that have followed have justified the idea which one had of the 1541 way in which this House and the country are feeling in this matter. I am sure that the speeches of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes), the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) and the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas), who made a first-rate and most courageous speech, and, last, but not least, of the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone), with whom I have often disagreed in the past, to-day spoke and I believe represented the real voice of Britain.
Let us consider the situation. My hon. Friend the Member for South-East Essex asked what would have been thought in 1940, supposing we had been told in this House what was going to happen. I will take it back another year. Suppose the late Prime Minister, Mr. Neville Chamberlain, announcing the British declaration of war on behalf of His Majesty's Government on 3rd September, 1939, had said, finishing his speech: "In five years' time, this Poland, which we have come into the war to defend, will be severed, and half will be offered to another Power." It is a horrifying thought, that one dare hardly even contemplate.
I should have liked to refer to the question of the Baltic States, because I believe that their future and the future of Poland are bound up closely together. I do not do so only because I do not wish to take too long, but I would say that the situation in the Baltic States now controlled by Russia is a very serious and a very ugly one. If hon. Members will get the most recent bulletin of the Institute of International Affairs and will read the part which deals with the four countries, I think they will have an eye opener. I believe that Poland should engage our attention even more, because Poland is a test case, not only of what is going to happen between now and the end of the war but of the peace treaties, when we come to that period.
Poland is entitled to full respect from the people of this country. It is not only because, as many hon. Members have said, she has fought so gallantly in the war and not only because we came into the war to defend Poland against German aggression but also because she is a very ancient State which, in spite of four 1542 partitions, has still maintained within its borders a strong people, speaking a distinct language and with a strong and powerful racial sense. In spite of all those vicissitudes, she is determined to remain an independent nation. After all those terrible times that they have had, in the last 200 years—and indeed before, when they were standing up to the Asiatic hordes—when Poland was attacked by Germany she was the first country in Europe which stood up and fought, because she was determined not to be overrun by German aggressors. She fought with very little hope, but she fought for six weeks in circumstances of great gallantry.
Now we are asked, and our attention is focused upon this possibility—I do not think it has gone any farther than that for the moment—of handing over half Poland, that is to say, up to the Curzon Line, to Russia. I am not going to ask whether the peoples on the East of the Curzon Line are Russian or mainly Pole and I do not agree with the hon. Member who spoke earlier as to racial alignment. It is not necessary, for the reason that, on four successive occasions, treaties have been made, freely entered into, by the Russian Government and by the Polish Government on the matter. It was first laid down in the Treaty of Riga in 1921, and then confirmed in the treaties of 1932, 1934 and 1941, what those boundaries were. After 1921, at the time of the Treaty of Riga, the boundaries were never in dispute on any occasion. Why then are they in dispute now? There can be only one answer. I beg His Majesty's Government to look at the crude realities. I do not wish to overstate my case in any way. There can be only one answer why they are in dispute now, and that is because Russia says she wants that particular territory. It is the only, the inescapable, conclusion, that we can draw from that.
Since 1921, Russo-Polish relations have been, on the whole, fairly good until of course in 1939 when that unfortunate affair happened, when Russia entered Poland behind the back of the Polish Armies, and seized a certain portion of Polish territory. Then, after that, relations again happily improved when, as a result of the German attack on Russia, Russian views on these matters underwent a very great change. In General 1543 Sikorski's Premiership, as we all know—and this is important—a Treaty, the fourth Treaty, was freely entered into between Poland and Russia which read as follows:The Government of the U.S.S.R. recognise the Soviet-German Treaty of 1939 as to territorial changes in Poland as having lost their validity.The two Governments agree to render each other material support at all times in the present war against Hitlerite Germany.The result of that Treaty was clearly to undo the effects of the Russian action in 1939 and to revert to Poland's pre-war frontiers. At that time the present Secretary of State welcomed that agreement, as it was quite natural he should; so I think did the whole of the British people. He handed a note to General Sikorski the operative part of which was as follows:His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom has not undertaken any obligations to the U.S.S.R. which would affect the relations between that State and Poland. I also desire to state that His Majesty's Government does not recognise any territorial change made in Poland since August, 1939.I would like to ask, For what reason have they departed from that perfectly explicit statement of their views? There was, further, the Anglo-Polish Treaty made on 25th August, 1939, as a result of which we came into the war. I would like to ask my right hon. Friend a further question on this Treaty. Some of us know that there was an unpublished protocol to that Treaty, a protocol I have seen with my own eyes. It did not come into my hands from any Polish source; there was no breach of faith on the part of anyone. That protocol if I read it correctly, and I believe I did, further reinforces the obligation of His Majesty's Government to the Polish nation.
§ Mr. Petherick
I was referring to the Anglo-Polish Treaty of 1939, to which there was an unpublished protocol.
In addition, we have the Atlantic Charter. I agree with the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University in having neither particular affection for nor placing enormous reliance on the Atlantic Charter because I thought we should get into very serious trouble as a result of it. But the Prime Minister in his interpretation of the Atlantic Charter to-day got the wording all wrong. It was not at all what 1544 the Atlantic Charter says. It says that they, that is, the high contracting parties,desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned.How can the peoples freely express their wishes on the questions of frontiers or Governments? They can only do so by means of free elections, not free elections under a régime which would only allow one party to offer themselves for election, but free elections as we understand them in this country—that is the only way, to my mind, in which we are to fulfil not the spirit but the actual terms of the Atlantic Charter, and can allow any part of Europe to be changed except, of course, enemy countries.
I come to the Curzon Line because I believe that relations have unfortunately steadily deteriorated in the last few months since the mention of the Curzon Line. We only heard of that immediately after the Conference at Teheran, when the Prime Minister, for the first time, in my opinion highly unfortunately, made mention of the Curzon Line in the House of Commons. What is the Curzon Line? If you go about talking to people outside this House who ought to be quite well informed they have the idea from this name that it must be something respectable, an honest Conservative view given by an honest Conservative statesman, as to where a line of demarcation between Poland and Russia should be drawn. What was the Curzon Line? It was on 8th December, 1919, that the Supreme Allied Council in Paris made this declaration, in view of the chaos in Eastern Europe and the fighting on the Polish frontiers as the result of all kinds of terrible results coming from the war. They thought it best to make a declaration that the Polish Government then in being should have the right to form a Government and administer territory up to a certain suggested line.
I would draw the attention of the House to this: There was a very distinct proviso, which I can quote in the original French, if anybody would like me to do so, which said that that line up to which the Polish Government was entitled to take over and administer the territory was without prejudice to the ultimate stipulations which will fix the definitive Eastern frontiers of Poland. The Russian-Polish war went on for some time until 1545 Mr. Grabski in 1920 agreed to sign an immediate armistice on the basis thatthe Polish Army retires to and stands on the line fixed by the Peace Conference"—that was the declaration of 8th December, 1919, as the administrative boundary up to which the then Polish Government was allowed to operate—as the provisional boundary of Polish administration; and that the Soviet Armies halt 50 kilometres to the east of that line.As a result of that the next day His Majesty's Government made a proposal to Russia the terms of which are now being considered by the House.
It seems to make it perfectly plain that at every stage the Curzon Line was nothing more or less than an armistice line, and the statement of the Allied Powers in 1919 made it clear that this boundary which was roughly the Curzon Line up to which the Polish Government were allowed to take over was only a provisional line and not in the least definitive. I need not add anything more except to point once again to the fact that that provisional line became a definitive line by free agreement between the Poles and Russia by the Treaty of Riga, 1921, which was re-affirmed three times later.
Mention has been made of the Lublin Committee. I leave that, because, in my opinion, the question of the Lublin Committee is much less important than the question of frontiers, for this reason: A country cannot have independence, it cannot have an independent Government, unles its frontiers are assured, and in my opinion the Lublin Committee was never regarded seriously by the Russians and was merely put up as a stalking horse to give what they thought they wanted so far as boundaries were concerned. I think my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and, indeed, the Prime Minister in Moscow were perhaps not very wise in paying too much attention to and in treating the Lublin Committee too seriously as they appear to have done. The Lublin Committee is utterly fictitious and the Russians, who are very sensible and wise people in these matters, know perfectly well, just the same as everybody else does, that the Lublin Committee is bogus and was utterly unnecessary except in order to achieve a certain ulterior purpose.
1546 What is the final suggestion? It is that Poland is to lose halt her territory, and that she will lose one-third of her population. Apparently the plea is that that is necessary in order to give defence in depth to Moscow. We, whose Armies, with the American armies, are engaged in operations for the defence of the Low Countries might just as well say that we, who have experienced war at the gates of our country, will remain in occupation there after this war, because we require defence in depth for London. What a cry would arise, not only from the Belgians but from the French, our own people, and indeed the Russians, if we made such a monstrous suggestion.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
My hon. Friend has forgotten another point, which would make his analogy complete. Not only should we take part of the country which we have occupied, but, also, we should say to the Government of the remainder of the country, that they should meet only with our approval.
§ Mr. Petherick
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his interruption, because I know he wished to make an imperfect speech rather better than it was likely to be. I would remind him of another point on the question of so-called compensation. It is suggested that East Prussia should be given to Poland as compensation. But the Poles do not want East Prussia as compensation. It is the same as if you took away East Anglia from Britain, and gave it to Germany, and offered us Normandy instead. It is a monstrous suggestion.
I am coming to the end of my speech, which I fear has been rather controversial. I believe that it is most important, not only in our interests and in Polish interests, but, oddly enough, in Russia's interests too, that we should speak perfectly frankly. Little has been mentioned to-day of Russian interests and rights; but certainly Russian interests and Russian rights should also be considered in discussing these matters. I believe that the greatest of all Russian interests is the same as the greatest of British interests—that is, peace, and being able to live within her own borders a peaceful life, and so to order her own people as she likes: not as any other country in the world likes, but as she likes. One very important Russian interest is that she must be allowed to carry on her im- 1547 mense work of reconstruction after the ravages of this war, so that she may, after a period of time, try, as we shall have to, to get a better standard of life for her population. Lastly, does it really pay Russia in the long run to have a whole lot of Irelands around her frontiers, all struggling to be free, and troubling not only Europe, but Russia herself?
Four Powers—Great Britain, France, the United States, and Russia—have all suffered terribly together in this war. They are all agreed that Germany must be completely destroyed as a military Power. Each of them, including Russia, is fully entitled to security within its frontiers. When Germany is defeated, and defeated completely, there must no longer be any danger to Russia or anyone else in Europe from Germany, and consequently Russia, so far as Europe is concerned, can feel completely safe. Those great Powers, having won their right to independence and to live their own lives, should also be generous—and I believe that this is a Russian interest too—to those smaller Powers, who cannot always stand up militarily for their own rights and their own independence.
Is it impossible to bring Russia to see this? Some Members believe that it is not possible, but I believe that it is possible. I do not believe that Russia intends to pursue the purely Imperialistic policy which so many hon. Members, and some members of the public, in this country and in the United States, believe is likely. Some effort should be made; because if Great Britain, America, Russia, and France can stand together, the peace of Europe is assured for 100 years to come, but if all that happens is that one aggressor is completely ground in the dust and there is another aggressor arising in Europe, we cannot look forward to peace, not only for a 100 years, but for a single day. The greatest British interest is British honour, and we were deeply committed to Poland when we came into this war. There will be no peace in Europe, or in the world, unless, as a result of the Russian policy in respect of Poland, it is clear to the whole world that power is only the man-at-arms of justice.
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Mack (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
The hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) apologised for the 1548 fact that he might be controversial. I can assure him that I did not object, having in mind the controversy that my remarks might arouse; because, unlike practically all the preceding speakers, I am an unrepentant friend of Russia, and have been such not only in the roseate times of to-day, but in years back, when Russia was not persona grata with the powers that be. I have rarely heard in this House so reactionary a speech as that which was delivered by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wirral (Captain Graham), who, if he will not mind my saying so, has established himself as a pitiable stooge of the Polish reactionaries, and does not represent in any sense the Polish people—neither he nor the droning chorus which has gathered around him, and which has been particularly evident in this Debate. I am sorry to say that there are in other parts of the House apologetical hirelings of Poland, who have voiced a feeling——
§ Captain Graham
May I ask the hon. Gentleman for a definition of the word "hireling," in case he has to withdraw it?
§ Mr. Mack
I am not here to educate the hon. and gallant Member in the use of language, which no doubt he understands perfectly. Furthermore, I have not referred specifically to any particular Member. Generally speaking, the attitude of Russia can be epitomised in the lines of Shakespeare:it is excellent—To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannousTo use it like a giant.I think that all fair-minded people will agree that Russia, in her relations with all the small nations around her, has shown an understanding, and in some cases a solicitude, which has not always been deserved. In the case of Poland, which is being represented as a democratic, Christian country, with all the virtues that one associates with those terms, suffering under the lash of Russia, and liable to be submerged and completely obliterated from the comity of nations, I think that that can only be described as a completely distorted picture. The Poland that we know is not the Poland of Chopin, of Paderewski or even of John Sobietski. Rather is it the Poland of peasants, mostly impoverished, and of a landed feudal aristocracy which has ruled tyrannously for hundreds of 1549 years. [Interruption.] I am not speaking of the Government that is here at present, but of the Government which had power and control over the Poles in Poland, and which helped to reduce that peasantry to the parlous condition in which it remained. [An HON. MEMBER: "Which Government?"] We have the assurance of Marshal Stalin—[Interruption]—I do not mind interruptions, because the verbosity of hon. Members opposite indicates their paucity of intelligence. The fact remains that, on 28th April, 1943, the Russian Government broke off negotiations with the Polish Government in London for certain reasons, among which may be mentioned the type of propaganda in which that Polish Government indulged in regard to Katyn, in which they supported the propaganda of Goebbels, which claimed that tens of thousands of Polish officers had been cruelly murdered by the Russians.
More than that, every Member of Parliament in this House is familiar with a type of propaganda received by post casting aspersions on the Russians and their actions by certain sections of the Poles in London. Again, we had the case not long ago, when this House expressed itself very strongly against the attitude of certain Polish military chiefs, who differentiated between minorities of nationals in their own Army in this country. Indeed, they had a very sorry record. Finally, I know, from personal association, that there are internecine quarrels amongst the Poles themselves, and it is quite evident, both from the Press and from utterances from their own lips, that they are unable to manage their own affairs in any coherent manner.
The fact remains that, on 1st December, "The Times" said:The best that can be said of the announcement of the formation of a new Polish Government in London under M. Arciszewski and without the participation of M. Mikolajczyk and the Peasant Party is that a step so clearly out of touch with present realities and future needs cannot be regarded as more than a momentary stop-gap.And went on to say:Unfortunately, the majority of Polish politicians in London, blindly faithful to a fatal and discredited tradition, have forced the resignation of the only leader of eminence among them whose sense of realities made him capable of recognising this simple truth and of building on it a workable policy for the Poland of the future.1550 I want to say, lest there be any misapprehension, that everybody in this House, so far as I am able to ascertain, has a great respect for the many thousands of heroic Poles who have waged war so finely against Germany, and I would be churlish and less than honest if I did not say that I also as much as my hon. Friend wish to pay a great tribute to these people. I would go further and say that the rank and file of the Polish workers and peasants are honest, decent, humble people, who have no desire, fundamentally, to quarrel with their neighbours, but who have been led into this awful position, not of their own volition, but because they have been used by their politicians.
I would remind hon. Members that these sores go back a quarter of a century. It was in the Spring of 1920 that Polish troops invaded the Ukraine and captured Kiev. Months later in the same year, the Russians recaptured that town and, finally, were able to restore some order. As a result of the Treaty of Riga, Russia was forced to concede the Western Ukraine to Poland, a Poland which became temporarily strong, with the advent of General Pilsudski and other military chiefs, all of whom endeavoured to weaken the Russian revolution in its tender stages, before the Russians could defend themselves adequately. Then we had the siege of Vilna in 1920. I was very glad that the hon. Gentleman, the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) said, "I am no friend of Poland," although his intentions are probably well disposed towards the Poles. But, if one faces realities, one sees that the actions of some of my hon. Friends are rendering a great disservice to the Polish people at the present moment. I congratulate the Prime Minister for once in a while on having the awareness to understand that, when one is dealing with a big Power like Russia it will not be promptings or urgings on our part, or the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend, that will decide the future of Poland, but that Russia, in the final analysis, will decide it, in any case.
§ Mr. Mack
My hon. Friend knows better than that. I should be the last to urge that an unwarrantable usurpation of power against a weak neighbour would 1551 vindicate truth and honour. Far from it, but I do say this, and I make this prophecy to the House, although prophecy is a very dangerous thing in which to indulge, that, after the war, Russia will treat not only Poland, but all these small countries, with great understanding, sympathy, and help and will set an example of big-heartedness that some of us are too purblind to appreciate at the present time.
§ Captain Graham rose——
§ Mr. Mack
The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, who have both visited Russia recently and have had an opportunity of making close contact, know the position rather better than most hon. Members of this House. I am confident that, as far as their actions are concerned, the continuance of friendship with Russia and the furtherance of the highest ideals will be accomplished if we do not vitiate their efforts as the result of a reactionary state of mind and by creating pictures which have no historical relationship to the facts. If this object is accomplished I think it will augur an era of understanding between this country and Russia, do much to heal the hurts and misunderstandings of the past, and thus build a better future for millions of poor people who have suffered greatly in this war as a result of Germany's aggression.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
This Debate, after all, is only the continuation of a long Debate on foreign policy, but against another background, and in another context. As the hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) pointed out, in what I venture to say was a very brilliant speech, it raises certain fundamental issues; and I have been asking myself during the last few days what have been the guiding principles underlying the conduct of our foreign policy during this war. I have been able to discover only one, and I do not think it is a bad one. It has been the defeat of Germany. In 1940 and 1941, that sufficed. We attained during those years a prestige which has never been equalled by any nation in the history of the world; but by 1942 I do not think that that single principle, the defeat of Germany, sufficed any longer.
§ Mr. Loftus (Lowestoft)
May I interrupt the hon. Member? Surely that was a purpose, not a principle?
§ Mr. Boothby
No, I think it was the principle which underlay our foreign policy. We had been joined in 1942 by powerful Allies; and the problems which began to press on us with increasing severity were no longer of a purely military character—they were becoming political. But we had no compass and no ruler to apply to them other than grounds of military necessity, no star to steer by except Mars; and one star, for a lot of mariners, is not enough. There was, of course, the Atlantic Charter, to which frequent reference has been made to-day. I have never been able to take that document too seriously. It was a pious aspiration. The quotation about the changing of frontiers has been given more than once in this Debate: "We desire that no frontiers shall be changed until the end of the war," or whatever it may be. Yes, but we do not always get in this rough life what we desire. It was, I repeat, a pious aspiration. Some people are inclined to treat the Atlantic Charter as if it were the tablets of Moses, the final commandments. It was a document drafted under great pressure in a battleship, and in a comparatively short time.
§ Mr. Boothby
Under pressure of time, and of events. I am not going to say that the Atlantic Charter should be regarded as sacrosanct for all time in every respect.
In the summer of 1942 I ventured to suggest, in a letter to "The Times," that we should try to set up a Supreme Council of the United Nations. I was taken to task at the time, and told it was a physical impossibility, and that the existing arrangements for co-operation were satisfactory and adequate. Looking back, however, I feel sure that it would have been a right thing to do, if it could have been done; and that a great many of the troubles which have come upon us since would have been averted if we had had a Supreme Council of the United Nations. If the need for it was urgent then, I submit to the House that it is ten times more urgent to-day. For where are we now heading?
1553 We are heading in the direction of spheres of influence; and that, in my belief, is a dangerous course, which may easily culminate in the final disaster of a third world war, unless it is checked. What in fact happens? We say to the Russians, "Greece is strategically important to us in the Eastern Mediterranean. We shall, therefore, be very much obliged if you would be good enough to clear out of Greece and disinterest yourselves in the future of Greece"; and we are delighted when the Russians meet our wishes. What is the obvious implication when that policy is carried out? Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria are all of admitted strategic importance to Russia. The implication is that the Soviet Union should bring them within their ambit and sphere of influence; and that we should lose interest in those three countries, getting Greece as a quid pro quo, or Greece and Yugoslavia, or whatever else you like, as a Mediterranean Power. So the bargaining goes on between the great Powers for spheres of influence. That, I think, is dangerous; and I want to protest against it.
I share M. Litvinov's view that peace is indivisible. Just as I do not think we should ever have been requested or encouraged to accept the sole responsibility for the administration of liberated Greece, so I do not think we can disinterest ourselves in the future of Poland. To that extent I go all the way with my hon. Friends opposite. We have moral obligations to Poland from which escape is quite impossible. That being so, I should like to make it clear that I personally agree with the Prime Minister that the Russian claim for a frontier—subject to modifications—based on the Curzon Line, is valid on strategic and ethnographic grounds. The fact that that Line, whatever anybody may say, was originally drawn by us, certainly lends force and point to their argument. What were the circumstances in which that Line was drawn? We had a Government in this country which was strongly hostile to Russia. Lord Curzon certainly did not take a favourable view of Russia; and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who was an important member of that Administration at that time, took an even less favourable view of Russia than Lord Curzon. On top of that, Russia was actually in a very weak position, having 1554 received a severe military defeat. Those were the conditions under which the Curzon Line was drawn; and presumably we must have thought that it was reasonable.
I also think—and here I find myself again in substantial agreement with the Prime Minister—that East Prussia, which remains to-day what it has been for the last two centuries, the focal point of the infection of Prussian militarism, should be excised from the German body politic by a surgical operation; and that the German population of East Prussia should be, as the Prime Minister said, expelled. It is rough but, by God, they deserve it.
I would like to say, before I sit down, a word or two about the past, because I do not think we can ignore it completely. If I have any criticism to make of the series of most formidable speeches made by my hon. Friends opposite who are opposed to the Government and to me on this issue the past is what they have rather carefully skated round. There has been a lot of talk about frontiers, guaranteed and sacrosanct. I seem to remember something about a guarantee of the frontiers of the new Czechoslovakia after Munich; but when that unfortunate country was finally raped by Germany we did not find my hon. Friends coming down in a white heat of passion to demand that we implement our guarantee of the frontiers of newly-constituted Czechoslovakia. Yet only a few weeks before, that had been their main plank in backing the Munich agreement; the claim that by that agreement, we had garanteed the safety and security of a newer, better and happier Czechoslovakia with all its boundaries set out in beautiful blue print. Anyhow the Germans collared it. And I cannot help asking myself whether it is because Russia is now the alleged offender—it was Germany in those days, at the height of appeasement, when the golden age was alleged to be round the corner—that makes such a marked difference. But the principle is the same. If frontiers are guaranteed, and if so much importance is attached to them, there is no difference between the two.
So far as the last 10 years are concerned, I suggest to hon. Members that the record of the Russians is, in some respects at any rate, better than the record of the Poles. I well remember crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the "Berengaria" with M. Litvinov in the 1555 autumn of 1933, and having a long conversation with him on a stormy day while walking round the deck. He foretold the course of coming events with startling accuracy. He named the two aggressor Powers which were about to challenge the existing order; and described in precise terms the methods they would employ. In every detail his prophecy was fulfilled.
§ Sir H. Williams
As M. Litvinov fixed up the treaty of appeasement between Russia and Germany, did he not fix up what he predicted?
§ Mr. Boothby
M. Litvinov did not fix up that treaty. I am coming to that point, if my hon. Friend will allow me to develop my argument. I asked M. Litvinov what he proposed to do, and what he thought should be done. He said that nothing could stop it except an effective system of collective security based upon the League of Nations; and to the creation of such a system he was going to devote all his energies. Even at that time, however, he was not very sanguine about the result. I was reading last night Mr. Sumner Welles's very interesting book "The Time for Decision," and I came across this short paragraph about Litvinov which I believe to be a true and fair summary:Litvinov is a blunt man. He is often brutal. He has never seemed to me to be devious. So long as he represented his Government in the League, he strove with all his great ability to make the League work. It should never be forgotten that the Soviet Union did not desert the League. It was the great Powers which dominated the League in its later years that deserted the Soviet Union.There is more than an element of truth in that. We shall have to accept our full share of responsibility for what happened before history; for the fact remains that we turned down the proposal of Litvinov for a conference at Geneva after the rape of Austria, and again for a conference at Bucharest after the rape of Czechoslovakia; and at Munich we served a public notice on the U.S.S.R. to quit.
But, in the final analysis, the main obstacle to the alliance between Russia and the Western democracies, which we were all desperately striving to achieve in the early months of 1939, was Poland. Poland prejudiced almost everybody in the world against her by seizing the Teschen coalfield when Czechoslovakia was on her back which, whatever may be said 1556 about it, was not a pretty thing to do. And up to the outbreak of the present war Poland refused any kind of military co-operation with the Soviet Union; and that is the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), who, I am sorry to see, is no longer in his place. For that is what finally drove the Soviet Union to sign a pact with Nazi-Germany. These things cannot and should not be forgotten.
Without a friendly Russia, as many Members on both sides have pointed out, Poland can never hope to exist in security and independence. I believe that she could have made an agreement with Russia a year ago, and that had she been well led she would have done so. I believe that General Sikorsky, had he lived, would have done it. His death was a European tragedy of the first order. Nevertheless, despite all their failures in the political field, the military record of the Poles everywhere in this war is glorious; and I agree that we cannot disinterest ourselves in the future of Poland. Whatever we may feel about her frontiers—and I am against them on the Curzon Line—we have an obligation to do our best to see that no political régime is forcibly imposed on Poland from without; and we must do our level best to fulfil that obligation, even though we may sometimes think that the Poles themselves are doing their level best to prevent us.
What of the future? The Prime Minister said not long ago that he thought this war was becoming less ideological. He must have been sharply disillusioned in recent weeks. We have first of all to face the fact that all Europe is in the throes of revolution, of which this war is not the cause but merely a symptom. There is nothing that can stop it; we cannot put back Governments of the old régimes; and personally I do not mind that. It is not a Communist revolution. We are inclined to judge these things by our own political standards, forgetting that in the political field we are far ahead of any other country in the world, with the exception of the United States. My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon is miles to the Left of many Continental politicians who call themselves Socialists. We are much more advanced in these political matters than other European countries. This revolution is the revolt of the common man against tyranny and oppression. It is the clamant 1557 assertion on the part of the individual of the right to live. We are familiar with it in this country. Colonel Rainbow in the seventeenth century, who said:The poorest man hath a life to live as the richest he,and Robert Burns who, in the eighteenth century, said:A man's a man for a' that,were expressing what the ordinary people in Europe are striving to express to-day. That is the core of this revolution. In considering the problem that is before us to-day we have to bear in mind that there was a good deal of tyranny and oppression in Poland before the outbreak of this war. The hon. Member who has just sat down talked of the feudalism and wretchedness of the Polish nation; and he was talking a good deal of sense and truth. The condition of the peasants in Eastern Poland was pretty desperate before this war.
The second fact we have to face up to—some of my hon. Friends may disagree with me on this—is that émigré Governments—I do not use the word sarcastically or abusively—which have existed in London during the last four years are unlikely to be acceptable to countries which have been under the German heel during that time. Among them I include the Lublin Committee. General de Gaulle is an exception; he was always the symbol of French resistance, and the acknowledged head of the resistance movement. We should, I think, be better advised to impose law and order ourselves in the liberated countries than impose unpopular Governments; but we cannot do this alone.
This brings me to my final point. We may succeed or we may fail; but unless we can work in closer co-operation with our principal Allies in this war than we have been able to do in recent months, then I think it is possible that this war may have been fought in vain. Some hon. Members said that the Prime Minister's announcement of the terms with regard to Poland, to which he had agreed, were a death knell. I thought that that part of the Prime Minister's speech was courageous and realistic; and I agreed with it. What struck a slight chill in my heart was his statement that it has not yet been found possible to arrange for an early meeting between himself, President Roosevelt and Marshal 1558 Stalin. This is a really serious situation. It is of no use for Mr. Stettinius to fire sighting salvoes against us across the Atlantic. Some Americans may disapprove of our actions in Italy, Greece, or Poland; but they cannot disapprove more than some of us have disapproved in the past of their policy towards France, particularly at the time of the squalid Darlan affair. If a small group of Members of this House, belonging to no party, had not championed the cause of de Gaulle in his darkest and most difficult hour, God knows what follies might not have been committed.
The remedy for this problem and for many other problems must be sought, for it can only be found, in closer co-operation between the four major Powers which now form the basis of the United Nations—France, Russia, ourselves and America. If we cannot do that it will be a serious outlook indeed. I know the Prime Minister and the Government are striving to this end; and I hope the Foreign Secretary will be able to give us some re-assurance, because of what the Prime Minister said, on the question of the failure up to the present to arrange a four-Power Conference. What the Prime Minister said on this matter deeply perturbed many Members on both sides of the House. It seemed to me by far the most serious aspect of his speech. I beg of His Majesty's Government, before it is too late, to get this meeting; and to set up a Supreme Council of the United Nations, so that in co-operation rather than in competition with our Allies, we may lay the foundations of the new world.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
I once spent a very unhappy weekend. I went to stay with a married couple, both of whom were my intimate and very dear friends, and with whom I had had a close association for a considerable part of my life. To my grievous distress I had been there hardly five minutes when I found that they were wrangling and describing one another in terms of abuse. When I pleaded with them for their sake, for my sake, and for the sake of their children, to get into closer friendly relations they yielded to my entreaties for a time, but shortly afterwards slid back into their altercations. That is how I regard this situation between Poland and Russia.
1559 Perhaps my earliest insight into foreign affairs, when I was a very small child, was derived from the pitiable story of the rape of Poland, which had taken place more than once in history. My pity for the Poles was aroused from that day. I appreciated their desire to recover their country—an appreciation which has lasted for many years, and has been increased by my sympathy for some of the great Polish figures of history, including one whose name has not yet been mentioned, Madame Curie, the great scientist. My knowledge of the splendid fight which the Poles have put up in the present war, and the fact that the Polish Prime Minister is a member of the Socialist Party in Poland, has also inclined me to desire that Poland should be treated with justice and consideration. I think I speak for my party when I say that they share that feeling. They most strongly backed up the demand that the Germans should not be allowed with impunity to attack Poland, and we strongly supported the intimation given, even in the days of the Chamberlain Government, to Germany that if she attacked the Poles we should come in to fight on their behalf.
It is, equally true that both I and my party have a feeling of very deep affection for the Soviet Government. We have watched the struggle they have made against many who wanted to see the downfall of the Socialist experiment. We have watched the strength of their success, we have watched the marvellous fight that they have put up in the present war and we have watched the magnanimity with which they have treated the Finns and some of the countries in the Balkan States when at last peace has been declared between them. Therefore, it is not only the hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) but it is surely all Members of the House who would infinitely prefer a free negotiated settlement if that is in any way possible. In fact I will go almost further than he does. I do not believe that any settlement of the Polish-Russian problem which does not command the full support of both parties will make for peace. That is not merely the attitude of those who have been, so to speak, pro-Polish. I think it is true of every party and every person in the House. But the question which was addressed to the hon. Member him- 1560 self, and which he did not answer, was, "Supposing you cannot get a free negotiated settlement?" It reminds me of a passage in "Much Ado About Nothing." This is what Dogberry said to the watch:This is your charge: You shall comprehend all vagrom men; you are to bid any man stand, in the prince's name.The watch said:How if a will not stand?Dogberry said:Take no note of him, but let him go; and presently call the rest of the watch together, and thank God you are rid of a knave.Then Verges added:If he will not stand when he is bidden, he is none of the prince's subjects.That is the problem to which we have to address ourselves. What if he will not stand? What if we can get no negotiated settlement? Why is it that a negotiated settlement is not forthcoming? I think I can supply the answer. It is because the history of the relationship of these two countries is blotted with the blood and tears of countless people all down the centuries.
I do not know if the House has heard the story of a negro preacher rationalising the passage by the Israelites of the Red Sea. He said, "A cold North wind arose and the Red Sea was frozen solid, and the Israelites walked across the ice as though they were on dry land." One of the congregation said he had been looking at his geography, and the Red Sea was somewhere in the tropics where they did not get frosts. The preacher was not in the least upset by the suggestion. He said that all this happened several thousand years ago, and there was no geography in those days. I sometimes wish there was no history in these days or, if there has to be history, that it had not entered into the bones, the heart, the blood and the emotions of the peoples who live to-day. I am sure the Foreign Secretary would have a much easier task if the blotted pages of history were not uppermost in the minds of those people with whom he had to deal.
I agree very largely with my hon. Friend with regard to the seriousness of what the Prime Minister said about the relationships of the Allied Powers. The most serious thing with regard to the actual Russian situation is that he appeared to have abandoned all hope of 1561 a negotiated settlement and, knowing how hard he and the Foreign Secretary have worked in order to reach a settlement, this was a matter which must be of very grave anxiety and regret to Members of the House, not untouched with very serious misgivings. It is with this background that he asks for the acceptance of the territorial changes which he sketched out to us. These changes are undoubtedly cataclysmic and, though they have been hinted at before, I do not think that up to now they have been expressed in such a concrete shape. I am speaking on behalf of my party, and I do not think I should be entitled to put forward any precise and specific view in detail, with regard to this quite definite proposal of the terms of settlement, if settlement it can be called. But I think I can say that it certainly is not a settlement which leaves us very happy. I feel that it raises a very large number of issues which are not easy to see through to the end.
We all see the difficulties of the situation. It may well be that the British Government cannot prevent a settlement somewhat on these lines, but I am not sure that it necessarily follows that they must under-write the settlement. Are we in any worse position with regard to our great Ally, whom we all wish to support, if we say to them, "We wish we could make a different settlement but, if that is your settlement, we will do anything we can to get it carried," or if we say, "We do not altogether like it. If you must make it, you must make it, but you must not expect us actively to support it. There seems to me to be a distinct shade of difference. I know from what the Prime Minister said in a previous Debate that he has done his best to present to Russia our feeling with regard to this important question, and Mr. Stalin is now fully aware of our position. Shall we worsen our position vis-à-vis Mr. Stalin if we do not actively go out to support this proposal? That is the direct suggestion that I make to the Foreign Secretary. I support a great deal of what was said in a very thoughtful speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Central Southwark (Mr. Martin), who gave us a close and interesting analysis, from his point of view, of what we are all feeling so much about to-day.
I do not propose to say anything further about the specific frontier proposed for Poland on the East. The disadvan- 1562 tages of it are quite apparent. It may be thought that that is what it will be in the end, but I do not propose to go into that any further, but to say a few words about the frontier suggested on the West. I think that the famous Danzig Corridor worked so badly that we are perfectly right to get rid of it, and that on general grounds, quite apart from the present situation, Poland should have proper access to the sea. I do not think that the Germans, considering what they did, have the slightest right to complain of our taking that course. I would go further, and say that, after the transferences of population which the Germans have effected in all parts of the world, the ruthless way in which they have torn people up from their homes and even removed their own people about, they have no right to complain if we on our part forcibly remove some of their people. I would even go further. The Prime Minister quoted certain reasons for thinking that there would be room in Germany, even a smaller Germany, for some of the people who lay outside the inner Reich. The German Government have murdered or driven out of their country a large number of Jews, and the place that these people occupied will, also be available for others from outside. So that, although the Germans will complain, I do not think they will have any right to complain about any forcible changes of population that we may desire to make.
That is not to say that we can play about with territories which have been German and that we can move about not hundreds of thousands but millions of people. I think that there are in the territory about which the Prime Minister is speaking something like 5,000,000 Germans, which is a very large number. That may be an exaggeration, but the number, at any rate, runs into millions. I do not think we can play about with territories and masses of populations of those dimensions except at very grave peril. Whether we incorporate in Poland a great piece of German territory with the Germans in it, or incorporate the territory and turn the Germans out of it, we are creating a situation for the future that will not make for the peace either of Poland or of the world. I do not say that we cannot get over the difficulty of the Danzig Corridor. It may be that we have to take away from Germany that part which rendered the Corridor neces- 1563 sary, but I do not think we should encourage the Poles, still less force the Poles, to have German territory which is not absolutely necessary for the purposes we have in mind. If we encourage too wide an extension of Poland on the west at the expense of Germany, we are sowing the seed of grave danger for the future of the world.
Having expressed what is my view and what I think I can reasonably say is the view of my party, I want to come back to what I said at the beginning. There is no solution—not the Prime Minister's solution, not the Poles' solution, not the Soviet solution—of this problem which will really be lasting unless it is a solution by consent. Unless we have that it will be a continuing sore in the body politic of the world. I beg the Government, and I beg the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, who have done tremendous work in the months that have gone by, to try to bring about a settlement and not even now to despair of efforts for success. Those of us outside who have not, like my right hon. Friend, had all the difficulties and troubles of the negotiation, and to whom the problem may have seemed easier may say, as sometimes those who are outside can say to those who are fighting a battle which appears to be lost: "Go back once more into the struggle and make another effort, because, though it may seem difficult to-day, perhaps the way is still open." If they do so, it may be that they will achieve a success which will be of lasting value to Europe and mankind.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
The right hon. Genleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) has just made a speech of characteristic and constructive thoughtfulness, and I would like to say at once that with a large part—I think I can almost say with by far the greater part—of what he has said I find myself in complete agreement. In speaking about this matter to-day I want to try as hard as I possibly can to put the position as I see it, not from the angle of Poland or of Russia, but from the angle of those of us in this country who have had to deal with this vexatious problem for all this long period. I shall try very hard, and I hope I shall succeed, in saying 1564 nothing that will be regarded as partisan. At an rate, I beg the House to believe this, that having dealt with this subject for so long, I am incapable of being partisan for either one side or the other. All I heartily wish is for a solution, if it can be found, which will be acceptable to both sides.
Let me first answer one or two speeches which were made. I have no complaint whatever as Foreign Secretary about the speeches in this Debate by any hon. Member. As I conceive it, it is the duty of Members of Parliament to express their views on these matters with frankness. It is the principal method by which we make plain to the world the views of British opinion. The fact that those opinions are sometimes contrary to His Majesty's Government, does not necessarily mean that the opinions are always wrong. I therefore assure my hon. Frends who referred to it, that, so far as I am concerned, no complaint lies anywhere that a certain amount of frankness has been used and, as I think, rightly used in the course of this Debate.
I begin with the point raised by my hon. Friend the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) about the reference of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the Atlantic Charter. I start with that, because I would like to clear it out of the way before I get down to the main subject of the Debate. What my right hon. Friend intended to convey was that, in the view of His Majesty's Government, there is an exception to the general principle that there should be no territorial changes before the peace table. My hon. Friend is correct in pointing out that that exception is not in the Atlantic Charter. The exception is in cases where the changes are mutually agreed, and that is not part of the Atlantic Charter. It is part of a statement of our own policy which we made in September, 1940, when the Prime Minister said:We have not at any time adopted since this war broke out the line that nothing can be changed in the territorial structures of the various countries. On the other hand, we do not propose to recognise any territorial changes which take place during the war, unless they take place with the free consent and good will of the parties concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th September, 1940; Vol. 365, c. 40.]It is to that that my right hon. Friend was referring, and not to the Atlantic Charter, and my hon. Friend was perfectly correct in his observations.
1565 Now I come to the main issue of the Debate, the Polish-Soviet relations and the problem that underlies them. I do not hesitate to say, from the point of view of His Majesty's Government, that this has been for the last three years, or a little more, the most vexatious and anxious problem with which we have to deal. It is not only that it is of the greatest importance that Allied unity should be maintained, and that it cannot be effectively maintained unless our Allies are in general agreement; it is not only because it is important to us who are allied to both those countries that there should be some understanding between them, but it is because, unless there is some understanding we find it difficult to see how there can be confidence, settlement and peace in Eastern Europe, when this war is over; and if there be not this confidence, then the repercussions will be felt by us all.
Both these countries, I have said, are our Allies. We entered this war of our own free-will, by our own deed, in fulfilment of our guarantees to Poland. Ours is the only country which has continued with its own territory—our island territory—intact throughout the war, and which did as I say enter the war voluntarily and of its own free will. From time to time it is right that we should remind ourselves and others of that. We have, as the war has progressed, felt a growing, not only esteem, but affection for our Polish Allies: for those we have known, and for those we have seen in this country, and for their armed forces, and for the gallantry of the part that they have played. There is something more than that; we have seen also that, of all the countries that have been under the harrow of this war, Poland has, perhaps, suffered most of all. All those considerations have entered into it, and I do not regard myself, and I do not think any hon. Member should regard himself, as sentimental, if these considerations weigh heavily on us when we approach this problem.
On the other side, we have our 20 years' treaty with Russia. We understand, and we believe that they understand and other nations understand, how much the future peace of Europe is going to depend upon our ability to work together and to understand each other. We remember that in three great wars we have fought together 1566 on the same side in the end, although we may not have begun as Allies, and that after each of them, we have fallen apart. We know that if that happens again, the prospects for the peace of Europe are very frail indeed. Those considerations have to be in our minds when we face this problem, as we have to face it now.
So it is that, ever since the German attack on Russia in the summer of 1941, we have laboured unceasingly to try to solve these Polish-Soviet differences. We have not been successful always, but we have been successful sometimes. It was here in London, actually in my room at the Foreign Office, that the Soviet-Polish Treaty was signed, in the summer of 1941. Despite a chequered history, many differences, arguments, criticisms and charges and counter-charges, that Treaty did stand until February of last year, when it was denounced—I do not know whether "denounced" is the right word—or when, rather, it was regarded as in abeyance by the Soviet Government. Ever since then, we have tried to bring about a resumption of relations. Sometimes we seemed to be almost in sight of the goal and at others, the prospects became gloomy again. Since I have been much concerned in these long negotiations, I ought to-day to pay my tribute, which is a heartfelt one, to the courage and patience with which, first, General Sikorski and later M. Mikolajczyk and M. Romer, made their contribution to our work. Now I have to report that the prospects are not as good as they have been, but we shall continue to do all we can to secure a strong and independent Poland as our Ally, and, as we trust, the Ally of Soviet Russia.
Now I come to one of the criticisms—perhaps not criticisms but observations—made in the Debate on a remark which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister let fall. I have not his exact words here, but I think they were to the effect that we were dealing with two very great Powers, as great, if not perhaps greater than us. I do not think that those words were quite correctly understood. I am absolutely certain that my right hon. Friend had not the least intention of suggesting that in meetings with any of those other great Powers we had any sense of inferiority at all. Certainly we have not. I would ask my hon. Friends who know the Prime Minister to imagine, if they can, my right hon. Friend feeling himself any 1567 sense of inferiority over this. So far, that is a spectacle that I have never seen either at home or abroad.
I would like to put the position a little differently. I would say that our position in the world and our sense that we feel the equal, and fully the equal, of even the greatest Powers on the earth's surface, is not in any sense based on geography, on size or on population. I do not think these are the basis of our strength and our authority; I think it is due to something different. I think it comes from the fact that, owing to our island position, our traditions and our long history, we have shown ourselves able, over and over again, in titanic struggles, to be the leader in marshalling a coalition against any Power which has sought to impose its will on Europe. And that is why I say that there is no need for anybody to think for one moment that, in discussions, we feel inferior to any Ally, however great, to whom we have to speak and to whom we have to express our position. I am bound to say in addition that if our position is so authoritative in Europe to-day there is no man who has played a greater part in that than the Prime Minister himself.
I want to say something about some of the criticisms, not uttered to-day, but which I have seen, particularly in Polish quarters, of the efforts which M. Mikolajczyk, M. Romer and M. Grabski have made to reach agreement with our Russian Allies. Any criticism on that score is misplaced. The truth is that, as I understand it, these Polish leaders understood how essential it was to Poland and to Europe that they should make some effort, and a great effort, to settle these age-long disputes, even though it might involve painful sacrifices.
§ Mr. Eden
Forgive me if I say that I do not think that that is a complete answer to this problem. These frontiers have been a matter of vexatious dispute for centuries, and we over-simplify our problems if we treat it in that way. I am going to put all I know about it, as fairly as I can. I do not believe that we can say: "It was settled five years ago and that there is nothing more to be done." I do not think that would be possible, or reasonable, or that many wise Polish 1568 leaders would regard it as the way finally to settle this problem.
I want to deal with another point that has been made. There has never been, I must emphasise, in this discussion in London, from the Soviet side, any suggestion that, as a result of any arrangement which might be made between Russia and ourselves, Poland's links with the West should in any way be modified or affected. On the contrary, Marshal Stalin emphasised to M. Mykolajcyzk his desire that the Treaty with ourselves and the Polish treaty with France and any relations that were possible between Poland and the United States subject to the constitutional position of the United States, should be continued and if need be reinforced. I think he has said that publicly and I think that it should be stressed because it is not in my judgment true to suggest that the Soviet Government desires that the Polish State and Government should be, as it were, in her orb and have no territorial or political links with other Governments.
I come to slightly more controversial ground. I shall try to give a brief account and I hope an accurate account of the story of the Curzon Line, to which reference has been made by several Members in the course of the Debate. What was the origin of this Line? It was originally drawn up by the Commission on Polish Affairs of the Paris Supreme Council. They drew it up to mark the eastern limit of what was indisputably Polish territory so that the Polish Government could immediately take over the administration in that area without question, even while the position in relation to Russia was obscure. That was in 1919, and the proposal became associated with Lord Curzon's name only a year later, when this proposal was pulled out, as it were, again, and put before the two parties as an attempt to bring hostilities to an end. Then it came to be called the Curzon Line; but the work upon it was done a year before. It is fair to say that it was from the outset only intended to show the minimum amount of territory which should be assigned to Poland in the east. It is also true to say that the British delegation at the Peace Conference consistently maintained that any further eastward extension of Polish territory beyond the Curzon Line would be highly dangerous to Poland, and before the Treaty of Riga was signed in 1921 1569 we several times warned the Polish Government against such extensions. Thus in the view which my right hon. Friend was expressing earlier to-day he was not departing so violently as some Members of the House seem to think from what has been our position before in relation to this vexed question.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas
Is the Secretary of State able to confirm that the Soviet Foreign Minister, Tchicherin, replied to Lord Curzon that the Curzon Line was unacceptable because it was too unfavourable to the Poles?
§ Mr. Eden
I am familiar with that one. It is absolutely correct, and the reason for that was that in the belief of the Soviet Government at that time a district which I think is called Chelm was thought by the Soviet Government to be on the Russian side of the Curzon Line; and they said, and rightly said, that that was Polish territory, and they did not agree with the Curzon Line in regard to that particular area. These are technical matters, but I tried to answer the hon. Member because there is no bias in this. We want to try to see how this position arose.
I go to the next stage which is significant—August, 1920. At that time, the opposite happened to what had happened before. While at the earlier date the Curzon Line was proposed to the Soviet Government by us with the approval of the Polish Government, at the later stage to which I am referring the Soviet Government, in their turn, approached the Polish Government with a proposal—which was approximately in fact the Curzon Line—and the Polish Government asked our opinion. We then told the Polish Government in 1920—the Soviet Government having communicated to us the text of the terms—that we considered such terms would leave her ethnographical frontier unimpaired, and we urged them, the Polish Government, not to refuse these terms. I only mention these facts because it is fair to try to give the House a picture of past events, though I do not myself over-emphasise their importance.
I would like to refer to another matter which I think we must try to get into the right perspective—the problem of Galicia. In the extension of the Curzon line to the south two alternatives were recommended to the Supreme Council's Commission on Polish affairs. At this stage I should perhaps mention that our 1570 representative on the Commission was Sir Eyre Crowe, certainly a distinguished holder of that position. There were two proposals. One was line A, which is the line that the Soviet Government now claim as the basis of the frontier itself. Line A was proposed as the boundary between Poland proper and an autonomous Eastern Galicia, which it was hoped to set up under the suzerainty of Poland. Line B further to the East, which left Lvov to Poland, was recommended if the bulk of Eastern Galicia was excluded from Poland and the autonomous State under her suzerainty was not created. I hope that I make this rather complicated business clear.
Our delegation favoured Line A—the line which the Soviet Government are now asking for—and it was eventually adopted by the Supreme Council, and embodied in the draft Treaty. Of the reasons which actuated us at that time, one was the economic position in that part of Europe and the necessity, as those who reported thought, of keeping this economic area of Eastern Galicia as a whole. The second reason was the possibility that there might be there a larger independent State, perhaps as part of a greater Ukraine. I thing the final reason was the population problem. At that time the population of this area between Line A and Line B, which is, as far as territorial matters go, the crux of the dispute—if our Polish friends could get Line B their attitude would probably be modified a good deal, and personally I can well understand their attitude—the populations at that time, out of a total of about 1,500,000, were over 500,000 Ukrainians, little more than 250,000 Poles, and the rest Jews. I think that was the reason why those concerned at that time had in mind to try and arrange some autonomous regime.
I would like to ask the House for a moment to look at the population problem generally in the area between the Riga frontier and the Curzon Line taking Line A. The figures I shall give are those of the 1931 Polish census. They are the latest figures available to us though likely enough there have been very considerable changes since then. They showed that the population in that area, in what might be called the disputed area, was 10,700,000. Of that total, 3,900,000 are Polish-speaking population; 3,200,000 are Roman Catholic population. I think those 1571 who are authorities on these matters say, usually, the religious figures are rather nearer to the mark than the language-speaking figures, because, for instance, Jews might be Polish-speaking Jews who would be included in one and not the other. That is about the figure—at the most 3,900,000, at the least 3,200,000. It would be fair to say therefore that while there are no later figures than those of 1931 the Poles have never constituted much more than a third of the total population of this area.
§ Mr. Eden
I have not, but I would gladly give them if my hon. and gallant Friend would like to put down a Question. My view is that there is certainly a Polish majority in Lvov itself. I have always taken that view though in the surrounding country there is a Ukrainian majority.
Let me turn to the present situation, and its difficulties. First, I would like to answer a question on supplies, by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Wirral (Captain Graham). This matter is now being examined by the Prime Minister and myself, with our technical advisers. I am unable to say exactly what we shall do in the winter months, but it is under examination, and it is on the basis of what we can do that we shall decide our action.
§ Mr. Petherick
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the history of events in the earlier part of the two years immediately after the last war, may I say that he has given a perfectly fair account of the events leading up to the Treaty of Riga, but he has not mentioned the Treaty of Riga, which was the final arrangement between Poland and Russia, and which always operated until 1939?
§ Mr. Eden
I had not mentioned the Treaty of Riga, but I do not know which point my hon. Friend wishes me to make about it. My point is that the story of this area is a long-disputed one. Before the Treaty was signed, we ourselves advised the Poles—I am not saying whether we were right or wrong—not to go so far East as the frontiers given by the Treaty of Riga. It is true that the Russians accepted the Treaty—nobody disputes that. But you cannot say, "This is 1572 where I take my stand, and I refuse to go back any farther"—for if you do, it will be impossible to reach a settlement. It is quite true that it was our initiative—the Prime Minister's and mine—at Moscow which raised this Polish question once again. We went to Moscow with the fullest intention of talking about it, and of putting our point of view to our Russian Ally. I would like some of my hon. Friends to believe that we are capable of putting our case quite strongly, even to an Ally, though we do not necessarily put it in quite the same way on the Floor of the House of Commons—and I hope we shall not put it in quite the same way on the Floor of the House of Commons. The first thing we asked was whether M. Grabski and M. Mikolajczyk, who had been parties to the conversations before, could come to Moscow again. That proposition was at once accepted, on the first night of our arrival, by M. Stalin and M. Molotov; and they came to Moscow. I had hoped—I do not deny that—that, as a result of this discussion, a measure of agreement would arise large enough to enable the conversations to continue, and a final settlement to be reached. But after M. Mikolajczyk got back the Polish Government was reconstituted, and those hopes have been disappointed.
My hon. Friend the Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes), in his very eloquent speech, asked whether I could say a little more about the Moscow conversations. I will say a little, but not much more, because I have not abandoned all hope of working out some solution to this problem. I think it is fair to ask that the House should have some answer. First, my hon. Friend said that the Polish Government were asked to give up at once, and go into the nebulous future, with uncertainty as to what Poland will get. If that were the position, I would agree that it would be quite an unacceptable one from the Polish point of view. But that was not the position. The position was that concessions—I do not like that word, let us say frontier changes, would be made. There was absolute agreement between us and the Russians, as well as the Poles, on the changes there would be in the West. The Poles would not be committed to the Curzon Line unless, as a result of these discussions, agreement was finally reached, and the Polish Government, headed by M. Mikolajczyk, went into Poland and took up their position 1573 there. There was no question of our asking the Poles to give up something without agreement being reached. There was also the question of the composition of the Committee, on which my hon. Friend asked whether they were going to be 75 per cent, or not.
§ Mr. Raikes
Surely the position was not quite that the Poles were at once to receive compensation in the West, and that the whole thing hung together with the Curzon Line; because the Russians had already got into possession of Eastern Poland, and, whatever might be said at Moscow, the Poles could not get the suggested compensation anyhow until the Germans had been defeated?
§ Mr. Eden
But the very fact that the Russians were in possession was one of the reasons why we wanted to get agreement. I will explain why. I do not know what the Lublin Committee may have wanted, but I think it had never entered our heads to think that such an arrangement would be possible for a moment. In fact, the only thing that was agreed about the future composition of the Polish Government was that M. Mikolajczyk himself should be Prime Minister. That was one thing about which everybody seemed to be agreed—ourselves, the Russians, the Lublin Committee, and the Polish Government in London.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
May I ask my right hon. Friend to answer a question which I put to him, and which, I think, is relevant to this point? On what date did His Majesty's Government assure themselves that the Polish Government understood the constitutional impossibility of a Washington guarantee?
§ Mr. Eden
I was coming to that. There was no misunderstand about that. We do tell our Allies frankly about these matters. We do not try to deceive people. We put it quite plainly to our Polish friends. I do not believe that my hon. Friend fully understood—I will not say understood, but fully balanced, what the Prime Minister said on this subject. He said:It is certainly to be hoped that the three Great Powers will guarantee the independent, sovereign, free Poland which will emerge from any arrangement which is made now and ratified at the Peace Conference.That is what my hon. Friend quoted. But my right hon. Friend went on to say, in that very speech, that the question was 1574 whether the United States Government would be in a position to give such a guarantee now. He also said:It is not for me to speak of the affairs of the United States of America."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1944; Vol. 404, c. 499.]He said the same thing to-day. I really think we can say that at no time have we allowed our Polish friends—and I do not think that they would say we had—to think that they would have a guarantee that we could not give. We can speak only for ourselves. I do not doubt that the Poles are as well aware as we are of the constitutional difficulties of the United States. Considering the number of Poles in the United States, there must be plenty of people there to send telegrams to tell them about it.
I come to a question which I do not think has played a great part—and which should have played a greater part—except in the speech of the hon. Gentleman who spoke just now. That is the Corridor. There has been a great deal of discussion about Eastern Poland, but hardly a word about the Corridor. I have taken the view for many years, as an individual, that it is impossible for the Polish State to have an independent national life with the Corridor system perpetuated. I have told the House that once or twice before. I sat at Geneva as rapporteur on this wretched Danzig business. Actually it was quite unworkable. Some people seem to think, quite wrongly, that the Corridor was German. It was not; the population of the Corridor was Polish. But, even so, the cross-traffic and the endless problems of the Free City of Danzig, and the growing Herrenvolk attitude of the German officials towards Poles, made it absolutely impossible for there to be any arrangement on those lines. I say to the House that, quite independently of this Polish-Russian problem at all, long ago I think I am on record as having said this. The only way to solve this problem was that East Prussia should go to the Poles and that the population of East Prussia should be shifted out. That is the only way to get a permanent settlement.
§ Mr. Eden
In conclusion, I want to say a word about the movement of population. Of course, my hon. Friend is right—it is an immensely difficult question. I 1575 do not think it is impossible, and, if it is the only way to solve this problem of the Corridor, as I am convinced it is, then we have got to face it. The House should remember that there were certain populations of Polish descent when East Prussia was under Polish suzerainty. I repeat my own conviction that it is the only way in which we can hope to obtain a lasting settlement there.
Now I come to the question of what we are going to do now. If I may say so, of the comments and the criticisms I have heard, there has only been one alternative policy suggested, which was to wait until the Peace Conference to settle these matters and to hold our hands meanwhile and make no commitment. I think I was urged by one of my hon. Friends: "Do not say something or do something which may be dishonourable, and do not commit yourselves to lines in Eastern Europe for which you will afterwards be blamed." The last consideration does not weigh so heavily as it should, because, in my experience, whatever you do, you are quite certain to be blamed by somebody, so that consideration is not going to weigh very much. At the same time, that is the only alternative—to take no further action and let the matter wait until the Peace Conference. One of my hon. Friends asked why we did not do that originally? My reply is that we foresaw this position arising, with Russian Armies advancing through Poland, with no understanding whatever with the Polish Government, which we were convinced represented majority opinion in Poland, and with no arrangements of any kind, no civil affairs agreement other than some administration being set up to carry on the Government somehow, or else it being done direct by the Russians. We saw all the friction which would inevitably result. We knew, because the Russians told us this, that they were prepared to make, with M. Mikolajczyk's Government, if the frontier could be settled, an arrangement similar to the one they had with the Czechs and similar to the one we have with the Belgian, the Dutch and the French.
§ Mr. Petherick
May I point out that that is not an absolutely fair analogy? We are advancing through Holland and Belgium now, but not claiming the right to annex Holland and Belgium.
§ Mr. Eden
My hon. Friend has not understood my observation. What I said was that if we could have got an understanding between the Soviet and M. Mikolajczyk's Government we knew the Soviet Government would make a civil affairs agreement with the Polish Government on the same lines as we have made one with the Belgians and the French. Such an agreement should have provided for the setting up of a Polish administration which would have the confidence of the Polish people, and we should have avoided those incidents and troubles, perhaps serious troubles, which we are likely to see when there is no agreement. That is the reason why we took this risk, and, if you like, burnt our fingers, but it was a case in which, if we had not made this attempt, there would inevitably have been these difficulties.
What is the position now? An hon. Gentleman asked me just now whether we would go on trying. I must honestly say that, at present, the prospects of agreement are pretty bleak. They are, honestly, not as good between this Polish Government and the Soviet as they were between the previous Polish Government and the Soviet Government; but if there was any opportunity, despite the risks, and I know what they are, I think it would still be our duty to try. I think that, among the very many perils that may arise, the worst that I see is the failure to reach a settlement of this question, because I see repercussions that may arise which may affect the relations of ourselves and our Soviet Allies, and the relations of America and ourselves and of all of us, and which will affect that widespread co-operation which is so indispensable.
I can say this to my hon. Friends. It is quite likely that we shall fail and not get another opportunity. If that happens, what is our position? We recognise this Government here in London as we recognised its predecessor. The subject will then have to wait for the Peace Conference, when all the Powers meet, and I can only say that I pray that those who have to handle it then will be more successful than we have been. I am not so optimistic as to see exactly why they should be more successful than we have been, but I am prepared to believe my hon. Friends when they say that they hope they will have that success. There is a danger that developments will occur 1577 which I think will not be good for the unity of the United Nations, and that is why we are trying to avoid this position coming about.
My last words are about unity also, because it was raised in questions put by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, East (Mr. Boothby) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, East. The Prime Minister referred to this in his speech and both speakers have said that it was an uneasy and gloomy forecast that the three Powers were not going to meet. We ardently wish that they should meet, and I would go further and say that it is immensely desirable that the three men upon whom the chief responsibility falls should meet. I think it is also desirable that, at regular intervals, a second eleven, in the shape of the Foreign Secretaries, should also meet. I believe that, if that could be done regularly, we might be able to iron out some of the problems and avoid some of the difficulties which arise. We might perhaps help to prepare the way for the heads of the Governments to meet themselves.
So far as we are concerned we are perfectly ready to co-operate in any scheme of that kind, to travel anywhere and meet them anywhere and to work with them. It is not in our power to do more than that and it is for others also to make a gesture. The Prime Minister is the oldest of all these men and has had the heaviest war burden of them all. For the last four years it has been on his shoulders. I think others ought to move too, and I hope they will, and move soon, so that some of these problems can be dealt with.
Let me finish by saying that I am grateful to the House and to hon. Members in all parts for the way they have spoken in this Debate. I think hon. Members were right to be frank, and right to say what their feelings were. I cannot hold out hopes of success in agreement between these countries, as matters are, but I think it is sometimes the case, in diplomacy, that, if you stand back and let the problem lie, success may come. Our affection and esteem for our Polish friends are deep and real, and our desire to work with our Soviet Allies is unshaken. We are in the unhappy position of trying to reconcile a problem which does not date from our time but from centuries ago. 1578 So far, we have not succeeded, and it is small comfort to know that others have failed before us, but we shall go on trying, confident that in so doing we shall not dishonour our country, but fairly and truly trying to bring together nations who must be friends if their people are to live in happiness and peace in the years to come.