§ 11.20 a.m.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
Anyone like myself who heard the Debate yesterday must have been impressed that, at a time when not only in the West but in the East the largest attack probably in the history of mankind was taking place with millions of men involved and vital issues affecting the whole future of Europe, we should have been able to discuss with good temper an issue not affecting directly our home affairs but a small country in Eastern Europe. I think it is healthy that we should be discussing it. The country is undoubtedly profoundly moved. It is quite a mistake to think that it is organised agitation engineered by a political section. No doubt, there have been politicians prepared to "cash in" on the emotions of the public, but I find both on the Right and on the Left a feeling of sadness and tragedy that before the war is over, as one of the first fruits of our tremendous effort, we should see civil war and our troops engaged in trying to restore order. The country has a profound memory of the last war, and of the post-war problems, when we were engaged in a war to end war and a war to make the world safe for democracy and we see, not only in Greece but all over the world, as countries are liberated, this unfortunate civil strife.
In our last Debate, at the end of last year, we made three demands. The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) was the first to formulate them and I certainly supported him. The first was that there should be the despatch of a responsible Minister with full authority to Greece, and it is fair and right that we should pay the Prime Minister a generous tribute for his spirit of adventure and his courage, when 516 he would have been entitled to rest and enjoy his Christmas holidays, that he should undertake that adventure, not without considerable risk, and lend his hand to try to bring about peace in that country. We had a vivid picture of his attending, not in candlelight but lamp light, surrounded by troops, in an underground cellar, meeting the various sides in the Greek dispute. We owe him a debt of gratitude for what he did on that occasion. The second demand was that there should be a Regency, and all of us, from the information we had, demanded the Archbishop of Athens; we also asked that the King should be sacrificed and that he should withdraw into the background until there had been an election. That has been accomplished. The Regent is now established as head of the State, and he is responsible for the appointment of the new Government. The third thing we asked was that there should be a truce or armistice. It may not be a very complete truce, but there it is and the fighting has stopped.
Therefore, this House can take some satisfaction on its three main demands having been accomplished. Of course, there is disillusionment. I am not perfectly satisfied that the change from Papandreou to Plastiras means a more democratic Government, but we cannot take the responsibility. Once the Regent is established, the responsibility for a new Ministry is with him, and until the election takes place the Prime Minister is in a sound constitutional position. I am sorry that the Prime Minister yesterday was so severe in his criticism of E.L.A.S. I think that he over-simplified the issue by giving us a picture of these armed bands as merely a Communist organisation. There is no doubt that the Communists have cashed in, not for the first time, on a popular movement and taken its leadership. My information, which is pretty good, is that up to the liberation, E.L.A.S. was a popular movement drawn from all sections of Greece and all parties, and it is unfair to minimise the good work they did in helping to drive out the Germans from their country. If it was purely a body of irresponsible adventurers, the Government are very much to blame for piling arms and equipment on them. Surely it is not unreasonable to say that the resistance movement in Greece had some claim to represent the popular side.
517 I think we can all agree in demanding that we should send a message to Greece that there should be a surrender of the hostages and, synchronising with that, an amnesty. Plastiras received a message from President Roosevelt informing him that he was prepared to assist in the rehabilitation of Greece. It is satisfactory that he got in return an assurance that the cessation of hostilities would not be followed by reprisals. We are a little concerned because the Greek Prime Minister, perhaps under the pressure of public opinion, has since then rather qualified his words, because on the 16th he said that an amnesty would not be granted for rebellion and that the punishment of criminals and the leaders of the movement would be implacable. We want to make it clear that we insist that this method of holding hostages as a weapon of extorting terms from the Government should be stopped and the hostages returned forthwith, and that there should be as well a complete amnesty except for acts of murder or pillage.
Then we want to see a general election. There is a lot of talk about a general election in Greece as if it will be a simple matter. Let the Committee remind itself that it is not easy to have a general election in war time in this country, or even to make arrangements to have one after the war. It is a complicated problem for us, and next week we shall pass the Representation of the People Bill, which is a complicated Measure. Let us be under no delusion that for Greece, not having, had an election for over nine years or longer, an election will not be a simple thing. The Government here would be wise to see that the general election, when it does come, is a genuine one, that there will be a free expression of opinion, and that the new Government will really represent the people.
We had a long and frank discussion yesterday, but it would be a pity to isolate the Greek problem from the general European position. Every occupied country has still an underground movement. The resistance movement in all these countries comes from the younger generation, men of adventurous spirit who like to take risks, and when deliverance comes through our arms or the arms of our Allies, the first thing that inevitably happens is the demand that the resistance movement should give up its arms. It 518 is not easy for young men, who for months have been living a life of adventure, to settle down to a quiet calm industrial life. They have borne the brunt of the fighting to free their country, they have risked their lives, and when they come back to the capital they find the middle class, the old men, the bourgeoisie, comfortably installed in most of the jobs. They find as a rule that, while this class has not collaborated, it has acquiesced in the condition of affairs. Then there is deep resentment. There was in France and Belgium—[Interruption]. My hon. Friend says that there may be in this country, but after all, we are, a free country and we have not been occupied. We can understand why, after a life and death struggle, when these men come back to the city hungry, without occupation, with no prospects of employment, to find all the good jobs in the Civil Service, business and industry occupied, there should be a feeling of deep resentment.
In France they were fortunate. My information is that there was a real danger of armed rebellion. But De Gaulle could claim to be the head of the resistance movement. He was a popular figure, and as the Prime Minister rightly pointed out, he, assisted by us, was wise enough to bring into his Government the younger generation, the men who had borne the brunt of the fighting, and he was able to form a popular Government. I am informed that the same kind of thing has been going on in Belgium.
It is a mistake to think that resistance movements in Greece, France, and Belgium are all carried on by the Left. On the contrary, a friend of mine, a war correspondent, tells me that a considerable resistance movement in Belgium was composed of Royalists. They were keen to drive the enemy from their gates and they were equally anxious to have some share of responsibility in the government after they became victorious. It may be that Communists fight for positions in the various countries, but let us not get into the frame of mind of thinking that the young men in all these countries who fight so well, are all drawn from the Left and should all be regarded as wild men. We saw some of these young French women, who played a big part in the resistance movement in France, when they visited the House. I am satisfied that they were characteristic of resisters in all countries.
519 All the liberated countries want food, raw materials and other kinds of economic help. U.N.R.R.A. was devised for that purpose but, for various reasons, it seems to have faded into the background. I do not know whether those who were responsible for U.N.R.R.A. are to be blamed but this organisation should be restarted in all those countries. It would not be a bad thing that we should, more or less, step aside in Greece, and allow U.N.R.R.A. to operate. It is not an organisation of our own but is international, upon which all the Allies are represented. There is no reason why we should assume responsibility in all countries where there are difficulties. We should insist upon our Allies sharing the responsibility—the three great Powers at any rate, and I would add France as well. France has been through it and has had experience. She also has a great political tradition. It would be a great help if the three great Powers had France sitting alongside them, sharing responsibility for the rehabilitation of all countries as they were released. It has already happened in Italy and it should happen in Greece and Belgium. I hope it will happen in Holland. I think it might also happen in other countries, such as Palestine, which will present a difficult and complex problem. It would be a good thing to associate all the three or four great Powers in the rehabilitation of Palestine after the war. That country is in a state near to civil war. We have accepted that principle for Germany, and I see no reason why the same principle should not be applied to Poland and the Baltic States. It would be welcomed in all quarters. If we set an example of co-operating in the countries which we help to release and obtain the co-operation of the United States and Russia, it puts us in a much stronger position to have a say in the political future of some of those Baltic States.
The Prime Minister referred to criticism by the Press, in the United States and in our own country, but particularly in the United States. There was for a considerable time a lot of criticism there on economic problems, and I am assured that there is more criticism politically now, than there was economically a few months ago. There are suspicion and misunderstanding. I am told that our prestige is, in many ways, lower in the United 520 States than it has been for many years past. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Politically, I mean. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, I hope I am wrong. I believe it is essential to have complete understanding between the two great English-speaking nations, because it is the only hope for civilisation and for getting a good world order after the war. The European conference which was set up with a fanfare of trumpets representing ourselves, Russia and the United States seems also to have retired into the background. Nobody hears of anything it does. Apparently it sits in secret, and makes no public contribution to any problem to-day. The Foreign Secretary has stated that its function is merely to deal with enemy countries. I see no reason why the conference should not deal with problems in European liberated countries, as well as in enemy countries. It should not be on the official level, but on Cabinet level, and should be composed of experienced people like the Secretary of State, who has gained much experience in America. With a Minister of that status and character, and with representatives of all the three Allies, it should be constantly sitting and discussing and working out settlements of European problems as they arise.
A method has been devised of dealing with post-war problems. The same kind of machinery is even more necessary to deal with the problems of to-day. That is proved by the happenings in Greece. The Prime Minister visualised an early conference, somewhere and at some time; I say the earlier the better. If it should happen in this country, that would be all to the good, but wherever it happens, it should take place as soon as possible. It would be a tragedy if, in a time of immense sacrifice and when victory is in prospect and peace seems to be approaching, the position should be prejudiced by suspicions about what is happening on the Continent of Europe. There are difficulties there, inevitably, after five years of appalling suffering and tragedy. It will be a great pity if our hopes are prejudiced by misunderstanding while the war is still on, but the longer the position is left, the more difficult will the problems be to solve. It is easier to settle them now when we are bearing a common burden and facing a common danger. If we cannot settle them now, what hope will there be of doing so after the war?
521 It is important to have the good will of the United States and equally important to have the understanding of the U.S.S.R. There are real difficulties. Already there is deep heart-burning about what is going on in Eastern Europe. If we can devise machinery, as a result of the next conference between the three great men, so that the difficulties can be worked out, we may forestall many other difficult problems, that would be much more difficult to settle if left until after the war. I would like, in conclusion, to refer to the Message of the President to Congress, which has not had the publicity it deserved. He said in his Message a few days ago:Peace can be made and kept only by the united determination of free and peace loving peoples who are willing to work together, willing to help one another, willing to respect and tolerate and try to understand one another's opinions.These are wise words, and ought to inspire all our actions in dealing not only with our Allies, but even with our enemies. We have difficult problems to solve when the Armistice is reached. Let us forestall those problems by taking wise action now to co-operate with those countries which are standing by us in this great war.
§ 11.46 a.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)
I am sure all of us in this Committee must agree with the pious aspirations for the future well-being of the world which have been so well expressed by the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. I am not quite sure that I agree with him entirely in some of the points he made, or think that some of the proposals he made were practicable, but I do not propose to enter into any controversy with him. I am not quite certain in my own mind whether Debates of this kind are really very desirable in time of war. We are, after all, engaged in a gigantic struggle against foes who are unbeaten, and it seems to me that it is always a pity to sit in judgment upon the men who are responsible for conducting that war and who are over-burdened with other things.
At the same time there is an advantage in this particular Debate, because issues have been raised in it, or were raised before it was initiated, which were, I think, causing a certain amount of disruption, perhaps disruption is too strong a word, but a certain amount of bewilderment and perplexity among the people of 522 this country. When they were told by men whom they regarded as responsible statesmen, or at any rate as respectable politicians in this House, that the Government were pursuing a policy in Greece which was not only a wrong policy, but was calculated to do us a great deal of harm in foreign countries, and earn a bad opinion of us all over the world, it is not surprising that the man in the street was made a little uneasy. I know that in my part of the world the signs were the same as they were before Russia joined in the war. The words were chalked up on the walls, "Hands off Greece" just as the words, "Make peace" were chalked up before the Russians joined in the war. This shows there are still individuals in this country who are still undecided about matters which are of immense importance to the country.
I think that after the Prime Minister's speech yesterday, and after the Debate, there will be a feeling of relief amongst the whole population. I was extremely sorry for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), who leads what is called the Opposition in this House, in the position in which he was put. Considering that it was perfectly evident that he was in practical agreement with everything the Government had done I thought he skated over a difficult task very adroitly, indeed very ably. The only actual criticism he made, so it appeared to me, was the suggestion that the Minister who represents the Government in Athens at the present time should have made the speech to the Greeks who came to thank General Scobie for his services, and not General Scobie himself. It was a rather pathetic performance. It made me wonder what is the Opposition in this House at the present time. The Labour Party is strongly represented in the Government; its most able leaders are in the War Cabinet, and are working in harmony with the leaders of the other Parties in this House in the national interest. It seemed to me all wrong that hon. Members on the other side of the House should criticise their own leaders to the extent to which they criticised them yesterday.
I was relieved, and made perfectly happy, because after listening to the Debate I realised that it was the old, old story; it was what I think my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) described as the "clique," the small body 523 of persons on the other side of the Committee who always seem to think that they know more about foreign affairs than the rest of us, and who wish to be associated with what they consider to be the democratic elements abroad. It would not do in this place and at this time to enter into an argument as to what is democracy.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
The hon. and gallant Member is talking about a small clique. Is he not aware of the fact that for many years the Prime Minister and the Minister of Information were part of a very small clique on that side of the House which was continually criticising the Government he was supporting?
§ Sir C. Headlam
I do not quite see what that interruption means. It is quite obvious there are always Members who are opposed to the Government, and they may be very few or numerous. I was merely quoting, as any one who listened to me knows, the word "clique" as used by the hon. Member for Oxford yesterday.
The members of that clique may be specially gifted but I do not see among them anybody who will ever reach the stature of the present Prime Minister. The interesting thing about this particular attitude of mind is that hon. Members, when they are speaking about politics in foreign countries, always make the fatal mistake—I have pointed it out in this House several times before—of mixing up foreign political ideas and ideals with the political ideas and ideals of this country. It is a curious thing for instance that these politicians should advocate Communism, and back up the Communists abroad, and yet keep the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) at arm's length in this country. These individuals are not Communists here, and yet they suggest that the Cornmunists are the true democrats abroad. It seems to me, too, a curious and unfortunate thing that Left-wing supporters in this country should suggest that the best form of Government in a foreign country is a republic, while they live happily, contentedly and safely in a country which is a monarchy. I cannot understand their attitude of mind. I am sure it is most unfortunate, and it comes, I think, from a lack of knowledge of the political mentality of foreign politicians and the difference in their outlook to ours.
524 Any one who knows about Greek politics can appreciate what the position in that country is to-day and how it has arisen. It is not a thing of the moment, it is not a direct outcome of the war. It is the result of Greek politics for a generation back, or more, and is complicated by a great many outside matters such as the Macedonian question. As the Prime Minister pointed out in his speech yesterday, they are part and parcel of Greek politics. The Athenians have always been politicians—far longer than we have been politicians in this country—and political controversy has been very keen ever since modern Greece arose.
What other policy could our Government have adopted in Greece? There were three possible courses to adopt, it seems to me, when the condition of things in Greece was discovered and the civil war broke out. We could have removed ourselves bag and baggage, and allowed the Greek politicians and their friends to fight out their own battle. But that would have been a disastrous policy. We went to Greece to help the Greeks, to feed them, and to supply them with all the necessities that they lacked. We were not concerned with their politics. We wanted to reestablish trade and happy relationships in the country. We were greeted with cheers, and everything was going well. If we had cleared out we should have been betraying the trust that was reposed in us as the representatives of the great Allies in that part of the world. Another policy would have been to take over control of Greece until the Greeks decided to live in peace among themselves. That would have implied a large military force in Greece, which I imagine we could not have spared from other parts of the world. What else could we have done? The only other possible policy was exactly the policy which was adopted, of supporting the Government of Greece as it then existed. That Government, as the Prime Minister pointed out yesterday, was representative of all the political parties as they were known in Greece at the time. We were bound, in order to save the Greek people from themselves, to help that Government; and it seemed to me yesterday that that was the general opinion of the Committee.
I wish I were as confident that the Government were as right in the policies they have adopted in Yugoslavia and 525 Poland. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite seem to be amused; but I should be more convinced that there was something to be amused about if they waited to hear what I was about to say. I propose, very shortly, to give my reasons. I am not satisfied that it will ever be possible to restore the Yugoslavia of before the war. Anyone who is at all conversant with politics in that part of the world knows that the relationship between the Serbs, the Croats and the Slovenes was very unsatisfactory, and I doubt that it will ever be possible to re-establish Yugoslavia as it was set up after the last war. I am a little doubtful whether it is possible to bring about cordial relationships between the sections of the population represented by Marshal Tito and those represented by the Serbian monarchy. I was glad, therefore, when the Prime Minister said that this would be a temporary arrangement at any rate, to carry over the difficult period. One only hopes that those who are now in power in Yugoslavia—Marshal Tito and his supporters—will be reasonable in their treatment of their political opponents. Reports about the treatment of those who are not partisans are not very satisfactory, and one would like to know—no doubt the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Major Churchill) will be able to tell us—that the treatment of all sections of the population is fair and reasonable. If a reconciliation can be brought about between the two main political groups in Yugoslavia and they can come to a modus vivendi for the time being, the future form of government may be settled later.
As regards the situation in Poland, I should like to associate myself with the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for the Queen's University of Belfast (Professor Savory), who spoke so ably yesterday. It is difficult for many of us to see what is going on in Poland without a feeling of depression and disappointment. We are conscious that we are in some degree responsible for modern Poland. I do not think that any of us wants to be associated with another partition of Poland. Although it may be impossible for us to take any effective action to stop it, I am certain that there will never be peace in Eastern Europe unless a satisfactory settlement of Poland can be brought about. I do not look upon the suggestion about East Prussia with much satisfaction, I do not think that 526 you are going to give peace to Europe for any length of time if these drastic alterations of the map are made. But that is another matter. We must do nothing that is any way calculated to make relations between ourselves and Russia worse. But we have to maintain our honour, and we should make clear to the Russian Government our views regarding the right of the Poles to manage their own affairs in accordance with the wishes of the majority of the Polish people.
But for us now there is really only one great task: that is to win the war. We can win the war only by keeping up friendship and understanding between the Allies. Anything which is calculated to break that understanding or to arouse party feeling in this country, so that we become divided ourselves, is a thing that we must avoid. Therefore, I beg the Opposition—I will not call it a clique any more—those who sometimes do not agree with the policy of the Government, to reserve their criticisms for a future occasion, to bring their views to the Government in a way which is not calculated to arouse public opinion in this country, and, above all, to do nothing and to say nothing in this House which is likely to give food for criticism of us in foreign countries.
§ 12.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha (Devonport)
The events in Greece, which form the cause and the subject-matter of this Debate, and upon which one right hon. and one hon. Member have to-day addressed the Committee so constructively, have more than a local and intrinsic significance. They may foreshadow similar happenings elsewhere, and it is in this wider context, I submit to the Committee, that we should bring our judgment to bear upon them. Indeed, all over Europe, beneath the surface of the military war, political fires are smouldering. They burst into flame in Athens. One has only to hear the account of the destruction caused, of the loss of property and possessions, of the suffering and miseries inflicted and of the cruelties done, to realise what it would mean if the conflagration were to spread over Europe.
Have His Majesty's Government, in the course which they have taken, tended to restrict or to aggravate the trouble? That is the question which we have principally to decide. Admittedly, they took a grave 527 decision when they allowed British troops to be involved in domestic strife in a friendly country. It was a decision calculated, before the full facts were known, to promote uneasiness at home, and it certainly stirred up criticism abroad. Yet the course taken, as we now know, did not meet with the disapproval of the other principal United Nations. Acting, as the Government were, in a matter of major policy upon a world stage, they were entitled to the support of our principal Allies. This leads me to ask my right hon. Friend whether, as an assurance that a united policy will be pursued, and as a safeguard against any suggestion that there is division among our Allies, some better machinery can be devised for reaching conclusions upon these matters. The three heads of the Governments are shortly to meet, and I hope it is not too much to anticipate that, as a result of that Conference, it may be arranged that regular meetings of the Foreign Secretaries of the three great Powers may occur perhaps quarterly. At any rate, it is upon that level that the decisions should be taken, and it seems advisable that the world should know that those decisions have the concurrence of all the great Powers concerned.
On what grounds has exception been taken to the policy of His Majesty's Government? It is important to define the principles by which the policy can either be vindicated or condemned, for, as I say, this may not be the last occasion on which a parallel course may have to be followed, and, if it is followed the Government are entitled to know that in a matter of this character they carry the good will of the House and the country. If they do not carry that good will, they are entitled to know the extent to which parties or persons differ from the Cabinet. After all, it is the voice of Britain which is speaking here, and there should be no room for equivocation.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) stated categorically that, if he were not satisfied with the policy of the Government upon this matter during the Recess, he would divide against the Government. The hon. Member, I understand, is to speak to-day. He is a man of courage and forthrightness, and he will either state that he is satisfied with that policy, or he 528 will take the necessary steps to disclose the extent to which that policy meets with opposition.
What are the grounds upon which exception is taken? First of all, exception is taken upon the abstract ground that it is wrong for this country to take part in the domestic affairs of an Ally, those affairs being the sole concern of the nation in question. The corollary of such a proposition would be that we are concerned only with gaining a victory on the battlefield, and that we are not entitled to express an opinion, and to see the opinion carried into effect, as to the system which should replace the void left by Fascism. To say that we should not intervene, that our interest ceases from the moment that the Germans have been driven out of a particular country, is to maintain that we have merely a destructive mission in this war, a negative mission—the beating of the enemy—and that anybody who has sufficient weapons can come along and reap the fruits of our victory. That is what the assertion that we have no right to make our views known in these matters implies.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
Does my right hon. Friend realise that some hon. Members who are now cheering him so vociferously, cheered the Prime Minister the other day when he declared that this was not an ideological war for the establishment of certain principles in other countries?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
I can leave my hon. Friend to make these refinements. I am dealing with the objections which he has raised, and I hope he will not endeavour to confuse the issue, because the proposition I have stated is perfectly clear. That was the first ground upon which objection was taken. The second ground was that, admitting that we had the right to intervene, it was undemocratic for us to intervene on the side of the Government. Supposing we had not so intervened. Would the solution reached have been more democratic? Is the suggestion that, had we allowed the party with the greatest strength—fortuitously with the greatest strength—to determine the issue, that would have been a democratic solution? If our task does not end with the gaining of the victory, if it is realised, as it must be realised by anyone who looks at the condition of affairs in Greece, 529 that countries which have been under Nazi occupation must have a period of convalescence and be nursed back to democratic life, surely the democratic course is to support the Government.
That brings me to the third objection, which was that if you disarm the party opposing the Government you should also render the Government itself powerless. What kind of constitutional theory is that? In this fortunate land we take for granted that the primary function of government will be fulfilled, the primary function of government being to secure internal order. We assume that here. It is not the case in other countries. If it were to be the policy of His Majesty's Government to put the Government in Athens or in any other liberated country on all fours with the agencies opposing it, there would be no democracy, there would be chaos. If the Government in this country are to intervene at all presumably they must intervene on the side of law and order.
These are the obvious objections to the policy of His Majesty's Government and I have endeavoured to answer them; but there is a more far-reaching objection, a more significant objection, a more interesting objection, and it is one upon which we must receive some satisfaction. It is said that not only in Athens, but elsewhere in Europe we are pursuing a policy of Fascism against democracy, of reaction against progress, that we are opposing the "popular emerging forces," to use the phrase of my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), who speaks with such sincere emotion upon these matters and who finds an analogy between the leaders of E.A.M. and Hampden and Pym. We are opposing, it is said, the popular emerging forces, we are suppressing, stifling, the spirit of the age.
This is a very serious charge to bring, because it would mean that we were acting in a fashion diametrically opposed to the whole basis of our foreign policy. Whatever Government may be in power the basis of our foreign policy is determined not by this Government or that, not by this Foreign Secretary or that, but by the immutable facts of our geographical situation and our Imperial connections. Having widespread possessions in every part of the world, having interests which are calculated to provoke jealousy, we must be careful to 530 prevent any great combination forming against us which could jeopardise our interests and our posessions. Therefore all Foreign Secretaries, all statesmen who have guided the affairs of this country, have sought to act in harmony with the general ideals of mankind. We are the country above all others which cannot act against those ideals except at our peril. The advantage of so proceeding has been proved throughout the vicissitudes of our history, and notably in this war. It has supplemented our limited physical strength with a preponderating moral strength. It is to that factor we shall in the end be able to attribute our victory, and our survival as the only great Power that has been in this war of its own volition from the beginning.
If we were acting contrary to "the popular emerging forces," contrary to the spirit of the age, we should be embarked upon a course which would ineluctably lead to our disaster. Therefore, I am going to ask those who take the contrary view to that of the majority to define what are these "popular emerging forces." For what do they stand? What is their programme? What is their policy? It is suggested that we have in these movements something of a unique character; that a new contribution is being made to history; that we are entering another great climacteric at which a line is to be drawn separating the past from the future; that we are confronted here with something like the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution—an enormous surge forward of humanity. In the case of the French Revolution the whole world knew what was at stake. It was possible to support the old régime or to advance the cause of the new. Feudalism was a fact, serfdom was a fact, the privileges of the aristocracy and of the Church were facts, all of which were challenged, and it was demanded in the clearest possible tones that the people should be represented, on a broad suffrage, in their own Parliaments. That was the cause advocated by the protagonists of the French Revolution. There was no doubt about their programme. Likewise in the Russian Revolution. Everyone knows what Communism is, knows that it advocates a classless society and the abolition of private property.
What does this movement, which we are told is emerging all over Europe, 531 advocate? In so far as it is vocal—and it exists in one form or another in every country—it proclaims its faith in democracy. It protests that it upholds the institution of private property, that it respects human rights. This is no clarion call to a new age. This is a claim to be supporting the existing order. This is no revolution. This movement has the methods of revolution without its ideals. Its spokesmen are not crusaders; they are compromisers. All over Europe they are intruding themselves into office and power by affecting a good disposition towards the established order. What they will do when they get power is another matter. What they are doing without having realized power is apparent to all who follow events in Greece. My right hon. Friend the Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) spoke with a feeling of identity with youth when he said, rightly, that those who had worked in the resistance movements were entitled to our recognition. Certainly that is the case. It is disputable to what extent all who claim to have been in the resistance movement have, in fact, fought against the Germans in Greece, but generally speaking it must be admitted that over Europe, as we had it on the testimony of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aston (Commander Prior), who spoke yesterday, these movements are largely composed of valiant and sincere men, and their grievances, of course, must be met. To the extent that those who have worked with the Germans are being protected, that must be rectified and all traces of Fascism must, in accordance with our policy, be expunged. They are more likely to be expunged, however, if we get responsible Governments rather than mob law.
We know, then, not what the policy of E.A.M. and its counterparts in other countries may be, but we do know what its methods are. We know that there are robbery, murder, the taking of hostages, the maltreatment of hostages, a complete disregard of all human rights. That is what we know. Can there be any question in these circumstances where the Liberal tradition which guides this country in these matters should lead us? There can be no doubt. Small points may be raised. It may be said that E.A.M. Ministers resigned on this day or on that day, or 532 resigned on this understanding or on that misunderstanding. It may be said that this clause or that clause of an agreement was not observed. It may be said that the shooting broke out on Monday or Tuesday. It may even be said that the B.B.C. did not give out the bulletins in terms which would have met with universal approval. But these are small matters. The big matter here is: On which side do we stand? Is it consistent with the purposes for which we have been fighting to allow the proceeds of our victory to be encashed by persons who merely desire power and who show that they have only a capacity to abuse it? That is the issue, broadly, and in these circumstances I think that His Majesty's Government acted rightly in defying odium and criticism and that they rendered a service to the world as a whole. It should be made plain in these circumstances that it is the view of the Committee—for we are at the beginning here of what may follow elsewhere in the train of this war—that the Government are acting as clearly upon generally approved lines of policy as they have done in the conduct of the war itself.
§ 12.30 p.m.
Mr. McNeil (Greenock)
No one listening to the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken could be otherwise than convinced of his sincerity. I am always prepared to make that assumption. I feel, however, that his emotion was made easier by over-simplification, and I search my mind for some parallel historical situation by which I can test his reaction. I am moved by his impulse to support a constitutionally elected Government, but two points emerge here. Did the right hon. Gentleman, when he was in a position of responsibility, urge that this House should throw itself on to the side of the constitutionally elected Government that was thrown up by the revolution in Spain? Did the right hon. Gentleman apply himself to that situation?
If I understand the right hon. Gentleman, he analysed the situation and said, "Let us agree"—and I do agree with him—"that it was a highly unpleasant situation but His Majesty's Government have to decide whether they are or whether they are not on the side of law and order." That was his phrase.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
If the hon. Gentleman is challenging me, it seems to be a very strange interpretation of anything I argued. I was not arguing the case that it was the duty of His Majesty's Government at all times, whether in peace or in war, to intervene in the internal affairs of every country. I was saying that in countries which have been liberated our duty and obligation did not finish with the exclusion of the Nazis; that we had to replace their regime by something else, and that in doing that, we should nourish and bring into being constitutional Governments and not support insurrectionist movements.
If I understand the right hon. Gentleman, it is said that we liberated Greece. I would like to have an assurance on that point because it is of some importance in relation to what I am going to say, and later I will put a question on the subject of liberation. However, in the meantime, I am prepared to accept the right hon. Gentleman's distinction in the main. If the situation had been as he says it is, then, I think, it would be much simpler for us. The right hon. Gentleman started by having regard to the constitutional theory and ended by talking about responsible government. It is most unlikely that our troubles in Greece would be as great if that Government were entitled to be called a constitutional Government. It was a Government born in circumstances of which we do not know fully. Perhaps I can make this point. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister yesterday rather irresponsibly attacked the Press. [HON. MEMBERS: "Irresponsibly?"] Cannot I say that I think it was irresponsible? It seems to me undoubtedly true that, from the beginning, the newspapers of this country and their correspondents in Athens attempted to depict accurately what was happening. There is only one instance about which there is dispute and that was—I have forgotten the date—the report that warrants had been issued against 150 members of E.A.M. "The Times" this morning refers to that, and I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, when he sums up, can explain from where that report emanated. If we lay that aside, there is no place at which the responsible correspondence from Athens has been challenged. I hear the right hon. Gentleman opposite saying "responsible." I choose that word carefully. I 534 would agree that on both sides, on Right and on Left, there have been excesses. There always are. Excesses are the very nature of civil war and in a situation like this we should expect excesses, but I say that responsible correspondence from Athens has not been challenged.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
Would the hon. Gentleman tell the Committee precisely the connotion of "responsible"? What does he mean by "responsible" correspondence?
For example, I have no reason to believe that Nixon is anything but a man of most reputable performance.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
Does that mean that he is responsible to the hon. Gentleman who is speaking?
No, Sir. If I may address myself to the point, I quite understand the hon. Gentleman's ignorance, because he has been, as far as I know, always outside commerce and industry. By the use of the word "responsible" here I mean that Nixon, in his professional life, has conducted himself according to the best tenets of his trade, which happens to be my trade and I am not ashamed of it. When I say "responsible newspapers" I mean newspapers like "The Times" the "Observer" and the "Manchester Guardian." Let me make it plain that the accuracy of these reports has not been challenged, except in that one instance, even from the Front Bench.
But the Prime Minister may have been addressing himself to something else. He may have been objecting to the comments of the newspapers. He may have every right to do so, but happily it is not yet an offence to criticise even the Prime Minister or the actions of His Majesty's Government. What I started out to say however was that, if the Press had been free from the beginning, to describe the conditions in which that Government was born, we might have had less trouble in Greece and more clarity in the minds of Members of this Committee and of the people in the country. Let us remember that, as recently as May of last year, 23 correspondents in Cairo protested that they were not able to comment on the situation in which that Government was being born, unless they echoed the official reply. Even to-day I am not certain that 535 correspondence is free in Athens. I am not certain; I only say I do not know. I would be delighted to hear from the Front Bench that there is no restriction on the correspondents in Athens to-day, but I doubt it very much. Therefore, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman, it is quite clear that this is not a constitutional Government. Do not let him think that I am trying to score a debating point. Let me even admit that only five weeks ago it was as approximate to a constitutional Government as was possible in the circumstances. That is true, but it was not a constitutional Government.
I now come to my right hon. Friend's second point. In trying to rob these popular emerging forces of their reputation he made a very good debating point when he said that they had the methods of a revolutionary, but not the ideals of one—quite a good point. But I do not think that it is really true or that it is relevant to this situation. I cannot tell the Committee what they stand for, but I can tell what they stand against. They are anti-Fascist. It is easy to see that they do not display the best attributes of democracy as we understand it. I admit that. I regret that I have to admit it, but I would think it a miracle if, for example, in this country, after 20 years of suppression, all the essential symbols of democracy showed themselves. But they are, as far as we know, anti-Fascist, and we think that there is no chance in this country or in any other of the liberated countries of building up a Government which will be sustained, unless it rests upon the people who are representing themselves to be anti-Fascist. They make mistakes; of course, they do.
Like everybody else in this Committee, I want to say how greatly I deplore the taking of hostages. The one good feature, the outstanding feature, contributed by yesterday's Debate was the Prime Minister's clear re-statement of the fact that His Majesty's Government are in favour of an amnesty. I hope that His Majesty's Government will also represent to the Athens Government that General Plastiras should now declare himself plainly upon this point. If that is done, presumably E.L.A.S. will be able to undo the wrongful taking of hostages.
There are two points upon which I would like enlightenment, and they were 536 made by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke before me. Where we differ and separate here and in the country is on the fact that the Prime Minister and the Government believe and maintain that these "popular emerging forces" in Greece are not representative, and that they have attempted to take power by a coup. I have been told by a woman who nursed in Athens, that for 36 hours before our Forces arrived in Athens on 15th October the E.A.M. forces were in control in that city. The Prime Minister yesterday said that they had a strong local organisation. It is clear that they had been fighting. It is equally clear that they were in control of several of the strongpoints in that city. Therefore, there seems no reason why they should have wanted to bring their forces from other parts of the country. I do argue most strongly that, if this party meant to stage a coup, then was their chance. There was no one to stand against them. It is a very simple fact. I hope that we shall have a reply to this and it seems to me to be important, because if the report which has been given to me is accurate, then it is fairly clear that E.A.M., at that stage at any rate, had no intention of staging a coup. I think that we shall make progress more difficult if we continue to accept without evidence that E.A.M. mainly comprises Communists or at any rate is dominated by them and that they did no fighting. If this is true, let the Government show us their attitude.
I looked over my cuttings last night—they are not at all complete—and I discovered that in March, in May, on five days in June, and as recently as the first week of October "The Times" carried reputable stories of the deeds of these men. We were told earlier of their reputation, that they were pinning down 10 divisions. Why is there this sudden change? How does what was true two months ago, become untrue now, without one additional piece of evidence being tendered? If the Government have these facts, then I say, for myself, let me see them and my case disappears. If they have not, let us admit that these people are, to some degree, representative of these popular emerging forces, of which my right hon. Friend is so critical. Let us agree they make bad mistakes; let us agree that they have no experience of orthodox 537 Government; let us agree that they have behaved wickedly and stupidly in taking hostages; but, if they are anti-Fascist, if they did fight, if they are representative, then, unless we persuade Plastiras now to broaden his Government to take in these people, no Government in Greece will survive.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Captain McEwen (Berwick and Haddington)
I would like to remark on the very excellent speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha), and to say in particular that I would identify myself with the remarks he made about the "popular emerging forces," in which there is a great deal of point and truth. When I was listening yesterday to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) and he was reading from a letter which I think appeared in the "New Statesman" from an eye-witness at Salonika, describing the procession of peasants and people coming down from the hills into Salonika in their ox-carts, bearing with them all sorts of emblems, ranging from crucifixes to the flags of the Allies, and slogans of all sorts, I was reminded of a criticism of the last performance in London of Max Reinhardt's "Miracle," which described a procession of ladies in the play as being aprocession of debutantes bearing electric fixtures and chanting they know not what.It is so long since I have raised my voice in this Assembly, except on the rare occasions when I have had to preface my remarks by saying "I have been asked to reply," that I have some hesitation in doing so, but I would like to offer a few very brief observations on this particular Greek affair. The first aspect of it, as it seems to me, is that it has various lessons in it which I hope we shall learn. The first and obvious lesson is the folly of attempting to interpret the affairs of a foreign country in the terms of our own domestic parties. To the British Left-wing intellectuals, the whole thing seemed so simple—E.L.A.S. represented the down-trodden masses, and the Royal Government represented those who were treading them down. In point of fact, however, the exact opposite was the truth.
Equally, the solution appeared in the same credulous eyes to be no less simple—the first thing was to obtain a truce, an 538 armistice, and then have all the parties at a round-table conference, wherefrom would spring a coalition Government composed of all the parties in the State. I remember some time ago a distinguished Italian diplomatist saying to me that, in his opinion, there were only two peoples in the world who understood the meaning of the word "compromise"—the English and the Italians. That may be so, I do not know, but one thing I do know—because at one time I had the opportunity of spending something like two years in Athens—is that the meaning of the word "compromise" is totally unknown to the Greeks. It has already been said in this morning's Debate that it is very difficult for us on this side to understand the Labour Party. They always adopt the attitude that there is no compromise with Communism, and that to allow the Communists to partake in any form of united front is to sow the seeds of dissolution in their party but, when it comes to other countries, they are always encouraging them to do this very thing.
Another lesson which I think we should learn is that we should stick to our friends. This may not be a point of view which will be very popular on the other side, but it is my belief that we would have done much better to stick to the King from first to last. After all, we owe it to him. It was under his guidance that the Greeks fought so magnificently for our cause in Albania and in their own country and he was, and remains, the rightful ruler of that country. First, however, we persuade him to say that he will have a plebiscite before returning to his own country. I cannot imagine why, except of course that it was under pressure from those who hoped by this means to prevent his returning at all. There are many other people I could think of who, before they return to positions of power in their own countries, have much more right to undergo a plebiscite than the King of the Hellenes. I have not heard any suggestion from the other side, for instance, that Dr. Benes should undergo any plebiscite before returning to Czechoslovakia. [An HON. MEMBER: "He was elected, the King of the Hellenes was self-elected."] Then, after that, we persuade him to hand over his powers to a Regency in Greece, also entirely against his own interests, and, as I believe, against the interests of the country. An hon. Mem- 539 ber said yesterday that General Plastiras was a figure wholly unknown. He is not unknown to anybody who knows the history of Greece over the past 20 years, and I wonder sometimes whether, in exchanging King George for General Plastiras, the Greek people may not find that they have exchanged King Log for King Stork.
A further aspect is the aspect of warning. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport said, that is the beginning; what has happened in Greece will happen elsewhere. While I wish to confine my remarks entirely to the Greek situation, in passing I would say that the events there have a somewhat sinister similarity to those which are happening in Yugoslavia. The Prime Minister said yesterday in regard to Greece that:a guarantee of a free vote, under the most stringent and impartial supervision, a vote of all the Greek people as to what they want in the future. Whatever they decide, Monarchy or Republic, Left or Right, that shall be their law, as far as we are concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th January, 1945; Vol. 407, c. 408.]All I would ask is that the same assurance may be given for Yugoslavia. I trust also, if I may say so, that the warning which was issued from this Chamber yesterday may not pass entirely unheeded in the neighbourhood of Printing House Square—
§ Captain McEwen
That paper, I would say, not only in the ignobleness of its approach to the whole Greek question in the past—an ignobleness which is only equalled by the fatuous attempt now to crawl out from under the wreckage which itself has created—
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I only want to make an intervention, so that the hon. and gallant Member may make himself clear. Did he really mean to imply that what the Prime Minister said yesterday about certain sections of the Press is to be construed as a warning to them?
§ Captain McEwen
What I have said will appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT and I am prepared to stand by it. Lastly, if I may use a colloquialism, this has been a "showdown." Never in my experience has the Prime Minister spoken in this House with greater support than he did 540 yesterday, and never have the neo-Communist clique which sits opposite, and which is not confined by any means to the ranks of the Labour Party, been more roughly handled than they were in the Debate yesterday. These facts, to me at any rate, give some hope for the future.
§ Sir Stanley Holmes (Harwich)
I would like to preface what I have to say by referring to the years 1930 to 1939. From 1930 onwards Germany was re-arming. After a number of years this country, too, began to re-arm. This armament was opposed for a long time by some Members of this House and by some people of this country. Then, in 1939, when Germany's full strength in aeroplanes, panzers, well-trained infantry and armour was sufficient, she started to destroy, or to capture and enslave, various countries in Europe one by one. Then we came into the war and one by one our Allies came into the war. We are now in the 65th month of this war. So far as we are concerned, it is a war against German aggression, and against the aggression of the Axis, that we have been fighting now for five years and five months.
Having said that, let me come to Greece. What has happened in Greece? A certain number of men have been able to obtain arms. They obtained them in the first place in order that they might use them against the enemy, and they probably did not use them as much as they might have done for that purpose. They have also, undoubtedly, obtained arms from the Germans and, with all these arms, they have sought to capture their own country. In other words, it is another policy of aggression—endeavouring to do in Greece exactly what the Germans have done with regard to many countries in Europe. Indeed it is rather worse because the Germans have attacked, captured and enslaved people of other countries, whereas the Greek Communists have endeavoured to attack their own country and to enslave, and perpetrate cruelties upon, their own people. Their policy may be anti-Fascist as the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. H. McNeil) has said, but their methods are decidedly Fascist. What has occurred in Greece may, possibly, occur in Yugoslavia and other countries as they are gradually liberated from the German grip.
Going back once more to what happened before the war, I would like to refer 541 to the position in Spain. We remember the very unfortunate civil war in Spain, which was won eventually by Franco and his supporters, mainly because he received the support of Germany. It was with German arms and other support from Germany that he won the day. There were many who felt at that time that we should have joined in on the other side, but we did not. We have seen right through the years of the war a Spain that is certainly pro-German, certainly pro-Axis, although she has not actually come into the field against us. As I have said, there were many who advocated that at that time we should have gone into the fight. Now we have gone into Greece. We have given a chance to democratic government and prevented aggression, fostered by Germany, from taking possession of the Greek nation.
Other countries will be liberated in due course—Yugoslavia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Holland and Norway—and we may be quite sure that the Germans, with all their clever method of propaganda, will take steps to see that before they are driven out they will leave behind them Quislings and trained people, probably their own, in disguise, and also arms that can be used against the people of these countries. It is, therefore, our duty, having fought this war to get rid of German and Axis aggression, to prevent any other aggressors from taking charge in any country. Therefore, I hope the policy which has been pursued in Greece will be continued, if necessary, in other countries in Europe when they are released. Finally, I hope consideration, will be given, in the countries that are still to be released, to those of the underground movement, those who have remained in their countries throughout the war, and who have had to put up with hunger and trials, and, in many cases, have seen their friends murdered and perhaps have themselves, with their families, suffered tortures. I hope, as I say, that some consideration will be given to them, not by us, but by their own Governments when those Governments are able to leave this country and go back to their own countries.
I had made up my mind to say this when I determined at the beginning of this week to endeavour to catch the Chairman's eye to-day, and I am all the more desirous of saying it now because, 542 two nights ago, I met in London an officer who served under Field-Marshal Montgomery from the moment we entered Belgium until three days ago. He had been fortunate in the ballot, and I met him two hours after he arrived in London. What he told me was this: that the Belgians had treated our people in a marvellous way, and that the general opinion of British officers and other ranks was that all those who had stayed in Belgium throughout the German occupation, and who had faced so much, were not being given a square deal by the Belgian Government which had gone back from London. He added—and it supports what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris)—that almost all the people there were in favour of the King and the monarchy because the King, who remained in Belgium and became the prisoner of the Germans and had since been sent to Germany, had really united all the Belgian nation under him. That may be something that could be put to the monarchs and Prime Ministers of other nations still in this country, who are waiting to go back to their own countries. It is not for us as a nation to interfere in this, but possibly the Foreign Secretary, when he is in consultation with those Governments which in due course will return to their own countries, could, in that tactful way of his, suggest to them that those who have remained in their own countries undaunted, hungry and tortured, and whose lives have been made so miserable for so many years, should be regarded as worthy of taking part in the government of their own country when order is re-established.
§ 1.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
We have witnessed a remarkable demonstration in the House of Commons during the last two days. I rather thought that in bringing forward his good news, the Prime Minister would have quieted us down, but following on his speech yesterday, feelings ran high on the question of Greece. This morning we started off quietly but now the Debate has warmed up again, and I do not think the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick and Haddington (Captain McEwen) has helped matters by bringing in the question of monarchies. It is only stirring up some of the Members on this side of the Committee. One thing we do not like is the idea of a monarch having preference 543 in Greece. I should have thought that the best possible plan for the monarch to adopt was to say, "I am in the way, and I will stand clear until the people decide." But the King did not do so and trouble arose. Later, he was persuaded by our Prime Minister to take that line. Had he taken it at first, I do not believe that the trouble in Greece would have occurred.
§ Major Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)
Surely the hon. Member is incorrect in suggesting anything contrary to the fact that His Majesty the King of Greece did not do that from the beginning.
§ Mr. Tinker
I have not got all the facts. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee are at variance as to the facts. Now I want to say a word in criticism of the Prime Minister. I thought that on both occasions when he last addressed us, he rather allowed himself to become irritated by interruptions. I know it is difficult for a human being to stand gibes, and that kind of thing, but I think the Prime Minister, in the position he occupies, ought not to be stirred so easily. Yesterday, he showed some irritation when questions were put to him from this side. In the position he occupies, in which he is lifted above the ordinary individual, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be big enough not to be stirred as he was stirred yesterday.
I do not intend to say very much about the Greek situation. I have read most of the newspapers and they were so conflicting that it is difficult for anybody to be dogmatic. One thing I do admire is the action of our Government in deciding to send a trade union delegation to Greece, to find out the facts of the situation. I am content to be guided by what the man at the head of it, Sir Walter Citrine, has to report when the delegation comes back. I have so much confidence in him that I believe he will give a true version to this country of what is taking place in Greece. In the meantime, I hope the Greek Government will not be unduly harsh on those who have been kicking against the ordinary order of things. I hope those people will not be treated as criminals.
Now I want to deal with the general war situation. When our troops overseas read about our Debate they will wonder 544 what part they appeared to play and whether any references were made to what they are going through to-day. After all, those men are putting up a great fight for our country and they have to stand all kind of hardships. With reference to leave, I am getting a number of letters from wives of soldiers saying that things have not worked as well as expected. Many who thought they might get leave, apparently find that they will not get it for months to come. I do not know whether that is true but at any rate I hope the War Office and the heads of the other Services will pay the closest attention to this matter and give the soldier, who is dissatisfied and feels he is not getting fair treatment, the chance of being able to make his complaint in the proper quarter.
There is another point I want to make, which is more serious. I received a letter two days ago from the father of a soldier now in India. The soldier wrote to him saying that E.N.S.A. were giving a show at eight o'clock one night and that he and some of his comrades went to the hall at 5.30, in order to get a good seat. They got into the front seats where they waited for two hours until 7.30 when Army officers came in and said, "We want the first five rows." The men protested but were told that there was no room for them there. By that time the back seats were also full, and so the men had to get out. Imagine what that means for an ordinary serving soldier who believes that he has the right to the seat he has fought for and obtained, to be told that it must be given up. It is wrong. I sent a letter to the War Minister asking him to have an inquiry and to prevent that kind of thing happening. These small irritations, when the men are going through so much, cause great dissatisfaction. Officers in the American Army dare not do that kind of thing. It is bad for discipline when such treatment is meted out to men. I hope this will be a word of warning, coming from the House of Commons, that that kind of thing, is unfair to our brave fighting men and I hope every endeavour will be made to put a stop to it.
I was glad that the Prime Minister reemphasised the fact that we stand for unconditional surrender. That can be the only termination to the war. If we talked about giving terms, we should have to consult with America and with Russia. 545 There would be differences as to what terms should be offered, and all the time the enemy would be thinking there was a chance of prolonging the war if they kept up resistance. I agree with the Prime Minister and differ from many of my hon. Friends on that point. When the time comes we can trust the British race and the Allies to deal with the Germans fairly. If it were left to me, I should not be vindictive to the German race. My object would be to prevent further wars. I would say to the Germans and the Japanese, "You cannot be allowed to build up armaments again for a very considerable time." There should be no question as to the position in which they are placed. I do not agree with the transference of huge sections of the population of the defeated countries. Let me put myself in the position of belonging to a defeated country. If the victors said, "We have won now, and you and your family have to be transported to another part of the world," should I forget it? Would my family ever forget it? Bitterness would surge right through my nature and my one thought would be how I could get my own back. If we tried that kind of thing on, whether we prevented wars or not, we should not prevent the feeling of being badly treated. If the Germans have been misled, the lesson of the war will teach them the folly of what they have done. We ought to try to treat them in a decent way, in order to prevent future war.
May I say a word about future conferences? When a conference is called, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary attend it. What position do we of the Labour and Liberal Parties occupy, in arranging the terms of the meetings? I can imagine that, if we had a Labour Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary in a Coalition Government, and our two men went over to arrange terms, the Tory Party would say, "Where do we come in? We share in the terms of Government with you. Have we not a right to have someone at these conferences, to give confidence to our side of the political movement?" It would be a fair question. I am not saying that I have not full confidence in the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary but it would be better and fairer if, when the next conference is called, a Labour Minister of the War Cabinet went along with them. It may be said that when they come back they report 546 to the War Cabinet. That is quite true but has anyone ever known them overruled by the Cabinet on their return? It would mean resignation. It would give greater confidence and a greater sense of security to the people in the Labour movement if one of our three representatives in the War Cabinet attended the next conference. It would be well if the Prime Minister were told of the remarks I have made—I cannot say whether he will read them—to see if it is possible to get agreement in the Cabinet on this matter. The Cabinet might think it was over-ruling the Prime Minister but I think it a sound proposition and one which they should try to carry out.
I am very pleased to have been here during this Debate. I think the Prime Minister's speech was one of the best and most optimistic that he has ever made. There was a feeling in it of full confidence in victory. I was glad that he paid a tribute to the American and British fighting men and to the nation in general for the part they have played. It is wonderful how they have stuck together. We have our differences here, but I believe there is no one who is not wholeheartedly for victory. I end my speech on that note, hoping and trusting that in a few months Germany will be defeated and that before long the defeat of Japan will follow.
§ 1.24 p.m.
§ Major Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)
The hon. Member who has just spoken is always listened to with attention because of his deep sincerity and conviction, and I have listened with great respect to what he has just told us. I find myself in a very considerable measure of agreement with him. It is to be hoped that the Peace Treaty will eliminate as far as possible the disastrous consequences which must follow from indulging in a policy of deportation, whether in Allied or enemy countries. It may be necessary for something of the kind to be carefully considered and on the most humanitarian organised lines, but I agree with him very much in the hope that it will be reduced to a minimum. At least, it should be confined to the inhabitants of enemy countries and should not, except with the full consent of the individual concerned, be applied to any body which has been fighting the common enemy, and certainly not to any of the United Nations. I agree also with the 547 hon. Member when he said the Prime Minister's speech was full of optimism. It will give a great measure of encouragement to the people as a whole and will do a great deal of good both here and abroad because it will clear the air of a large number of misunderstandings. I fear that a very large number of people have been misled by much of what has been going on in Europe under the guise of democracy. There is so much that is called democracy which in fact has no right to use the name. The exposure—and indeed it has been an exposure—of what has been going on in Greece under the guise of democracy, and the terror that was threatened to the unfortunate inhabitants by those who tried to wear the clothes of democracy, should make us all the more careful to ensure that we are not misled again with stories from other countries, of the acts and plans of those who call themselves democrats but have no right to the name at all.
The magnificent victories which the Russian Armies are once again winning in the East, have stimulated the enthusiasm of the whole of our people. The great reputation which they established in 1941 and 1942 and the enormous measure of sympathy and admiration which they then so richly deserved, have once again been demonstrated. It would be a tragedy if that great measure of admiration and good will were in any way vitiated by the uneasy feeling that exists in the minds of many in this country and elsewhere that the word "liberation," in certain countries in the East which have been over-run by the Russian Armies, does not unfortunately mean the same as it means to us who understand the full meaning of democracy. It is no use trying to hide that fact. It is cowardly to try to suggest that the British people are happy and confident with regard to that state of affairs. I believe that the overwhelming majority of the country wants to work in the closest harmony with the Russians, after the war. I have immense admiration for their remarkable achievements, the skill of their generals and the courage of their troops. Why should they in any way endanger that admiration and the prestige that they have so richly earned all over the world by insisting on unilateral action which they must know is entirely contrary to all the instincts and traditions of their great Allies whom they 548 should respect and whose views, surely, should be given greater and more sympathetic consideration?
The Prime Minister assured us—we needed no assurance—that the Government stand for free democracy in all the countries of Europe and that it is intended that after liberation there should be a free plebiscite which will ultimately ensure a free Government. We do, indeed, stand for just that, but many of us are worried as to whether in fact all the Allies stand for the same thing. We have accepted, not without misgiving and not without some protest, the situation that we see in Yugoslavia to-day. We have been told by the Prime Minister that Marshal Tito is master of the country. Those were his own words, and it is obvious that they are true. If we could be assured that the Yugoslavs who do not happen to agree with the Marshal's political line or thought are treated as they would be in this country or in any other democracy, we should be more satisfied. If we can be assured that Marshal Tito will make a public announcement echoing the words of our Prime Minister, who gave such high praise to him and his work, that he will ensure a completely free plebiscite in Yugoslavia as soon as the opportunity occurs, and that those who differ from him will not be liquidated, punished, put into concentration camps, deported or, maybe, worse, then those who feel gravely disquieted with regard to the position in Yugoslavia would be comforted. Too often those who gain power by force insist upon liquidating their opponents. That is the whole trouble between us and those who believe that power is given to them in order to maintain it by force and that their opponents must disappear in the shortest and most unpleasant way.
It is this unilateral action which distresses so many of us who want so deeply and sincerely to be friendly with Russia. The United Nations must co-operate with each other. Britain cannot expect to have its own way every time, and the Government do not expect it, but our Russian Allies must accept the fact that Russia has had her own way many times in the political discussions that have gone on between the United Nations. I would like to see Russia show a more accommodating spirit and more respect for the sincerely held views of her democratic Allies. It is no use giving lip service to 549 the slogans of democracy. You must be judged by your fruits. There are stories—how true I will not say—from refugees in the Baltic States, from refugees on both sides of the Curzon Line in Poland, and from refugees where the writ of Russia runs in countries which have been liberated—if that is the correct word to use—stories which are horrifying and appalling to British minds. They may be exaggerated, but I cannot believe that there is smoke without some fire. It is a tragedy to think that these cruel deeds are being done in the wake of the splendid courage and the brilliant skill of the Russian Armies. I plead with the Prime Minister that in the forthcoming vital conference, upon which all eyes will be fixed and upon which the future peace of the world so much depends, he in turn should plead with our Russian Allies to give more respect to what we mean by democracy and to give more credit for our sincerity of purpose. I hope that the British people will no longer believe, as a result of the exposure of the truth in Greece, that simply because somebody calls himself a democrat he necessarily understands the meaning of the word or has any real right to use it.
§ 1.34 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Acland (Barnstaple)
If you will accept a manuscript Amendment, Mr. Williams, I should like to move to reduce the sum in the Vote of Credit to £999,999,999, that is to say, a reduction in the Vote of £1.
If the hon. Baronet would move a reduction of £100, it would have more meaning. A reduction of £1 is not usually accepted.
§ Sir R. Acland
I beg to move:That a sum not exceeding £999,999,900 be granted for the said Service.I am well aware of the danger, personal and political, of moving this reduction. The Labour Opposition used to move a reduction of £100 in the arms Estimates before the war in order to call attention to the misguided foreign policy which was being pursued by the Government. In the Debates they made it clear as daylight to anybody who listened to their speeches with impartial minds that they were prepared to vote any amount of money, and that the trade unions were prepared to give of their toil and strength 550 and to agree to alterations in their rules and all the rest of it, in order to produce arms in support of a sound foreign policy. They moved a reduction, however, to call attention to what they thought was the wrong policy for which the arms were being provided. In spite of that, hon. Members in the House—where it does not matter because they can be corrected—but also in the country, where it matters more because the people are more likely to be deceived, have persistently insisted that the Labour Party were against arms as such. Anybody who listens to my speech to-day cannot say that I and anyone who votes with me are opposed to the war; nothing of the sort. The effect of this reduction would be to cause the Government to have to ask once again for more money about five seconds earlier than would otherwise be necessary, because one may take it that even this Vote will not see us through the war against Germany and Japan, and the Goverment will certainly have to ask for more. For the purpose of prosecuting the war, I am happy to grant the Government £999,999,900. In moving this reduction I am not opposing the war effort. I am taking the only Parliamentary means open to me by which it is possible by my vote to express disapproval of the policy which is being pursued by the Government.
I hope that the Prime Minister and the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) will forgive my being absent for the greater part of yesterday; there were personal reasons for it. I have read the Prime Minister's speech with care. I am bound to say I am shocked by that speech. It seemed to me to be an electioneering speech. It seemed to be designed to disintegrate one of the political parties which has been one of the three main pillars of his Government. I thought too that he was a little mean to cry down now the military exploits of E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. After all, in September, 1943, Brigadier-General Eddy broadcast to the Greek people from London:Mr. Churchill has asked Brigadier-General Eddy to tell you how much he values your efforts and self-sacrifice and the great help you are giving to the Allied cause. Mr. Churchill sends you his personal message of good wishes and congratulations.I have information that in May, 1940, Mr. Churchill sent a message to the B.B.C. saying: 551It is the personal wish of the Prime Minister that E.L.A.S. and E.A.M. shall not be mentioned on the B.B.C. as such in any case.That was a suggestion from Downing Street that any news of Greek exploits should never be credited to E.L.A.S. or E.A.M.
§ Sir R. Acland
I am grateful; I mean, of course, May, 1944. Moreover, if there has been at any period any tendency on the part of E.L.A.S. and E.A.M. forces to hold their resources and not initiate action against the Germans, then let it be remembered that Allied radio stations were broadcasting to Greece throughout most of the time to this effect—" Don't fight now, wait for your orders, wait for the invasion." Thus the Allied radio stations throughout most of the period were perpetually advising the people to hold back.
Mr. Petheriek (Penryn and Falmouth)
That was perfectly true, but "wait for the invasion" meant that the arms should be used against the Germans and not against us.
§ Sir R. Acland
I will come to that. There has thus been a general instruction to wait. It is hard to give them these instructions, and then make sneering remarks about them because they obeyed the instructions. At the Lebanon Conference Mr. Seraphis, who is a Liberal, stated—and I do not think it has been denied—that 14,000 Germans had been killed by Greek activity; and at the Cairo Conference in April, 1944, the then Prime Minister, Zuderos, urged that the guerilla represematives should be specially asked to stop fighting because the aggression against the Germans had caused 1,100 towns and villages to be totally or partially destroyed as reprisals. When a small country has 1,100 towns and villages totally or partially destroyed, it is a little hard when they are sneered at for not really fighting. Higher figures have been given, and 1,600 was mentioned in an article in "The Times."
There were, however, three critical periods when the Greeks were asked to take special action, and in every case their performance was up to what was requested. The first was in October, 1942, 552 when Rommel was opposite Alexandria, and it was important to prevent supplies reaching him over the Greek railways, past the Greek islands, past the German held island of Crete and through the narrow straits to whatever ports Rommel may have had in North Africa. British Military Headquarters in Cairo asked the Greeks to interrupt the main line, which they did by blowing up the Gorgopotamus bridge in a narrow defile. That was done by 15 men of E.D.E.S. and 150 men of E.L.A.S., the operation taking place entirely inside E.L.A.S. territory. In the autumn of 1943, there was another critical period when we had cleared North Africa and were waiting to land in what was then described—I do not know whether it would be re-described now in the same words—as the "soft under-belly of the Axis." We wanted to deceive the Germans as to our intentions, and again the guerilla movement of Greece was asked to put up widespread diversionary activities in order to give the Germans reason to believe that Greece might be a point at which our landing would be made. This they did with such good effect that the Germans sent into Greece, in addition to the German, Italian and Bulgarian Armies that were already there in the Autumn of 1943, four divisions, including one armoured and one motorised, which might have been very useful to the enemy if they had been in the South of Italy or in Sicily at the relevant period. I think that is not bad. It is not unfair to say that 80 per cent. of the diversionary work which produced that satisfactory result was done by E.A.M. and E.L.A.S.
I said there were three great occasions on which the Greeks' promises came up to their performance but on the third they were not allowed to do so. In January, 1944, when we had great difficulty in Italy, and Marshal Tito was hard pressed in Yugoslavia, General Maitland-Wilson demanded from the Government at home the lifting of the ban on supplies to E.L.A.S. That was refused, in January or February. A political decision thus overruled a military request even by General Maitland-Wilson.
I would ask the Government one question and I would like them to answer it. Would they arrange to bring back Brigadier-General Eddy and let him talk to a gathering of Members of Parliament 553 in this House? It would be very interesting. I think his testimony would be worth while. After he won the confidence of so many Greek fighters, he has been shifted around to many places and not allowed anywhere near Greece. Could we have him back here and let him talk to us and tell us what E.L.A.S. really did? I am a little bit shocked that the Prime Minister should sneer at those people. I do not want to raise them so high as the Yugoslavs, but they deserve credit for what they did.
The next thing which shocks me is that the Prime Minister should make himself an atrocity-monger. He has dealt with this Greek issue as if it could be handled in terms of who has committed the most atrocities. I know again that what I am saying is a dangerous thing to say, because it will be thought that I am inclined to excuse atrocities as such; nothing of the kind. I am not excusing any of the atrocities that have been committed by any of the participants in any of the social struggles which have occurred at any time in the history of the human race. Atrocities as such are always wrong.
§ Mr. E. P. Smith (Ashford)
The hon. Baronet has said, and I was very glad to hear it, that he objects to atrocities. Did he not say in Canterbury in 1942 or 1943 that, if everything else failed and he could not get his own policies through, he would be in favour of bloodshed?
§ Sir R. Acland
I am very glad of that interruption. It gives me an opportunity, in this Committee, of clearing up this story, which started in Canterbury and pops up in various speeches by Members of this House and by others all over the country, and which is quite possibly due to an abbreviated Press report. A thing which I have said over and over again—I am sorry to digress for a moment on a point of domestic policy—and which I believe is true, is that the people of this country in the next 10 years are either going to have a revolution in their minds, or in their streets. I am very strongly in favour of having a revolution in our minds. I am trying to promote it to the best of my limited ability. The organisation to which I belong is trying to bring about a social revolution in Britain by democratic means. I think we are one of the very few peoples who may be able to do it. A few others might be able to do the same thing.
554 Let me make perfectly clear what I said in Canterbury. I have by now forgotten the exact words but I am absolutely certain of their meaning. I said that if those who are in favour of the old order are able, by such trickery as a Red Letter election, a Post Office savings swindle and the admitted lies of Lord Baldwin in 1935, to hold down the social revolution that might be made by democratic means, it is not something which I wish or will further, but I forecast as an event that you will have a revolution in your streets. I am sorry to have taken so long about this point.
I was talking about atrocity-mongering. I would like to say a word about hostages. I do not want to justify the taking of hostages any more than I justify atrocities by whomsoever they are committed; but those who struggle on behalf of the underprivileged against the over-privileged have in their minds a long history of the savage barbarities of the privileged classes on such occasions as they have been able, by force, to prevent and frustrate the uprisings of the ordinary people. To mention our own country, there was the case of Wat Tyler and his followers. There is plenty of information about what has been done by Spanish grandees to the Asturian miners in this century. I would ask anybody to read the book "In Darkest Hungary." I regret that the name of the author escapes me, but there is a preface by Count Karolyi, which gives the book reasonable authenticity. There was the extraordinary barbarism of General Mannerheim after he and his German assistants had put down the rising in Finland somewhere about 1918. Those memories are in the minds of these people and do not give them confidence. That fact does not justify the taking of hostages as such, but the people of this country should know that this long story of barbarity of the privileged classes is in the minds of those people. We should remember it when we are concerned with the taking of hostages.
In any civil war the question is never to be settled, at any rate outside some childish debating society, by asking the question, "Who has committed most atrocities?" or "Who committed any atrocities?" The question is, "Which party pushed the whole situation over the dividing line which separates the possibility of discussion and compromise from 555 the impossibility of discussion and compromise?"
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) referred just now to the French Revolution. I rather gathered that he was in favour of it and that he thought it was a good thing that democracy had triumphed against Feudalism and Conservatism. I would remind the Committee that the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in the party to which he now belongs, Mr. Edmund Burke, was so impressed by the atrocities of the time that he condemned the French Revolution. We had a civil war—
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
The hon. Baronet must not misquote that great man who was a Whig and not a Tory. What actually happened was that Burke supported the ideas of 1789 and condemned the atrocities when they were committed and the methods of putting those ideas into force.
§ Sir R. Acland
That confirms my point. Burke was a Simonite and belonged to the same party as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport, and Burke's total attitude to the French Revolution was dominated at that time by the atrocities of which he had heard reports. One now knows, whatever our judgment about the French Revolution is, that that would be the wrong way to judge it to-day, in exactly the same way as we now know it in relation to the Russian Revolution. You can judge that revolution in one way or the other; but it is utterly wrong to judge it by totting up the atrocities which were, or were alleged to be, committed on both sides. We had a civil war of our own, about 300 years ago.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Arthur Heneage (Louth)
On a point of Order. May I ask whether the Vote of Credit has anything to do with the Russian Revolution, civil war here or the revolution in France?
§ Sir R. Acland
May I submit that the Prime Minister based so much of his speech on atrocities that it is relevant to suggest that it is a wrong way to test events and that atrocities should not govern our judgment on the matter?
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
It would obviously be outside the scope of the Debate if the hon. Member developed those illustrations into a history lecture, but I understood that he was giving them as illustrations to amplify his point. As far as he had gone he was within the usual Order in Debates of this kind.
§ Sir R. Acland
I hope you will remain of the same opinion, Mr. Williams, in regard to what I still have to say. Suppose it were possible to collect together all the letters that were written from one Englishman to another during the course of the civil war; to divide them into those written by Roundheads and those written by Cavaliers; and to distribute them, one group of letters on this side of the House and the other group on the other side of the House. I am sure that we could then amuse ourselves for days by making the kind of baby speech that was made yesterday by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg).
Having said this, it is with a little trepidation that I proceed myself to read from a letter. It will be seen that I do so not for the purpose of making a particular point or of asking people to believe that a particular fact is true, but of establishing a certain point of view. The letter was written by a captain in the Central Mediterranean Forces on 28th December. It says:In so many respects this has been a cheerless Christmas in Athens. In this I write with restraint. My conclusions are soundly based about the Greek tragedy and I shall offer them only when I am free to speak with complete candour.Hon. Members should remember that officers or serving men who are moved to write letters are quite sure that they can do so with complete safety when they support the other side of the House, but that those who write letters who are moved to support our side have the greatest fear in writing. We also have the greatest fear in revealing their letters. The letter goes on:I saw the shooting in the public square on that sunny Sunday morning. To be shelled or sniped, or to be subject to dynamited-sewer plots—those are painful experiences, but less damaging than the assault on one's soul.What does this soldier mean by the assault on his soul?
Perhaps I can give some indication of it by reading another letter which was 557 despatched from Cairo on 25th December. I will summarise the first part, which says that there are two newspapers circulating in Cairo. One is the "Mail" and the other is the "Post." They both used to circulate in the morning, but by arrangement the "Mail" continued morning publication and the "Post" published in the evening.
§ Sir R. Acland
Yes, the "Gazette." I am grateful for the correction. I am confusing it with another "Post" which comes later. The letter goes on:The only English daily in Palestine is the 'Palestine Post,' and although in my opinion it is good, some people in high quarters in the Middle East, particularly in the Army, resent the fact that it is Jewish edited and controlled. Consequently, about a month ago, it was arranged to publish an early edition of the 'Egyptian Mail' styled the 'Mid-East Mail' (edited and published by G.H.Q.), and fly it up to Palestine and Syria for the Army. Why should the taxpayers' money be used in this way when there is a good local newspaper available …? An interesting commentary on this paper's object was supplied this last week"—that is, the week prior to 23rd December—when the Army turned in an article purporting to show that the principal backers of E.A.M. were two Greek brothers, profiteers from the newspaper and paper trade in Athens, who had collaborated with the Germans in Athens, and since bought safety from the Communist wing of E.A.M.I pause there to say that whatever else is true about E.A.M. it is untrue, and known to be untrue, that their principal backers were two Greek brothers, profiteers from the paper trade in Athens, who had collaborated with the Germans, and had since bought safety from the Communist wing of E.A.M. The letter continues:The 'Mail' editor, who in practice edits this 'Mid-East Mail,' rejected this story as tendentious, and said it was his policy to keep Greek events as factual as possible. But he was eventually overruled and told plainly that the Army owned the editorial rights in the 'Mid-East Mail.' Thus we have the military in the newspaper business and I don't need to tell you what that means.I think that is a shocking state of affairs, the Army to have editorial powers over the only local paper circulating among our troops, who can only with the utmost difficulty secure from Britain papers which express a contrary view. This paper is being used for lies, because that is what it comes to, which are being told 558 by the military on the instructions of the Government.
I want to ask the Government to answer the question, Who was responsible for pushing this affair over the edge short of which compromise and discussion was possible, down into the depths in which conflict of one sort or another became inevitable? I say the people responsible for doing that were those who supported King George during the last four years; King George being as much associated with Fascism in the mind of the Greek people as Sir Oswald Mosley is associated with Fascism in the mind of the British people.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
May I ask, then, why this Fascist King declared war against Fascist Italy and then against Fascist Germany?
§ Sir R. Acland
Fortunately for the whole cause of humanity and the world, reactionaries do fight each other.
§ Sir R. Acland
Believe me, on any long view of history the progressive cause profits far more from the policy of divide and rule than does the reactionary cause. In the ears of a Greek the name of King George sounds mighty like that of Sir Oswald Mosley in the ears of an Englishman.
The next people responsible were those who armed this gangster Zervas. I spoke of him in the first Debate on Greece. I said very nasty things about him. I said he had acted as a stooge and thug to practically any dictator or would-be dictator who set himself up in Greece, and was a man who ought not to be touched by a barge pole by anyone who understood anything about democracy. In reply, the Foreign Secretary said not one word in support of General Zervas. I wonder if he has anything nice to say about him now? We sent Zervas arms after E.A.M. was smoothly operating and successfully organising and co-ordinating all the democratic forces that had opposed Metaxas, and was offering very good resistance to Germany.
The next people responsible for pushing the thing over the precipice, beyond which discussion, compromise and friendly solution become increasingly difficult, were those who, being in office, did not begin 559 an effective purge of quislings and ex-quislings from the date the Germans left Greece to 1st December, which was the outbreak of this business. I call attention to an article in "The Times" of either 1st or 2nd December, commenting on the shooting by the police, which contained the more important comment that it was high time that the Government—that was the Government of Papandreou—gave earnest of good faith by getting on with the business of this purge.
The next people responsible for this civil war—and be it observed I am all the time talking about the same set of people—were Papandreou, acting in co-operation with General Scobie and Rex Leeper, acting on instructions from Downing Street—who broke the agreement about the disarming of the guerillas.
It was Papandreou and Scobie who took the first overt act in breaking the agreement of 30th December, accepted by General Scobie, which was that E.L.A.S. and the Mountain Brigade should retain an equal number of men under arms. But by the next day, Papandreou issued a decree in which this agreement was torn up. The whole of E.L.A.S. was to be disarmed. General Scobie dropped leaflets all over Greece which repudiated the agreement. This leaflet must have been prepared the previous day, when there was complete agreement. On the same day he made a menacing broadcast. It was these acts which precipitated this civil strife. In the whole of the Debates in this House or elsewhere, the Government have not brought forward one verifiable fact to show that anyone else took any overt act against the whole process of conciliation and discussion, until after Papandreou and Scobie had made this pronouncement and dropped this leaflet. I asked the Foreign Secretary, and he has twice fought shy of explaining, why this leaflet was dropped. The right hon. Gentleman should not blink his eyes like that. He has twice fought shy of explaining it.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
I did not know that I blinked my eyes. It was a natural, not a political, phenomenon.
§ Sir R. Acland
I accept that; but the right hon. Gentleman was pressed to ex- 560 plain this, not only by myself but by the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg). [An HON. MEMBER: "He is afraid of him."] Very likely.
The final thing which precipitated the crisis was the firing by the police on an unarmed crowd, followed by the fact that, instead of the British Forces rounding up these police and bringing in some other people better qualified to maintain order, British Forces, under General Scobie, threw themselves on the side of the police, who were shown in their true colours. So when we ask "Who caused this civil war?" it was not the "unjustified" resignation of E.L.A.S. leaders. It was Papandreou, by going back on his agreement to balance the Mountain Brigade against an equal number of E.L.A.S. forces, Scobie by distributing the leaflet and by his threatening broadcast that he was standing behind Papandreou's breach of the agreement, and the British authorities in general, by standing behind, instead of interning, a body of polite who had served Metaxas and the Germans and showed clearly that they did not understand the principles of maintaining democratic law and order.
The third point in the Prime Minister's speech was that he tried to make out—and in this he is being backed up by large sections of the Press in this country, and I do not see why the Prime Minister should complain of the Press as a whole, since there is quite a large section which does his work for him and supports his line—that E.A.M. is just simply a Communist plot, and that all other elements in Greece are falling away from it to the Left and Right—no, only to the Right—leaving only these Communists isolated and alone, intransigent, bloodthirsty mountaineers, brigands, and all the rest. The Prime Minister and his Press—not his in the sense that he owns it, but the Press which under the existing freedom of this country takes the Prime Minister's view—are doing all this with the intention of dividing the Labour Party, some of whom are always prepared to run 100 miles or more, if they can be persuaded that there is a Communist standing at the place from which they are running. They will never make any progress while that is so.
I have had plenty of dealings with the Communist Party, some of them friendly, others not. An hon. Member of this 561 House wrote in their learned magazine "Labour Monthly" an article about me and the organisation to which I belong, which for calculated dishonesty equalled or exceeded anything I have seen done by the Conservative Party. But I do not run away from them like a frightened rabbit when anyone says, "Communist." But, much more important, it is not true that E.A.M. ever was a Communist clique. I am forced to the conclusion that the Prime Minister, in trying to give the impression that it was so, has tried to convey to the people of this country and Members of the Labour Party something he knows is untrue.
§ Sir R. Acland
That is why I am shocked and horrified by the speech we heard, and why I move for the reduction by £100 of this Vote. On the Political Committee of E.A.M. there were 10 people, of whom one was a Communist. I think we had better get the details on the record. The remainder were Professor Svolos, a professor of constitutional law; Colonel Bakiedjis; Professor Angelopoulis, a professor of political economy and a Liberal; Tsirimokos, a Liberal deputy, of the E.L.D. organisation; Gavrilides, an Agrarian leader; Hadjibeis, a Liberal; Siantos, a Communist; Askoutsis, a Liberal, former Minister of Communications; Professor Kokalis, a professor of surgery in Athens; and Colonel Mandakas, a Liberal. Not one of those men has yet offered any support to General Plastiras. They are either held in prison in Athens, or they have retired to the mountains with E.A.M. These Liberals, professors and soldiers, are so unimpressed by these atrocity stories that they prefer to remain with E.A.M. rather than seek the security of General Plastiras. Every divisional commander in the E.L.A.S. forces bar one was an officer of the pre-1939 Greek regular army, of the rank of colonel or over. I do not think there were many Communists above the rank of colonel in the Greek regular army before 1939. Not one of these regular soldiers, divisional commanders of E.L.A.S., have yet come to report to General Plastiras or to thank General Scobie. All these military men, certainly not Communists, are still by their action showing sympathy with E.A.M.
562 Of the trade unionists, the only named man among these 17 alleged trade unionists who thanked General Scobie was a man called Krokos. He is the tame secretary of a company union maintained by Anglo-American oil interests in Greece, and he was the right-hand man of Dimitrakis, who was the opposite number of Dr. Ley during the Metaxas dictatorship. Hon. Members opposite are welcome to his congratulations and his thanks. A much more representative man is Kalamiras. He is not a Communist; in fact, he has been described to me, I think not inaccurately, as the opposite number of Sir Walter Citrine. He is general secretary of the General Confederation of Greek Workers. If anything, he is anti-Communist, although the pressure of German occupation at last persuaded him to work for co-operation between his union and quite a large Communist union, and progress had been made in that direction. This man, who really can speak for the Greek workers, has not thanked General Scobie. Will Sir Walter Citrine be allowed to speak to him when he goes to Greece? [An HON. MEMBER: "Allowed by whom?"] By Scobie, by the British authorities.
Out of 12 American Press correspondents in Greece, 11 have protested to Washington that General Scobie prevents them having any discussion with anybody who represents E.A.M. Since 11th or 12th December, E.A.M. have not been able to state their case to the world, and we who try to state it for them have to rely on snippets of information from here and there. In every case where what is known can be set against Government stories the Government stories are proved false. Is it not curious, in regard to the leader of E.L.D. who founded the movement in December, 1943, that there is a warrant out for his arrest? At any rate, he has not offered his congratulations to General Scobie. The only E.L.D. people who have done so are those who speak for a committee which claims to be called E.L.D., which they say—I am quoting Athens radio of 14th January, 1945, "started to co-operate with E.A.M. only since August, 1944." So it is a very young and upstart committee which has given its approval, and the real founders of E.A.M. are still absent.
May I come to one or two reasons why the suspicions of ordinary Greek people are driven beyond breaking-point by the 563 events occurring now? The Mountain Brigade has been referred to. Sometimes the Foreign Secretary has shrugged his shoulders and said, "Why should hon. Members opposite—" that is, "the clique"—"express such anxiety about the Mountain Brigade?" The Foreign Secretary has played it up as being a brigade of very gallant soldiers, very loyal men. I think I am right in saying that. But at the time when the Foreign Secretary asked why we should be suspicious of the Mountain Brigade, he knew, what I did not know until yesterday, that the leader of the Mountain Brigade is Colonel Tsakalotos, who was the director of the Ministry of War in the first Coalition Government in Greece, under General Tsolakoglou. You pick a man who has been a quisling in Greece. You make him the military commander of your Mountain Brigade, and then, as the Prime Minister says, you watch over and nurse this brigade to make it the most efficient fighting unit. Then you ask why people are suspicious of it.
I come to these organised demonstrations, which cheered for General Scobie, and the delegations which thanked him. By whom were they organised? First, by E.D.E.S. under the political buccaneer Zervas in whose defence no word has been said. My strictures on this man were perfectly well-founded and true. The next was the "X" organisation, organised by General Bakkos, who was Minister of Defence in the quisling Government. The last organisation which promoted these demonstrations of thanks to General Scobie was the E.E.E. organisation, wrongly described in "The Times" of 10th January as the E.E. organisation. One of the three leaders of this organisation was a gentleman called Goulas. [Interruption.]
§ The Deputy-Chairman
This speech has gone on for nearly an hour. I would suggest that if there were no interruptions, there would be a better chance of it ending, and other Members getting a chance to speak.
§ Sir R. Acland
I regret the length of my speech; it will end in about two minutes. This gentleman, Goulas, the organiser of this third organisation which demonstrated in favour of General Scobie, is now operating the Greek Freedom radio station from Berlin. I hope the Govern- 564 ment are proud of the personnel and antecedents of the organisitions which came and thanked them for their work. It makes things difficult when one knows that General Gonotas, now appointed Governor-General of Macedonia, was the right-hand man of General Plastiras in 1922. He was the chief executive with Rallis and Dertillis in organising the Security Battalions. The Foreign Secretary, differing on this matter from his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, has to admit that there were such undesirable organisations that they have been wound up. The Foreign Secretary claimed credit for the fact that they had been wound up. It is curious to wind them up and then to appoint the chief man as the Governor-General of one of your most important provinces. That does not make for confidence. Finally Ankara and Algiers radio said, yesterday or the day before, that Pangalos, the dictator in 1926, had been asked to become the C.-in-C. of the Army.
I think these facts shed a very different light on this story from the whole of the talk of the Prime Minister about atrocities. They show that the Government policy has been wrong from the start, and that it has been responsible for promoting this position. For that reason, I move, and shall vote for, a reduction of the Vote by £100.
§ 2.28 p.m.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)
While I am afraid that I cannot wish the hon. Baronet well in his political career, or the success of the Amendment which he has moved, I can assure him that we all congratulate him upon the family event which prevented him from being present yesterday. I always feel, however, that the hon. Baronet, as he stands outside himself, hears himself speak and observes the reactions of the House, feels that 99 per cent. of his colleagues in this House, of all parties, are utterly unworthy. Somehow when he speaks he seems to have the mentality of the old lady watching her son's battalion marching down the street who said triumphantly to herself, "They are all out of step except my Willie."
I will cut my remarks as short as I can, because I know that there are many other Members who wish to speak. I have been critical of the foreign policy of the Government. I have been, and can 565 honestly say that I still am, anxious as to whither our foreign policy may be leading us. The high spot of the whole of yesterday's Debate was undoubtedly the question of Greece. Well, I think that the Prime Minister spoke, not for himself, not even for the Government, but for the British people, and that the vast majority of the people of this country and of the British Empire are solidly behind him in what he said. They are behind him and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in their handling of the events which have recently taken place in Greece. I say that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are deserving, and have deserved, and will gain, the thanks and the support of the vast majority of their fellow-countrymen for what they have done.
§ Mr. Gallacher
On this question of Greece, if the people should follow the Prime Minister, he had better keep ahead of them as best he can.
§ Sir A. Southby
I am not sure of the meaning of that interruption. I think it was a little unfair of the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) to complain that the Prime Minister showed irritation when interrupted yesterday. The Prime Minister whom we have known for a long time is certainly not one who suffers fools very gladly, but I am bound to say that, in my opinion, he showed commendable restraint. I would, however, remind my hon. Friend that the French have a saying "This animal is very naughty; when it is attacked, it defends itself." I think the Prime Minister had the House behind him as it listened to his speech, made not only to this House but to the world. It was a speech made with great difficulty by reason of the interruptions to which he was perpetually subjected.
I believe it to be true that the vast majority of the people of this country will have heaved a sigh of relief when they read the Prime Minister's speech. Having followed the events in Greece with great care and attention, and having been much exercised in their minds and subjected to propaganda of all kinds, at last, they have seen the picture drawn clearly by the Prime Minister. At the same time it would be idle to deny that there is a certain amount of public uneasiness regarding Poland and Yugoslavia. I have given at some length in this House my views on the question of Poland. I have 566 no desire to reiterate them, but I will just say this. We are all watching Russia's wonderful military advance at the present time. There is not a soul amongst the Allied nations who is not grateful to Russia for what she has done. All through this war, while she has been fighting on our side against Germany, she has earned the gratitude of mankind. Is it too much for some of us to dare to hope that, when the meeting takes place, as it soon will, between the President of the United States, the Prime Minister, and that great leader of Russia, Marshal Stalin, realising the gratitude the world feels to Russia, those who guide the destinies of that great country may perhaps come to the conference table and consent to consider and discuss the whole question of Poland de novo—to make a new start in a spirit of generosity to the Polish people, who have been beyond praise in their courage and tenacity during this war, in spite of all the sacrifices which they have been called upon to make?
Greece has been a warning, not only to us but to the world. There is no time, although I would wish to do so, to discuss at greater length the question of Yugoslavia, and I content myself with saying this. Let us see to it that what happened in Greece does not happen in Yugoslavia. We have a responsibility. The world looks to us as being a people who believe in honour and fair dealing, and—although we may differ politically—as believing in British fair play. We cannot divest ourselves of our responsibilities in respect of our friends and Allies in Europe. The horrors of Greece may very well be perpetrated again in other parts of the world, but, if they are, I hope that the Government will take the same firm stand as they have taken over Greece. I do not wish to say anything which might make the present situation more difficult. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, it is obvious that the question of Yugoslavia is difficult. I would, however, like to take this opportunity of paying my tribute to the King of Yugoslavia. When little more than a boy, he ventured to stand up, the first of all of them to stand up, when Germany was in the full tide of her victories. He has heavy responsibilities to discharge to the people over whom he was called upon to rule. He is no foreigner called into Yugoslavia. He, a Serb, rules there by right and we owe 567 it to him to consider his feelings and his wishes.
There are just three points in the Prime Minister's speech which I will touch on lightly. At the beginning, the right hon. Gentleman said that we wanted nothing from Spain. I think we want something from Spain very badly. We want the friendship, trust and respect of the Spanish people. There is no sailor who does not know Spain, and does not realise the great virtues of the Spaniards—their kindness and friendliness, their loyalty and their courage. I thank them for the fact that, when it was in their power to make our position very difficult, the Spanish Government and people remained neutral and enabled us to keep the Mediterranean open. Then, the Prime Minister said:We seek no territory we covet no oil fields, we demand no bases for the forces of the air or of the seas."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th January; Vol. 407, c. 426.]I am sorry he said it. We have to sit down and consider the problems which must arise after the war. I think we make a mistake sometimes, in facing the post-war problems, and indeed, the circumstances of the war itself, with what I might call the 1939 or 1940 mind. This is 1945, and we have to face the problems of the world through eyes enlightened by nearly six years of war. So long as we maintain basic principles and remain loyal and true to those principles with which we entered this war, we shall not go very far wrong. It is always argued that other nations, the United States and Russia, have a right to consider their future interests. The United States has bases to safeguard her Atlantic and Pacific routes, some of them at any rate, obtained from us. It is argued that Russia has a right to certain portions of Poland and to territory in the Baltic in order to safeguard her security. If that be true, may not the British people be entitled to consider the security of the British Empire?
We very nearly lost this war because we were within an ace of losing control of the Mediterranean. Had it not been for the gallantry of Malta, we should have lost that control. Had Spain gone in against us, we should certainly have lost control of the Mediterranean. We have got to do our best to guarantee that there is peace in the future. To that end we 568 have got to guarantee, not only for ourselves, but for the world, the maintenance of free passage through the Mediterranean. It is reasonable that we should say that never again are we going to be placed in jeopardy and, that therefore, we should ask for bases in ex-Italian territory in North Africa so that we may safeguard the trade routes through the Mediterranean.
If it be right for Russia and America to secure their future, why is it not right for the British people? What crime is there in being pro-British? Why, if one is pro-British, should one be accused of being either anti-American or anti-Russian? I welcome the Prime Minister's speech because it was a pro-British speech. He spoke the words of a great Briton, and, so long as he speaks like that, nobody can approach him in the support which he will get from the British people. When the great conferences take place after the war, and we have to consider what is to be done to safeguard the world, I hope the Government will have an open mind about the provision of the necessary bases for British sea and air power in Northern Africa.
Although there is much I would like to say, I am afraid I have exceeded my time. It has been said that these Debates are a mistake. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I do not think so, I think nothing but good comes out of the frank and free discussion between Allies and friends of the problems with which we must all be faced when the war is over. We gain nothing, either in Russia or in the United States, by being mealy-mouthed or afraid to speak. The charge which is often levelled on the other side of the Atlantic against the British people is that we are so sly; that while pretending to be so slow and innocent, we are all the time desperately clever at pulling things off. It is not true. It would be a good thing if we did sit down sometimes and discuss things rather bluntly, because the British point of view is entitled to be heard in the councils of the nations of the world.
There has been a good deal of discussion recently about a certain article which appeared in the "Economist." I think it did an immense amount of good, and that, as a result of it, our relationship with our Allies across the Atlantic has improved immensely. It is the lack of plain speaking and friendly discussion 569 which produces distrust and jealousy. Therefore I hope that, with regard to the other problems which confront the Government—and they are many and difficult—they will bring to bear the same principles, the same honest, British point of view, that they have applied to the problem of Greece. We could not have stood by and permitted the horrors which we know were going on in Greece to continue. We owe it to the Greek people to protect them from those horrors, and that duty we owe to other nations who have no one to protect them—to the Poles and the Yugoslavs and indeed peoples all over the world. I hope the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister may achieve equal success in the difficult problem of the Balkans. There are perhaps very few hon. Members in this House who realise how intricate Balkan questions are. It is not only a question of politics or religion, but a question of bitter racial hatred such as happily we do not know in this country. These are problems which can only be solved by maintaining principles of the first order—law, justice, and never being afraid to do what we know and believe to be right just for fear of offending somebody else. So long as they continue on these lines the Government will have the support not only of the Members of this House but of the people outside it.
§ 2.43 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I hope that this afternoon I shall not be subjected to the usual amount of interruption, because I do not want to make too long a speech, as other hon. Members wish to speak and the time is getting on. I will do my best not to be too provocative. I was shocked and surprised yesterday by the Prime Minister's speech. I thought myself that the Prime Minister was going to make a conciliatory speech, a statesmanlike speech and not the speech of a swashbuckler. I had been led to suppose and, indeed, I had told my own colleagues, that we were going to obtain from the Prime Minister a number of declarations which would have eased the situation in Greece and assisted in saving Greek and British lives. Instead of that, we had a speech from the Prime Minister that is bound to make the situation in Greece more bitter, and may result in more British lives being lost. I wanted—and I want now—not so much to engage in a polemic with the Prime Minister as 570 to find out whether it is not possible for us even now, at this late hour in this Debate, to obtain from the Government an assurance that they will help to heal the position in Greece. One of the reasons why we are faced with this Greek tragedy is that the Prime Minister has been allowed to make commitments in secret which only the unfolding of events disclosed to the House. It is clear from what the Prime Minister has said that between the United States, the Soviet Union and ourselves an arrangement was reached which has compelled this country to assume unilateral obligations that ought to be carried by all the United Nations together, and 2,000 British casualties in Greece are a consequence not of the behaviour of E.L.A.S., but of a lack of statesmanlike policy by the British Government and the other heads of the Allied Nations. Hon. Members must face the facts and not run away behind all this barrage about atrocities. Why was it that the Greek people fought the British Army after we had landed in Greece?
§ Mr. Pickthorn
The hon. Gentleman invites us to face facts. He is now assuming that the Greek people were all on one side. Is that a fact?
§ Mr. Bevan
I am not trying to make a debating point. There was a conflict between Greeks and British Forces. Why was it that E.A.M. did not accept the assurances of His Majesty's Government that it was our intention to establish a popular democratic form of government in Greece? [HON. MEMBERS: "They did not want it."] It is no use hon. Members saying that, because they know full well that the representatives of E.A.M. had given ample assurances before of their desire for a democratic Government. The Prime Minister's statement about forces marching down on Athens with a view to a massacre of some of the population of Athens is a grotesque piece of Churchillian rubbish. If parallels are wanted, go back to the Prime Minister's speeches during his interventionist years, about 1920. It was only the other day that a British soldier said to me:I was misled by Churchill in 1920. I went to Archangel. I am not going to go to Greece. I have heard this story before.There is no politician who is more capable of distorting facts than the Prime Minister. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I say that deliberately. There is a long record—
§ Sir P. Hannon
On a point of Order, Mr. Williams. Is it in Order in the proceedings of this House to charge an hon. Member with deliberate distortion?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I really think that probably the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) is trying to keep his speech within bounds so that other Members will be able to get in. If that be the case, it would be in the interests of the Committee as a whole if hon. Members abstained from making interruptions.
§ Mr. Bevan
I want to bring the Committee back, because the issue is this. If we can persuade the Greek people of the bona fides of the British Government the difficulty will be over. [Laughter.] Certainly, otherwise it is no use our going on at all. An hon. Member laughs, but the difficulty is that we have to live with the Greek people when this matter is over and we have to persuade them of the bona fides of the British Government. There is nothing in the recent or the remote past of the party opposite to give the Greeks any reason at all to believe that they want a democratic Government in Greece. On the contrary, the Prime Minister has given every single piece of evidence he can that he has favoured the Greek King. It is the direct consequence of the pressure of this party that we have the Greek King removed out of the Greek arena. This I would have thought was an irrefragable fact. We know full well that until quite recently, and long after the fighting had started in Greece between ourselves and the forces of E.L.A.S., the Greek King was still intriguing in London, and that it was our—not your—achievement to have a Regent established in Greece. In so far as a contribution has been made to the settlement of the Greek difficulty by the removal of the King and the establishment of a Regent, it is in consequence not of the voluntary action of the Government but of the pressure of the critics here and outside. Therefore, I am encouraged to hope that a continuation of criticism will bring even more wisdom. It is no use the Prime Minister arguing that his attitude towards E.A.M. changed when he was informed from Greece that forces were marching on Athens, because the Prime Minister has been well known to be hostile to E.A.M. all the time. My 572 hon. Friend the Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) read out at the beginning that as far back as last August the Prime Minister sent a directive to the B.B.C. telling them that they were to produce no news on the B.B.C. favourable to E.A.M.
§ Mr. Bevan
The Political Warfare Executive gave on 1st August, 1944, the following instructions to all services connected with Greek affairs:The Prime Minister has ruled that in principle no credit of any kind is to be given to E.L.A.S. or E.A.M. on the B.B.C."—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."]In any case where it is thought desirable to make exception, his personal approval should first be obtained. This instruction has been given to Cairo and will apply to British official communiqués or hand-outs.
§ Commander Agnew (Camborne)
On a point of Order. Can the hon. Member be asked to lay this paper from which he is quoting?
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Member has been in the House long enough to know that private Members cannot be asked to lay papers, but I will put this on the Table of the House after I have finished my speech. This is not a question of doubt. The British Government and the British Prime Minister created in the minds of the Greek people such distrust that the word of the British Government could not be accepted, and in consequence of the misbehaviour and lack of political trustworthiness of the party opposite, 2,000 British soldiers and airmen have become casualties in Greece. In so far as a British soldier has died in Greece in order to try to bring about the establishment of a different order of government, his death is at the door of the party opposite. All that is happening is that the chickens are coming home to roost.
§ Mr. Bevan
No, I will not. It is on record. Why should the Greek people believe, after the foreign policy of the last 10 to 15 years, that it is the intention of the party opposite to establish, 573 promote, foster and nourish a democratic and popular form of government? I ask hon. Members opposite this, too: Why should they believe that British troops are in Greece for the purpose of sustaining the wishes of the Greek people when the man who gives the assurance has the worst record of any British statesman for intervention in other people's affairs? That is, the Prime Minister. He has the worst record. Furthermore, if the British people and the British workers had not prevented him having his own way, there would be no Red Army now rescuing Europe. We are seeing at the present time the evidences of his failure. Had we not restrained his hand—yes, the ordinary men and women, miners and sailors and dockworkers—had they not restrained the bloody-mindedness of the party opposite in 1920, there would now be no Red Army. I know you do not like those facts, but they happen to be facts.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Gentleman must not use the word "you," and I must remind him that we are trying to get on with this Debate.
§ Mr. Bevan
But this is really not fair, Mr. Williams. We have been knocked about here, and the Prime Minister took an inordinate time. I do not mind, because I am going to give a few knocks back, and I want to deal almost exclusively with the Prime Minister. I shall not address my remarks to what was said by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) yesterday, for example. As we are talking about the Mediterranean, I might draw a metaphor from marine fauna and ask, Why, if I have a good John Dory on the dish, should I pay any attention to the shrimps?
Let me ask hon. Members this. It is certainly true that as the German armies are being driven out of occupied Europe, a series of difficulties will arise in country after country. Various resistance movements will attempt, quite naturally, to obtain political advantage out of the situation. Why should they not? It always happens at the end of a war that the popular movements are strongest when they have just been engaged in fighting against the common enemy, and the people of Greece and the people of Italy naturally want to use the situation for the purpose of preventing their own enemies from once more establishing themselves in power. If this had 574 happened more successfully in Germany in 1919 we would not be having a war at all. It happens that in some societies there are forces and institutions inimical to democratic forms of government. They were inimical to democratic forms of government in Germany. If civil war in Germany in 1920 had cut deeper, if the fires of civil war had cauterised the nest of Fascists in East Prussia, if the sword had bitten deeper, we would not have had this war at all. It was the party opposite who did their very best at that time to slaugher the Spartakists where they could. It is on the record. [An HON. MEMBER: "What record?"] I cannot devote myself exclusively to answering hon. Members' questions. [An HON. MEMBER: "Let us have the record; you have not got it."] It is true that in Germany they established popular forms of government on bad foundations. If they had cut out the German mine-owners and the Stinnes group, if they had cut out the landlords of East Prussia, if they had established a democratic State, when they had the opportunity, on sane economic foundations, the world would have been spared the horror of this slaughter. The fact is that we are now reaping the consequences of the failure of the German resistance movement of 1919, and hon. Members opposite are trying to slaughter resistance movements now and make another war inevitable.
Therefore, as far as I am concerned, where those resistance movements are attempting to bring about modifications and changes in the economic and social structure of a country so as to establish democracy firmly, I am in their favour, and hon. Members opposite know very well what they are up to. Indeed, the Prime Minister has made the position perfectly clear. We are now starting wars of intervention in Europe by the British Tories. Let me ask hon. Members this: When Italy is free—and, remember, it is on record from General Alexander that the resistance movement in Italy has been more effective in fighting the Germans than any other resistance movement in Europe, more than 250,000 Italians having lost their lives in the resistance movement—if the men from Milan and the men from Turin march down in order to extirpate that decadent society in Rome, will British soldiers be used once more to shoot them down? Shall we send British arms and British soldiers into Italy on the 575 ground that we are protecting the citizens of Rome from men marching down from the mountains? Are we going to do that in Yugoslavia? Maybe we shall be a little more careful there, because there is a big brother on the doorstep. We did not go to Greece for the purpose of fighting the Germans. There were no Germans there; they had gone. The collapse of Italy and the junction of the forces of Marshal Tito and the Red Army had promised to cut off any means of escape for the Germans, and they cleared off as quickly as they could. No, we sent to Greece troops which we ought to have been using in Italy and France. We sent them there to satisfy the political ambitions of the Tory Party—
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
Are the Labour Members of the Government to accept no responsibility?
§ Mr. Bevan
I believe that the Labour Ministers in the Government are convinced that it is our intention to try to establish and leave a democratic Government in Greece when we clear out. What I want to do before I sit down is to get from the Foreign Secretary certain assurances that will clear up the matter, and I hope we shall not once more have an assault made upon our emotions by any talk of atrocities, which is one of the most dishonest forms of politics. A much greater man than the Prime Minister put on record his attitude towards massacres 576 in a civil war. Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to a friend of his, William Short, who had lost many friends in the Paris massacres, said:In the struggle which was necessary many guilty persons fell without the forms of trial, with them some innocent. These I deplore as much as anybody and I shall deplore them to the day of my death. But I deplore them as I should have done had they fallen in battle. It was necessary to use the arm of the people, a machine not quite so blind as balls and bombs, but blind to a certain degree. A few of their cordial friends met at their hand the fate of enemies. But time and truth will rescue and embalm, while posterity will be enjoying that very liberty for which they would never have hesitated to offer up their lives.It always happens in a civil war in these circumstances that innocent people sometimes fall, and that in times of social disorder thugs and ruffians have their opportunity of executing private revenge on both sides. It is, therefore, most dishonest and most unscrupulous to conceal the truth from the people by hiding behind the bloody hands of a few assassins. I say to hon. Members opposite, for heaven's sake be a little more objective.
The Prime Minister said he was in favour of an amnesty, and we are very anxious to find out what is meant by that. He said that he, too, had hostages and would not release those of E.A.M. until E.A.M. had released their hostages. Amnesty is conditional upon the release of hostages. What is the logic of that? We have put into the hands of the Athenian police weapons and powers with which they have arrested many thousands of people who recently supported E.A.M. They are in prison and they are, therefore, hostages, whom the Prime Minister says he will not release until E.A.M. release their hostages. In other words, the British Prime Minister is now holding on to the very thing that he says is abhorrent. He is a man with hostages. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, he said so. That is the meaning of what he said.
§ Mr. Bevan
If amnesty does not mean that you are not going to proceed against your recent enemies what is the meaning of it? There is a statement in this morning's Press from Athens that Mr. Sophianopoulos, the Minister of Information and Foreign Affairs, who says that he 577 is proceeding to release those involved in the recent fighting merely for their political opinions and associations, and that only those who were convicted of bearing arms would remain prisoners. That is not an amnesty. What we understand by an amnesty is that you have 100 per cent. release and immunity for those recently engaged in the conflict on both sides.
§ Mr. Bevan
I did not say "armistice," I said "amnesty." What we are seeking to do is to bring about an atmosphere which will make for co-operation between all the elements of the Government and make it possible to obtain the release of those who are now under the control of E.L.A.S. The Prime Minister declared yesterday that he would not release his hostages until what is called the mob on the other side released theirs.
§ Mr. Bevan
We understood that we were going to try to work for an amnesty for all political prisoners involved in the recent fighting and agitation in Greece. Before the Foreign Secretary finishes his speech to-day I want to know whether he accepts the interpretation of that report from Athens, and whether he will give us an assurance that by an amnesty is meant the full and free release of all those people. The Greek Government are our instrument. We have provided them with arms. I think the honour of the British Government is involved, because the Prime Minister has given us complete assurances that he means an amnesty, and I understood him to say he meant it in our English meaning of the term, and that only those found guilty of crimes against the criminal law are to be kept in prison. [Interruption.] He does not say it. On the contrary, it is said they will be kept in prison until hostages are released by E.A.M.
I would ask hon. Members opposite to consider this fact again, that General Plastiras is not only a person suspect to 578 the Greeks but is no friend of Great Britain. He has lived in France throughout the German occupation unmolested by the Nazis, In 1941 he was in negotiation with leaders of the S.S. to go back to Greece. At the height of the German successes he was getting ready to stab this country in the back. I have the names of the persons with whom he conducted the negotiations. To ask that we should spend British lives in order to impose a traitor of that sort on the Greek people makes a travesty of what we are fighting for in this war. It was only at the end of 1941 that General Plastiras broke off his negotiations with the S.S. because Russian resistance had taught him that perhaps it would not after all be all plain sailing, and originally he thought it was. It seems to me a most extraordinary situation that the British Government should now establish in Greece a puppet who in 1941 was conspiring with our enemies. How can we expect the Greek people to believe in the good intentions of a Government which behaves in that way? The police force of Athens was organised by the Germans and is the same instrument that the Germans themselves used against the Athenian people. What a shocking state of affairs it is for the British Prime Minister to sneer and attack the brave men and women who were risking their lives at a time when the man he makes Prime Minister was consorting with our enemies. What a dishonourable picture it presents. The Greek Government would not last a week without the support of British arms. To talk of General Plastiras as the nominee of the Regent is below even their form. It is stretching the elastic too much to attack our people.
Only the other day the Prime Minister instructed Brigadier Eddy to give his thanks to the resistance movement of Greece for the valiant way they had fought. Yesterday he told the House that they did but little fighting. He says we ought to accept from him information of the most verifiable kind that he can get. But his information is usually so unreliable. Only the other day he told us a cock-and-bull story about Belgium, and he cannot get a single journalist to confirm it, yet, on the basis of this information from across the Channel, which could have been verified in a few hours' time, he ordered British tanks to assemble in a Brussels square. Only the other 579 day he informed the House that E.L.A.S. members had murdered a British officer in Greece. Either he was not told the facts or he did not tell them to the House, because a court of inquiry was held, which a British officer attended, and which completely exonerated E.L.A.S. The right hon. Gentleman created as much prejudice as he could seven or eight months ago by speaking of the murder of an English officer.
I therefore conclude on the note with which I started, that in these matters in Europe the leaders of this party who are Members of the Government must remember—the Deputy Prime Minister is a man of unimpeachable honour—when he hears the Prime Minister and his Tory colleagues giving assurances to people in the liberated countries, that they are looking at the record of his colleagues and not at his record and that our task is to try to extricate the British people from the consequences of more than 15 years' political treachery by the Tory Party. If the Italian peasants hear from the British Prime Minister one day what a fine fellow Prince Umberto is, they cannot be expected to pay much attention to his assurances the following day if he says he is in favour of popular Government. At the same time the Greek people, who have been fighting for three or four years and who are now politically educated, find it awfully hard to believe that our troops are there purely for the purpose of establishing a democratic form of government.
I cannot make what I say agreeable to hon. Members opposite, but I hope that the people of this country, I hope every man and woman who has a relative in Greece or Italy, when these events unfold themselves in the next two or three years, or maybe one year, and British troops have been moved everywhere in interventionist adventures, will realise that what is happening at present in Greece and Italy, and may happen in Holland and Belgium, is a repetition of what happened at the end of the last war and that hon. Members opposite never change their plan or alter their design, which is to use the emotions and the fidelity of the British people to establish their friends in power all over the world.
Why should we believe that a Tory is different abroad from what he is at home? He is the same everywhere. He is a 580 friend of the City at home and the friend of Hambros in Athens. He is the friend of the landlord here, as he is there; the friend of the rich and powertul there, as he is here. The Tories want to use our people, whom we have allowed them to put in uniform the fight the Nazis, to protect the rich and powerful vested interests wherever they are. As far as I am concerned, and I hope my hon. Friends will take the same line, we will not support that. We shall put on the Government all pressure we possibly can to modify their policy.
§ Mr. Bevan
Hon. Members know very well that if there is one person in this House who is perfectly capable of voting against the Government, if I think it is a right thing to do, it is me. When I vote against the Government it will be on grounds of my choosing. I said before the Christmas Recess that I would move a Vote of Censure upon the Government if they attempted to use the Recess to carry out their policy in Greece. I am pressing now at this late hour for the Foreign Secretary to give us on this side of the Committee the assurances we need and that we are anxious to have. If we do not get those assurances, and if the policy in Athens is as it is described by the Ministers of the Plastiras Government, we shall put on the Order Paper a Motion in language that will be perfectly clear to the country and which will not permit the hacks of the Tory Party to say that we voted against war credits. What they want is for us to do something here that they can misrepresent in the country in their usual way. Let them be careful, because in this matter the country is behind us and not behind them. Therefore, if the Prime Minister carries out in Greece and in Italy the spirit of what he said yesterday, the days of his Government are numbered.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Hamilton Kerr (Oldham)
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) at the commencement of his speech couched his remarks in a moderate tone, but he ended his speech with remarks that were very violent, ill-informed and fictitious. They may make good reading in the yellow covers of Mr. 581 Gollancz's books, but they will not persuade Members of this House, and I venture to say that they would not even persuade a meeting in Hyde Park. The hon. Member has brought an accusation against the Prime Minister of being a master in deception and intrigue. I wonder when hon. Members and the people of this country cast their minds back to those days before the war when the Prime Minister alone raised a voice of warning against German rearmament, or to those dark days in 1940 when he alone spoke for this country. He has done more than any other man to forge those happy links of association between ourselves and the United States which exist at the present moment. The object of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale and his friends is quite clear. Before the war is finished, while our men are still facing the German guns and we are struggling with all our might against our enemies, they are trying to draw the Labour Ministers out of the Government by causing a split in their party. They are putting sectional interests before the national interest and are attempting to foul and besmirch the name of the Prime Minister so that he will no longer, they consider, be an asset to the party to which he belongs. That is the game of the hon. Member and his friends, and I believe that the country will see it and despise it, and with good sense will put the nation before party.
I would like to take up a point which the Prime Minister made yesterday. He talked about power. While we are coming to the crucial stage of the war and while the conference between the three great leaders is about to take place, it is vitally important that we should have a clear idea of what our interests are going to be in the post-war world. We should form a clear picture of the power we shall be able to mobilise to support our policy. The people of these islands can play a prominent part in the world only by working together with the peoples of the British Empire, 70,000,000 English-speaking people, and if we add the peoples of India and the Colonies, we form a bloc of some 500,000,000 people, which is equal to 2½ times the size of the population of the Soviet Union, with an area which possesses the economic resources of the United States. We believed before the war that our Empire could best be defended by air and sea power. Our Army was confined to the role either of a 582 police force in the outlying parts of the Empire, or of forming garrisons in the fortresses along our trade routes. I believe that that is the position to-day. While air and sea power is sufficient for us to defend our Empire, if we wish to intervene in Europe we must have as Allies Powers possessing considerable military forces.
When in 1940 I had the opportunity of visiting the Maginot line—that was in the days when M.P.s were allowed to go to Paris—I happened to meet M. Rénault. I was impressed when he said, pointing to a map, "Here we have 220 divisions against us, and on our side 120 divisions, of which more than 100 are French. We are going to be attacked in the Spring. but we have not enough men and we are not working hard enough." It struck me then for the first time what the principal lesson of the Munich Agreement was. It was this. Had Russia guaranteed the new Czech frontier, we should not have been faced with 220 divisions, and Germany would have been faced with a war on two fronts and might possibly not have attacked us. When the Battle of Britain came, the German air force met for the first time an air force equipped on a different principle. The German air force was designed for co-operation with the Army. It met the British Air Force, which was designed on the principle that the first duty of an air force was to shoot its opponent out of the skies, for only then could it co-operate effectively with the ground forces.
We were not only saved by the Air Force in the Battle of Britain, but by our Navy. Even after the failure of the German air blitz, Hitler had reasonable hopes of being able to starve out these islands by the U-boat campaign. Especially we remember how near Germany came to victory in 1917. But the picture changed again when it came to the question of invading Europe. Given our own limited military resources we would have been unable to invade Europe by ourselves. We required American man-power to invade Europe.
I come to the point that if we are to be able to play our part in Europe after the war, a Western bloc of nations will be a necessity, for two reasons. First, there is the accepted military principle of defence in depth. We are told by our Russian Allies that one of the main reasons why they demand the Curzon 583 Line is that they were only just able to stop the Germans and their armoured columns by defence in depth from reaching Moscow. They had learnt the lesson of their past because they realised that the genius of Napoleon's armies could not have been beaten by Russian arms alone, but only by the vast spaces of Russia. That this principle is also true in the West, except that here every kilometre you have did not mean Russian steppe broken only by villages or birch forests, but vital industrial resources and populated towns. Did not General de Gaulle in his book "The Army of the Future" appreciate this principle when he said:A single reverse at the source of Oise, and the Louvre is within gun range.Therefore I believe that a Western bloc is essential.
I believe a similar policy is essential also in other parts of the world. If we are in alliance with France and other Powers on the Atlantic seaboard, our communications are ensured, both in the Mediterranean and in the Far East. Look at the situation in the Mediterranean which faced us when France left the war. There are three vital areas in the Mediterranean—Gibraltar, Malta and Suez. Once the aerodromes in French Morocco were no longer available, Gibraltar was unsupported. Once the fortress of Bizerta was no longer available to us, Malta was isolated. The fact that France had gone out of the war exposed the Suez Canal to attack by Italians in Libya. Similarly, in the Far East, the defeat of France, by allowing Japanese troops to enter Indo-China, made possible the fall of Singapore. I, therefore, believe that this Western bloc is essential to our security, not only in Europe but, because of its repercussions in other parts of the world, in the Mediterranean and the Pacific as well.
I come to my last argument. Let us suppose that the resources of the Colonial Empires of Great Britain, France, Holland and Portugal were placed together. There would be a group possessing such great material resources that it must be something very formidable in the world. I cannot see any possible objection, either by Russia or by the United States, to such a move. Has not Russia herself attempted to build up a bloc of States along her frontier stretching from the Baltic to the 584 Black Sea? If it be true that the United States would never allow a hostile Power to dominate the Atlantic, such a group of European States would form the first line of defence of the United States. If this be true, I hope that France, the most powerful nation in that group, will very shortly be welcomed to the fourth place at the table of the three great Powers. Too often we are inclined to think of France only as a European nation with a great past which has contributed much to civilisation, and we forget that France is also the possessor of the second greatest Colonial Empire in the world. I believe that France may be able to play as great a part in the future as she has done in the past, and I therefore hope that, at the next meeting of the Big Three, the possibility of France coming to the conference table will be considered.
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
We have come to the last stage of what has been an interesting, and I hope in the end will prove to have been a not unhelpful, Debate. It has struck me, from the beginning until now, that the quality of the speeches has been as high as in any Debate that I have heard in this House. Perhaps I may be permitted to convey my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan). [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, I do, for the brilliant speech which he has just delivered. I have differed from him many times in my life, and I expect I will again differ from him; but let hon. Members permit me to say that we have one thing in common, which is the greatest cement, and it is that we are both coalminers. Perhaps I might be also permitted to say to hon. Members opposite who often speak about their old school, that I feel a thrill of pride that the pits of this country can produce men of that quality.
I intervene in this Debate because, quite recently, for my party, at conferences and in the executive, I have had to bring my mind to this very great problem of Greece and to Allied problems in Europe, and to seek to understand them. We are entering on the stage of this war when Europe is being liberated. Later on Asia will be liberated. Great political problems will have to be solved. It is important that, in the initial stages of those decisions of political matters, we should have full and frank discussions about these ques- 585 tions. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister said, in closing the Debate last night, that upon this Greek situation there was a great deal of emotion, and that is true. It is true in this House and it is true outside this House. My right hon. Friend shared the experience and knows that it was particularly true in the Labour Party Conference a week or two ago. I have been seeking to understand as best I can why there is this emotion, and why the fear and distrust.
Let me say, as a member of the party which from the very outset of this war has given full and loyal co-operation to the national effort, one word to the Prime Minister and to the Government upon this issue. In the last few weeks there have been more fear, distrust and opposition respecting the Government than upon any issue in the war. I would like to say a word or two to the Prime Minister about this, because in that conference, as my colleagues will remember, it fell to my lot to reply to the debate. Two things were said and implied in that debate which I would like to put to the Prime Minister. The first has been expressed already. It is that the trade unions and the Labour movement of this country have vivid memories of 1920 and of intervention in Russia, of the convening together of a great national Labour conference and the refusal of the dockers to man the "Jolly George" expedition to Russia. This time they are determined that, at the end of this war, there shall be no intervention which they can prevent against working-class and popular movements in Europe or anywhere else in the world.
There is one other word I would like to say to the Prime Minister and to the Committee too, and particularly to hon. Members opposite. Some time ago, the right hon. Gentleman uttered some words in this House about General Franco. I am not going to quote the actual words, because they are immaterial. The whole point is that the words gave an impression, whether rightly or wrongly, that the right hon. Gentleman supported General Franco. Let me say, speaking for this movement and for myself—I was in Spain in 1938—if there is hostility in this Labour movement it is to the Franco régime. I tell hon. Members that it is not really because a democratic Government was downed but because we believe that 586 it was the first major victory for Nazism in Europe—and this country stood idly by. I say to the Prime Minister, as a member of the party who has supported him and his Government right through, that those words about Franco have caused anxiety among all the workers in this country. I would make the suggestion that if national unity is to be kept those words ought to be corrected at the earliest possible moment.
I said that with my colleagues I have had to deal with this problem for my party before the Greek situation arose, for it is a very great problem. It is the problem of Europe; it is the problem of the countries that have been overrun, that have been overwhelmed, the problem of what is to come out of Europe when victory is ours, when liberation comes. I have, therefore, sought to understand what have been the conditions in Europe in these years of war and occupation and Nazi terror. In this period I have not only had the opportunity of reading the stories and documents of resisters all over Europe, but during our Conference I had the very great privilege of meeting men who in France, Holland and Belgium had actually themselves been resisters, and taken part in the resistance movements. I want to give to the Committee, because I think it will be helpful, the experience of my contact with those men and those discussions.
We have to remember that inside Europe during this period there have been two great conflicts going on. First, there is the conflict between the peoples and the invaders. We have had that conflict—our conflict with Germany. We are a very fortunate nation in many respects. The only conflict we have had for the last five years has been the conflict with the enemy. There have been national unity and national accord, and a pulling together to a degree never before known in the history of this nation. In Europe, in France, Holland, Belgium, Greece, everywhere, there has been, not only the struggle against the enemy, but an internal struggle. No one can understand the European situation that has emerged, unless they understand these two struggles—the struggle between the peoples and the invaders, and secondly, the struggle between the resisters and the collaborators—for the truth is that in every occupied and overwhelmed country in 587 Europe people took sides, there were people who collaborated. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not in Poland."] In most countries. Very often, let me say to hon. Members opposite, the people who collaborated with the Nazis came from the well-to-do classes. It is absolutely true—and no one would deny this—that at any rate in the resistance movement the core of resistance came from the workers.
There have been all kinds of people in the resistance movements—Catholics, Protestants, middle-class, working-class. They were broad movements, gathered together without any kind of political theory or philosophy. They were made up of people brought together to fight Nazism and Fascism, and included people of varying shades of political opinion. The likelihood is that they will own political points of view and belong to different parties, but during this period they worked together. I think, however, it is generally agreed that in Europe the core, the soul, the strength, of the resisttance movements came from the workers.
These resistance movements which have been developing in Europe and carrying on their great struggle in these four or five years, have produced new movements, new leaders; they are of very great importance, I welcome them. I believe they have a big part to play in the future of Europe. Let me express my own hope. I believe that out of these resistance movements will emerge forces, movements, ideas and men out of which a new Europe can be born.
I want, my party want, we all want, to create a new Europe. Who wants to go back to the old one anyhow? Who wants to put back the crazy structure of a Europe which twice in my lifetime has given us a bloody war? We want to create a new one, and if that is to be done, it must come oat of these movements, out of these men, out of these leaders. We must understand these movements and persons. In particular it has struck me very forcibly that we must understand what they have gone through. I have met them, these men and women of the resistance movement, who for four years, in some countries for more than four years, have lived hunted lives.
Let me tell the story of one I met, the son of one of the distinguished pre-1914 588 leaders of the Belgian Socialist Party, who had been in the resistance movement. He told me that during that period, when he was hiding, as he said, by day, and fighting by night, he had seven different names under which he was known in various parts of the country. He had secret places of rendezvous. Each night he went forth. He did not know, when he went to the address he had been given, to stay with people he did not know, whom he had never heard of before, whether he would be with friends, or would be betrayed. In the end he and his comrades have come out. But they have lived that kind of life and this is relevant to what is happening in Greece, and elsewhere too. Do you expect men who have lived that kind of life, encouraged by us to live it, aided by our propaganda, egged on by the B.B.C., fed with our arms, to come out after four years of it, and behave as if they had not gone through that terrifying experience? Of course not.
It is a problem which will test the statesmen of Europe. How are we to handle these movements? We gave a lot of attention to this as a party, and we arrived at what we think is a sound policy. We believe that the right thing to do in Europe is to bring these resistance movements, the moment liberation comes, into the Government, and let them share the responsibility for the leadership of the country. Events have proved that that is the right policy. Where that has been done, where resistance movements, where resistance leaders have been brought into the Government, have been given responsibility to share, have been given a place in life which they can fill, there has been no internal strife. The best example of the success of that is France. France had a resistance movement with the largest numerical armies, tremendous numbers. At the end the resistance movement and the leaders were brought inside, irrespective of their political colours. They held responsible positions in the French Government. They solved all their problems, and they are difficult problems, without serious internal strife. That was because the resistance movement had been brought inside the Government.
§ Sir Leslie Boyce (Gloucester)
Did not the Prime Minister tell us they were also brought inside the Government in Greece?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am coming to that in a moment. In France and elsewhere where they have been brought in there has been success, quiet. There has never been the internal strife there has been in Greece.
What has happened in Greece? There this policy has failed for reasons which I think are becoming clear, and have been clear to me from the beginning, and are becoming clearer every day. There was a resistance movement in Greece. I have no doubt that in Greece and elsewhere men and women connected with resistance movements may have committed excesses. I do not pardon that. I know they have been living abnormal lives in abnormal conditions. I think it is unfair to judge men who have lived that kind of life by the standards of those of us who have lived a quiet life in the last five years. Yesterday I thought there was a tendency in the Prime Minister's speech, and in other speeches from those benches, to cast doubts upon these resistance movements, particularly in Greece. Whatever we may say about E.A.M., it has played a prominent part in the Greek Resistance Movement. Let me make one quotation about E.A.M., E.L.A.S., and the Greek people generally. It is from a newspaper that has not come under the ban, I understand. It is from the "Daily Telegraph," of 1st November, 1944. It refers to the situation in Greece and the experience of British liaison officers who were there with the partisans. It says:The Greeks incurred the severest penalties in feeding and harbouring these officers, but I have it on the highest authority that throughout the whole of that period not one case of treachery occurred. Even reluctance to assist was almost unknown. 'Without the spirit which the Greek population showed, its courage, its unselfishness, its loyalty to us, we could have done nothing,' said an authoritative spokesman of these officers. 'The villagers knew that one of our operations meant the likelihood of their houses being razed. The townsmen harbouring us knew that discovery probably meant death to all the family, but they never flinched. The Greek people have proved themselves worthy of their great past.'That is a tribute to the Greek people; and at that time E.A.M. had control over a very large portion of Greece. In a country which they were virtually controlling, we had ample testimony that there was not a single case of treachery against the British committed to their care. I believe that that tribute ought to be paid to the Greek Resistance Movement, because they deserve it. [An HON. 590 MEMBER: "The Greek people."] Are not members of E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. Greek people? Of course they are. I believe that that is a tribute to them too. If the E.A.M. were a treacherous lot they would have betrayed those people; but they stood loyal. We come to the situation that exists now, and the problem of what we are to do.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
Will the hon. Gentleman deal with the point raised by my hon. Friend, as to why the Greek Government failed when the resistance movement were represented on it? The hon. Gentleman said that in every country where the resistance movement was represented in the Government, the Government had been a success.
§ Mr. Griffiths
It is true that the resistance movement, E.A.M., were brought into the Government of Greece, and when they were brought inside they faced up to these problems, including the very difficult problem of the disarming of partisan bands. As we understand, from the beginning the major dispute that led to the break-up of that Government was about the disarming of the partisans. E.A.M. agreed to the disarming of the partisans, and then they alleged that, having agreed to the disarming of all partisan bands, on the Left and on the Right, the other people went behind the bargain, and tried to maintain two sections of Right-wing partisans, the Mountain Brigade and the Sacred Battalion, still under arms.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I do not object to interruptions, but I have given an undertaking to sit down at a certain time.
§ Petty-Officer Alan Herbert (Oxford University)
The hon. Gentleman has not met the other point of the Prime Minister, that, while members of the Government, these people continually threw sand into the machine, and behaved in a dirty and treacherous manner.
§ Mr. Griffiths
In any case, they were in the Government. The first time I heard about them throwing sand into the machine was yesterday. The reason, as we understand, why they broke with the Government was that they said that the Government, having entered into an agreement to disarm all bands, claimed 591 afterwards that they had the right to maintain the Mountain Brigade and the Sacred Battalion under arms, in breach of the agreement. The Government broke up on that very point, and any Government would break up on that point. If there is to be disarming of partisan bands, all partisan bands must be disarmed. That dispute led to the break-up of the Government, and the beginning of the civil war.
We come to the war which began several weeks ago, a tragedy which everybody deplores. The question is, How are we going to settle it? I have had to do my best to seek to lead a movement on this matter, which is of great importance to this country, a movement which is essential to the unity of this nation, a movement which is very disturbed, as the Prime Minister knows, because I conveyed the fact to him. The House and the nation ought to realise that. We said, that the first thing to do was to make a truce. Would to Heaven we had sought to make a truce five weeks ago. The first thing was to stop fighting. Having stopped fighting, the second thing was to resume negotiations—that is the purpose of stopping fighting. I speak with some industrial experience. I have been in conflicts. When we had a truce the object was to try to settle our differences together around a table. We said therefore, that there should be, first, a truce, and, second, negotiations, including negotiations about the disarming of private armies. Who will dare to prophesy that at any time in the next generation we can have peace in Greece if one partisan army is disarmed and the other is kept under arms? We said that the obvious thing during this period was to set up a Government in Greece, as Governments have been set up in other countries, representative of all sections of the people in the country who resisted the Nazis and Fascists. No one would deny that the existing Government in Greece is not representative of all those who resisted the Nazis. We believe that that is essential if this truce is to be maintained, because it is an uneasy truce.
I would like to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary. Since the truce began, last Sunday night, have the Government in Greece sought to reopen negotiations? If not, 592 what is the purpose of the truce? Is it a truce to end the war or to enable negotiations to begin again? By the truce the fighting has stopped. E.L.A.S. is not fighting now. There has been a truce since last Sunday. What is the object of that truce—to start negotiations, or to allow forces to gather for a still bloodier war? I put the question—Have negotiations been resumed? Secondly, I emphasise what has been said by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale and other hon. Members, and I ask the Foreign Secretary whether we are now going to have an amnesty. There is no time for me to enter into a discussion of what is meant by an amnesty. We know perfectly well what it means, and there is no dispute about the meaning of it. All I ask, therefore, is whether there is to be an amnesty.
The next question I ask is this. Is the Greek Government to be reconstructed so as to include all the sections that opposed Fascism, and, particularly, is it to include E.A.M.? I would remind the Foreign Secretary, though he does not need it, of the last Debate on 20th December, in his closing speech in which he said that the Government policy was to re-form the Greek Government so that it would include representatives of E.A.M. I, therefore, put the question—Does the Government still want the Greek Government to be re-formed? Do they want the Greek Government to include representatives of E.A.M.? That was the policy on 20th December. Is that the policy still? Does the Government favour the inclusion of E.A.M. in the new Greek Government?
We believe that such a Government is essential because we have satisfied ourselves that, unless such a Government is formed, there can be no real truce, armistice or peace in Greece. The second reason why we think this Government is essential is that it must only be a caretaker Government, holding office until such time as there can be an appeal to the people of Greece and an opportunity for them to decide their own destiny. It is essential that, when that opportunity comes, it shall be a free and fair opportunity. How are we going to get a free and fair election in a country with the history of Greece, which prior to the war was a dictatorship, a country in which they believe that the Constitution was betrayed and that the last plebiscite which took place was rigged? If the country is to have a settled 593 Government, elected by the people of the country, it is essential that it shall have a fair election. How can we get a fair election in that country unless the arrangements are made by a Government representative of all the parties that have taken part in this struggle?
It has been suggested that there should be observers from other countries, and we understand that this is welcomed, but in our view no observers can secure full, free, fair play to the satisfaction of the people, unless that Government is representative of all the sections that proved themselves, during those years of occupation, as friends of democracy and opponents of Fascism. Only such a Government can give reasonable satisfaction to the people that the elections will be fair. [An HON. MEMBER: "They have it now."] They do not believe they have it now. The important thing is not what we think, but what they think. I, therefore, again urge the adoption of the policy which the Labour Party Conference passed. I would say to the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) that the Labour movement does not speak for a clique. The Labour movement speaks for the workers, who, for close on six years, have toiled to make this victory possible. [Interruption.] Of course they have.
In our Conference, we urged the policy which I will put in a few words. First, a real armistice, then resumption of negotiations, then a Government representative of those who, by their fight against Nazism, have shown that they are entitled to share in that Government, and then elections to allow the people to decide their own destiny. That is the policy; what is the alternative? War and the continuance of war. This war will increase other wars elsewhere. We want to work for a democratic Europe, and that is why I urge still that that is the way, in our view, to get that democratic Greece which can play its part in a full, democratic Europe.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
Much of this Debate has concerned itself with the affairs of South-Eastern Europe, and the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has concentrated almost exclusively on that sphere. Therefore, I propose to devote the greater part of what I have to say also to these same topics. Before I come 594 to South-Eastern Europe, however, there are one or two other matters raised in the Debate to which I want to refer.
In particular, I want to say something about two Allies of ours that are suffering at the present time perhaps more than they have done at any time in this war—Holland and Norway. These are two countries that set, perhaps, some of our Allies something of an example in political unity, two countries which have contributed always to the fullest extent in their power to the Allied effort, and I think that the Committee would wish that, in this time of their greatest trial, a message from us should go to these people to tell them that everything that it is within our power to do to alleviate their suffering will be done, and that we shall not forget, either now or in future years, the glorious part that they have played.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Newcastle (Lieut.-Colonel Sir C. Headlam), in opening his speech made the observation that, sometimes, he was doubtful whether or not these Debates served a useful purpose. He will not be surprised if I tell him that, from time to time, that thought also flits across the mind of the Foreign Secretary when he listens to the Debates. It is not so much always what is said; it is the difficulty in which the Government spokesmen sometimes are in saying all that they would like to say in reply. But, about this Debate, in the two days on which it has lasted, and, in particular, the speech of the Prime Minister, I think the House will feel that it has done a real and much needed national service. We must all have felt, in these last weeks—I know I have—how much easier it is to imperil a grand Coalition than to fortify it. Yet the problems which are now confronting us in liberated Europe have not come altogether as a surprise. The advance of victorious Allied Armies is going to present us with many more such problems. I only pray that each one of them is not going to arouse quite the intensity of passion which this Greek issue has developed. If so, I frankly say that I shudder to think how we are going to be able to play our part in the councils of Europe. There will be differences in respect of policy in all these countries, differences in this House and differences in the countries which have been under a foreign yoke for a period of years. Man is a political 595 animal and, therefore, he likes controversy, and does not always agree with his neighbour. And so it is in this House, and so it is going to be in those countries. If we are to handle the situation, we shall need a measure of patience and understanding, tolerance and good will between the great Allies.
We need something more. Several speeches in this Debate have referred to the machinery of Allied co-operation for dealing with political issues. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha), in a very forceful speech, asked whether we thought everything had been done about this situation, and whether we had any plan; the right hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) spoke in much the same strain and so did other Members also. I must say—speaking I think for the Government in this—that we are not fully satisfied with the existing machinery for international co-operation on the political plane. We have been troubled about this for some time. It was we who, more than a year ago, at the Moscow conference, first suggested the need for some further machinery. We first proposed the setting up of what has now become the European Advisory Commission to which the right hon. Baronet referred. That Commission has done invaluable work.
The fruits of that work will be seen after the defeat of the enemy and of the satellite countries, when these problems will have to be dealt with. But the Commission has neither the authority nor the representation sufficient to deal with many of the other problems that confront us. It may be that we can improve on that machinery and that there ought to be more frequent contacts, not necessarily between the heads of Governments, who have heavy charges to bear and who cannot be constantly meeting, but perhaps between the Foreign Secretaries. The contacts might be very frequent. I do not know, but I can tell the House, in answer to the questions which have been put, that this issue of the machinery of our collaboration will certainly be among those which will have to be examined at the meeting, which rumour has it—I do not know—is to be held at some time or other somewhere or other. I would only add that, as far as our contribution is concerned, we are pre- 596 pared bodily to place ourselves at disposal to any extent which may be required in order that that machinery may function.
Before I turn to the Greek issue let me reply to some of the questions which were put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. A. Greenwood) yesterday. He showed some anxiety as to the part that my right hon. Friend might play at this meeting of the heads of Governments and he said he thought my right hon. Friend was in danger of appeasing some of his great Allies too much. I do not know. It is always questionable how far it is wise in war time to express, on the public platform, or the Floor, of this House, exactly what you feel about the various political problems on which you are in controversy with your Allies. It is a question of appreciation. Sometimes it is good and sometimes it is not so good. I am bound to say that, though I have seen my right hon. Friend in many roles, I have not so far seen him in the role of the timid fawn. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield need be too anxious lest my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's known diffidence of expression should in any way hamper the case of His Majesty's Government at the next meeting. We have many international anxieties but I admit frankly that that is about the least of those which beset me.
I come to the vexatious problem which has been the theme of almost all this Debate—the problem of the situation in Greece. As I listened to the speeches which have been made to-day, and to some of the speeches that were made earlier, I was forced to the conclusion that some hon. Members of this Committee painted themselves a picture of E.A.M. that really bears no resemblance to reality. I want to put the position of that organisation in as fair a perspective as I can. Nobody has suggested that this movement at its outset did not enlist under its banner numbers of men who joined for purely patriotic motives. Of course that is so, but it is no less clear that from the very early days of the movement the leaders who control the E.A.M. were not prepared to tolerate rivals in the political field of resistance in Greece. It was that which first brought about our difficulties in the guerilla movement. General Sarafis himself at one time tried to lead another 597 rival guerilla band and he was brought in by force to E.A.M. and was a prisoner for some time until he was good enough to be their general.
This rivalry between E.D.E.S. and E.L.A.S. cannot be explained on the ground that E.L.A.S. bands were purely democratic and E.D.E.S. bands were purely reactionary. That is not so. I have read the charter of E.D.E.S. I should say that it was as near as can be an attempt to describe a Socialist heaven, if such a conception can be expressed by anybody who is a member of the Tory Party. As near as might be that seemed to be their programme, and yet there was from the outset this rivalry—a rivalry which, I believe, is largely based on the determination of some of E.A.M. leaders that no one was going to share with them the resistance movement in Greece.
§ Mr. Eden
We are preparing a White Paper and I hope that we can make it quite interesting. There was another organisation—a military band called E.K.K.A.—which was another guerilla organisation. This is worth noting as an indication of developments which take place. In February of last year our officers in Greece, who played a really magnificent part in trying to hold these warring guerilla elements together, secured a truce and all these various bands agreed to join together and to think only about the Germans for the time being. What happened? A very few weeks after that E.L.A.S. broke this agreement and they attacked and destroyed this guerilla band of E.K.K.A. They murdered its leader, one Colonel Psaros, against whom, as far as I have been able to discover, no plausible charge has ever been brought, even by E.L.A.S. itself. So, I say, even before the German withdrawal there were, it appeared to us, unmistakable signs that it was the ambition of E.L.A.S. to seize control of the country by force. Here, let me add, His Majesty's Government have never been opposed to E.A.M. becoming the Government of Greece; but what we have said, and what we do say is, that they have no right to that position except through the medium of the ballot box, whereas their attempt has 598 been, as we see it, to seize power with the weapons provided for them to do battle against the Germans.
§ Mr. Eden
I have all the notes of the hon. Gentleman's speech, and I will answer him as I go along. If I do not, by all means let him interrupt. As I said, this evidence of the tendency of E.L.A.S. to seize power, rather than to be elected to power, had its effect upon the organisation itself. There were many in the ranks who did not like it and who began to see the effect of that, even before the fighting broke out in Athens, and after the fighting broke out, all the more moderate elements of what is called the E.A.M. organisation flaked away. That was very noticeable to me, who had been to Athens before, when I returned with the Prime Minister at Christmas time, because when this conference, which he summoned, took place, to which the E.L.A.S. representatives came, I thought that they would do their best to show as broad a representation as possible, obviously in order to impress us and the world of their representative character. It was not so. Their representatives to the Conference were three Communists, led and dominated by the secretary-general of the Communist Party—those were the men who came to negotiate at this meeting. What I submit—and I have little doubt of it myself, but I cannot prove it—is that in the progress of the fighting, all the elements except the hard Communist core flaked away in disapproval of the policy which the Communist leaders were adopting. [An HON. MEMBER: "What proof is there?"] No proof, but I will try to prove to the satisfaction of the House that the policy we have pursued was the only policy open to us, and was a just and correct policy.
§ Mr. Eden
I am going to answer the hon. Baronet's question too. I cannot answer all at once, they come in turn. Why do I say that there has been this flaking away? I submit to the House that the Socialists, the Agrarians and the Popular Democrats, all of whom formed part of E.A.M. in the earlier stages, have announced their decision to break away and have, in one form or another, denounced the activities of their former associates.
§ Mr. Eden
I am just going to say by whom. The hon. Gentleman is in a hurry and wants to make my speech for me. I am going to tell him by whom and, in particular, I am going to take the Greek Socialist Party, which is the most important of these parties, and one which I hope will appeal to the hon. Gentleman who interrupted. It is the S.K.E. That party issued a manifesto and I shall trouble the Committee by reading it because I think it important that we should try to assess what is the true feeling of the organisation, and the whole basis of my contention is that E.A.M., as such, does not exist any more and what is left is just a hard Communist or, if you like, Trotskyite core.
§ Mr. Eden
The hon. Gentleman wants to hear what is the manifesto of the Greek Socialist Party and I will tell him. It says:The political bureau of the central committee of the Socialist Party in Greece, after succeeding in restoring its organisation, which it had not succeeded in doing owing to the recent tragic events, assembled with almost a full meeting and, with the co-operation of representatives of the party organisation in Macedonia and Thrace, examined the situation as transformed by the rupture of the Government of National Unity, and after detailed discussion by members of all the burning political questions of the day, resolved as follows.It utterly condemns the civil war and hostilities between Greeks and Allies. These unhappy events took place in our country contrary to the desires of the S.K.E. which did all that it could to prevent them. It considers that the civil war was organised solely by deadly enemies of our country and is contrary to our national claims and the interests of the Greek working people and to the common anti-Fascist goal of the united nations. The party adopts and approves the resolution of the regional party organisation of Macedonia and Thrace, which had the courage to take the initiative in disapproving the civil war immediately after the outbreak of hostilities, in view of the fact that the central leadership of the party was unable to meet. It declares that it refused all responsibility for, and withdrew itself from the E.A.M. bloc as soon as it was informed of the armed breach which took place without consultation with the S.K.E.It appealed to all kindred parties and organisations in the manual and clerical working class to contribute to the cessation of civil war with a view to the return of political peace in the country …And so on in the same strain.
§ Mr. Davies
I only wanted to make a comment that documents are being read out here, and most persons in this Committee know that they have never been authentic documents, and this is one of them.
§ Mr. Eden
The hon. Gentleman says it is not an authentic document. I will tell him who are the persons behind this document, and I will leave it to the Committee to judge. I have been into this matter with some trouble, because we do not want to give the Committee incorrect information. What earthly advantage is it to the Government to do that? Let the hon. Gentleman look back to the Debates of last December, and he will be able to judge whether his information was correct or not. The Greek Socialist Party is directed by a political bureau of eight members.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I put it to the Secretary of State that this demonstrates it to be a fake—there never has been a Socialist Party in Europe which had a political bureau.
§ Mr. Eden
—and then the people who know the Socialist Party better than I do can speak about it. This party is directed by a political bureau of eight members, all but one of whom are now in Athens—I know where the one who is not in Athens is, but I do not propose to say—and by a central committee of twenty, all but two of whom are also in Athens. Now it so happens that representation of this party at the moment is especially full because there are also in Athens four delegates from Northern Greece who were all members of the central committee. I will give their names so that they can be checked 601 if anybody knows them. A gentleman called Mr. Stavirides, Mr. Papanikolaou, Mr. Mylonas, and Mr. Dimitrakopoulos — my Greek is not very good—those four are all the representatives who came down from Macedonia, and the manifesto to which I have just referred was voted by all the members—that is 20 of the central committee in Athens—and three of them went up to our Ambassador and handed it over to him.
§ Mr. Eden
I admit that the conditions in Athens are disturbed. I admit the difficulty of substantiating exactly what this or that section of political opinion feels in a city which has been through what Athens has been through, but I submit to the Committee that the document I have read out, and the circumstances which I have described of its presentation to us, are at least a strong prima facie case that it represents something of substance in Greek Socialist opinion.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
Can the Foreign Secretary explain why the names of Professor Svolos and Professor Angelopoulos are not among the names he read out because they are, and have been, accredited leaders of the Greek Socialist Party?
§ Mr. Eden
Professor Svolos was a member of E.A.M., but I do not know his present whereabouts, and I cannot tell why he was not a signatory to this document. All I can tell the Committee is that this is the report which came to us through our Ambassador. There is no secret about this. We ourselves asked Sir Walter Citrine and others to go to Athens and see for themselves what was the position of the trade unions there. During the last 24 hours we have suggested that the party of Members of Parliament now in Italy should themselves go on to Greece.
§ The Chairman (Major Milner)
The hon. Gentleman must not interrupt. He makes interjections which, on occasions, he is entitled to do, but he is not entitled to make continuous comments.
§ Mr. Eden
We are anxious that hon. Members should get information about the situation. Apart from the delegation which, as I have already said, may go on from Italy to Greece we are ready as opportunity offers for perhaps a further delegation to go from this House to Greece. We have nothing to hide. If hon. Members here had seen what the Prime Minister and I have seen I am sure that many of the speeches and criticisms we have heard would never have been made. What I have said about the Greek Socialist Party applies also to the Agrarian Party and to the Popular Democrats. I believe that they, too, have flaked away from E.A.M. I cannot prove it; I have not the documents to show it but I can tell the Committee that that is our belief, which the House will find justified in the next few weeks. But what I do know is that representatives of the Agrarian Party from Salonika have definitely broken away from E.A.M., and have taken refuge in Athens.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I gather that these defections, if they be so, must have taken place since the right hon. Gentleman last spoke. The last time he spoke, he wanted E.A.M. in the Government.
§ Mr. Eden
They have taken place since we were in Athens. Now I come to the events on which I have been challenged and the position of the Government in the present situation. I must remind the Committee that, for months before we went into Greece, we laboured to bring about unity in the Greek political parties. We got all the parties together, and we got a document signed at Caserta, agreed by the rival commanders-in-chief. We have been challenged as to the course of events which brought about the break-up of the Government. The hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland), the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) and the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) referred to that in the course of their speeches. I will again tell the Committee, briefly, the events so far as we know them. It has 603 been suggested that the arrival of the Greek Brigade, the Rimini Brigade, was the cause of the trouble. So far as I can test the evidence there is not a shadow fo justification for that statement, and I will show why. The Greek Brigade arrived in Athens on 9th November, not 19th November as the hon. Member for Broxtowe stated in the Debate yesterday.
§ Mr. Eden
No, 9th November is the right date. Its arrival was universally applauded by all sections of the Greek population. I know that, because we were told in Athens that they were the only people who had a bigger reception than the British troops, when they arrived in Athens. After the arrival of this Brigade, the Greek E.A.M. Ministers in the Greek Government could have objected if they had wished. Nothing would have been easier, but no objection was made. On the contrary, eight days afterwards—on the 17th—agreement was reached with the Greek Government, to which the E.A.M. Ministers subscribed, that all guerilla formations should be disarmed and no mention was made at all of the Rimini Brigade. Later the E.A.M. Ministers began to argue that if the guerillas were to be disarmed the Rimini Brigade ought to lay down their arms, too. But the other members of the Greek Government would not accept that, and I do not think that is very surprising, either in the light of the record of the Brigade or in the light of the fact of how few Greek troops there were under arms. Still, they wanted to reach agreement and M. Papandreou asked the E.A.M. Ministers, who were complaining of the existence of this Brigade, to draft a decree for the demobilisation of the guerillas, in which it was provided that a brigade of E.L.A.S. should be retained under arms in order to balance the Rimini Brigade. That compromise was offered; that draft was produced by the E.A.M. Ministers themselves. They drew it up, brought it to their colleagues and it was accepted by all the other members of the Government on 27th November. How is it possible to say that the Rimini Brigade was the cause of the break?
Next day, the E.A.M. Ministers went back on the draft which they themselves had drawn up and demanded that all 604 forces should be disarmed, including the Rimini Brigade. The Government refused and matters reached a deadlock. But it was not even this that brought about the final split in the Government. The final split was this: that on 1st December, the E.A.M. civil police refused to hand over their arms to the National Guard. It is worth looking at this, because the decision that they should hand over their arms had been reached unanimously by the Government, including E.A.M. Ministers, as long ago as 5th November. At this point the E.A.M. police had not been an issue during the negotiations about the disarmament of the guerilla armies at all. It was also known that the same morning E.A.M. were going to call a general strike. It was faced with this, that M. Papandreou circulated to all his colleagues a draft decree re-affirming the Government's decision that the E.A.M. police should hand over their arms, a decision nearly a month old. The E.A.M. Ministers refused to ratify the decision and that night resigned.
§ Mr. Eden
I want to say one more thing about the E.A.M. police, because I want the Committee to note that it is my contention that it was over this issue of the E.A.M. police that the break occurred, and that it was the police themselves who were largely responsible for taking hostages and the methods of their custody. I must say that during the long negotiations about a truce, when every effort was being made to try to get agreement, the E.L.A.S. representatives said that they could not release their hostages because they could not answer for the actions of the E.A.M. police who had taken those hostages.
§ Mr. Driberg
While the right hon. Gentleman is dealing with these very crucial dates, will he explain about M. Papandreou's broadcast of 27th November, when he denounced sections of the Right for fomenting civil war?
§ Sir R. Acland
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm the Scobie leaflet? There is no reference in it to the agreement or to the steps that were taken.
§ Mr. Eden
General Scobie's broadcast was made on the afternoon of 1st December. [HON. MEMBERS: "The leaflet."] The leaflet and the broadcast were the same. They stated his desire to maintain law and order, and to assist in the distribution of relief. Nothing in that leaflet could possibly have been construed as to inflame passion, but it was a warning that, if it came to force, we should do our best to maintain law and order. I do not know what else a general in that position would be supposed to say.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member has had his reply. I heard the right hon. Gentleman say he could not answer the question.
§ Mr. Eden
Now I want to come to the present position, and to the matter of hostages, and to General Plastiras's position. Some hon. Members do not seem quite to understand why we spoke with such strength in condemnation of hostages. It was even suggested that the Greek Government have themselves arrested a number of people in Athens. I want to clear that up. As far as the arrests that we have made are concerned, a decision has been taken as the result of agreement between General Scobie and the Greek Government, that all civilians arrested by British Forces for bearing arms against us should be released with the exception of those who will be exchanged to fulfil the terms of the agreement reached with E.A.M. As far as arrests by the Greek Government are concerned, it has already been made clear that prosecutions will only be instituted against those who have violated the penal code, or the rules of war, on charges such as murder, rape or looting. In other words, the act of bearing arms against the State will not be regarded as a crime in itself and will not be punished. I say this to make it plain that there is no question of hostages being held either by the Greek Government or by ourselves. We have not got one. I 606 now demand, in the name of all parties and all Members of the House, that E.A.M. should release those hostages forthwith.
I now come to deal with reports in the Press that warrants have been issued in Athens for the arrest of prominent E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. leaders. This story first appeared on 8th January and was contradicted by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs and by us at the Foreign Office Subsequent investigation has shown that a police interpreter was responsible for the report. The story was revived two or three days ago. I have to-day received a telegram from His Majesty's Ambassador in Athens which states that no such warrants have been issued. He has obtained personal confirmation of this from the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs. There have also been references to a statement made by General Plastiras to Press correspondents that he could not agree to an amnesty. I have stated that the declared intention of the Greek Government is to take action only against those guilty of crimes against the penal code or the rules of war. General Plastiras yesterday confirmed this to our Ambassador. He said it was still the policy of the Greek Government, and he specifically authorised me to tell that to the House of Commons to-day. Therefore, the only rebels liable to prosecution are those guilty of ordinary crimes against the criminal code. He repeated this instruction, which is an instruction of the Greek Government, to the military governor of Attica, to the head of the gendarmerie and the head of the police. He told them that no political arrests are to be made. People charged on such charges as murder, rape and looting are having their cases investigated immediately and, if no prima facie case exists, they are to be discharged. A panel of 75 judges or magistrates is already at work to effect that. I have only one thing to add about the various Plastiras reports. The report in the Press that General Gonatas is appointed Governor of Macedonia is not accurate. I think I have covered all the realm of charges.
§ Mr. Bevan
The right hon. Gentleman's statement is exceedingly important and, so far, has been satisfactory in detail, but I read out a statement made by the Greek Minister to British Press representatives in Athens in which he said they were going to release all prisoners except those who 607 bore arms. Does the right hon. Gentleman assume that the Greek Government is going to make a statement which will satisfy opinion here on that point?
§ Mr. Eden
I could not have dealt more fully with the matter. I have explained that our Ambassador saw General Plastiras himself and it is on his authority and that of General Plastiras that I have made this statement, which covers precisely the issues which have been raised to-day. The position could not be clearer and the hon. Member has really no right to complain that I am not clear. He asks us to be objective on this matter. I have never heard anyone import so much prejudice into the subject of debate.
He threw taunt after taunt at General Plastiras. Who is this very wicked man who is held up like that? He was the man who, after the collapse of Greece in 1922, took over the Government, pulled his country together, arranged for a general election, and retired after the election, which resulted in the return of Venizelos. He was the man who was Prime Minister when Greece alone among the European countries accepted refugees, hundreds of thousands of Armenians, thus helping to relieve a problem which was haunting Europe. He is the man, we are told now, who played about with the Germans in France. He was in France in exile, and he was there approached by the S.S. who said, "Come and be our quisling in Greece." He refused to have anything to do with it.
All these stories are brought to this Committee to create prejudice. We are told that we wanted to deny freedom in Greece. Why should this country wish to deny freedom in Greece, this country which is fighting because it believes in just those very things? When I hear the hon. Gentleman speak like that I say to him, What do we in this country desire in Greece and in all these countries? We desire a decision by the ballot box, and I give the Committee this pledge. Where-ever Britain's authority can carry, the decision will be by the ballot box. We cannot pledge ourselves that our power or authority will reach over every land. Our authority is limited, but where it can be exerted the decision will be by the ballot box, and not by the bullet or by attempts to seize power because by for- 608 tuitous circumstances you have the arms at that moment.
Let me sum up. We have discussed this matter, we have debated it now three times at great length. I have had some experience in my life of international affairs, and I have never known an issue where I have been more absolutely certain we are right. I am convinced that if hon. Members could have seen what I saw in Athens last time, their reaction would be exactly the same as mine. I am sure that it was our action, and only our action, unpopular and difficult as it was, hard as it was to explain to our American friends, I admit, which prevented a massacre in Athens. That is my absolute conviction, and I believe it is shared by virtually everybody who saw the situation as it then was.
I have something more to say to the Committee. The Government have been criticised, they have been maligned, they have been taunted for the policy they have pursued in Greece. In that matter, it has, admittedly, done us some injury in other lands, where it is not easy, in all respects, to understand the issue. I think that this afternoon I have for the Government the right to say to the Committee, "Have we your support or have we not?" I have set out our case as fully and fairly as I can. I have made plain that the whole of our authority will be used to see that there is nothing in the nature of proscription and no punishment because these people in their folly, if you like, have taken arms against the State. We will do our best to ensure that at the earliest moment there are free elections in Greece, but, meanwhile, we must have an expression of the views of this House. We are entitled to know whether, as a result of this discussion, the world is to believe we are supported by the overwhelming majority of this House or not. It is difficult sometimes when you read, as I have to, despatches from abroad. I read reports that the Government's position is shaken on account of its policy in Greece. We all know that that is not true. We know that the more it is explained, the more it will be understood and the stronger our position will be. But foreign countries do not know. It is all too easy for Goebbels and company to make use of the reported state of public opinion here and of the gossip of some journalist, in some column or other, which says that we are tottering to our fall.
609 I ask the Committee this afternoon to pronounce whether or not the Government are tottering to their fall, and to give us on the programme I have outlined, on the pledges I have given, and on my right hon. Friend's speech, a Vote of Confidence, so that the nation as a whole may know where we stand, and so that this policy which we have pursued throughout
§ —let me say, with patience and with only the one purpose, to bring freedom to Greece—may be finally fulfilled.
§ Question put, "That a sum not exceeding £999,999,900 be granted for the said Service".
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 7; Noes, 340.611
|Division No. 4.]||AYES.||[5.0 p.m.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Pritt, D. N.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:—|
|Cove, W. G.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey, W.)||Sir Richard Acland and|
|Gallacher, W.||Sloan, A.||Mr. Hugh Lawson.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. Sir G.||Cluse, W. S.||Gretton, J. F.|
|Agnew, Comdr. P. G.||Cobb, Captain E. C.||Grimston, Hon. J. (St. Albans)|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Colegate, W. A.||Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr'h)||Colman, N. C. D.||Groves, T. E.|
|Alexander, Bg.-Gen. Sir W. (G'gow, C.)||Conant, Major R. J. E.||Gunston, Major Sir D. W.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Cook, Lt.-Col. Sir T.R.A.M. (N'f'k, N.)||Guy, W. H.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ.)||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Hall, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Aberdare)|
|Apsley, Lady||Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)|
|Aster, Lt.-Col. Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir Stafford||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Critchley, A.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R||Crockshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Harris, Rt. Han. Sir P. A.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.||Headlam, Lt.-Col. Sir C. M.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Culverwell C. T.||Helmore, Air Commodore W.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.||Cundiff, Major F. W.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.|
|Beattie, F. (Cathcart)||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Davidson, Viscountess (H'm H'mst'd)||Henderson, J. J. Craik (Leeds, N. E.)|
|Beaumont, Hubert (Batley)||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Heneage, Lt.-Col. Sir A.|
|Beaumont, Maj. Hn. R. E. B. (P'tsm'th)||Davison, Sir W. H.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-|
|Beech, Major F. W.||De Chair, S. S.||Hepworth, J.|
|Beechman, N. A.||De la Bère, R.||Herbert, Petty Officer A. P. (Oxford U.)|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Denville, Alfred||Hicks, E. G.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Debbie, W.||Higgs, W. F.|
|Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)||Dodd, J. S.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Berry, Hon. G. L. (Buckingham)||Doland, G. F.||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.)||Donner, Squadron-Leader P. W.||Holdsworth, Sir H.|
|Bird, Sir R. E.||Douglas, F. C. R.||Holmes, Sir Joseph Stanley|
|Blair, Sir R.||Drewe, C.||Hopkinson, A.|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Hudson, Sir A. (Hackney, N.)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. (Kens'gton, N.)||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence|
|Bossom, A. C.||Dunglass, Lord||Hulbert, Wing Commander N. J.|
|Boulton, Sir W. W.||Eccles, D. M.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Bower, Norman (Harrow)||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hurd, Sir P. A.|
|Bower, Commdr. R. T. (Cleveland)||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. G. I. C. (E'burgh)|
|Boyce, Sir H. Leslie||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Isaacs, G. A.|
|Brabner, Comdr. R. A.||Ellis, Sir G.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)||Elliston, Captain Sir G. S.||Jeffreys, General Sir G. D.|
|Brass, Capt. Sir W.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Jennings, R.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||John, W.|
|Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.||Etherton, Ralph||Johnstone, Rt. Hon. H. (Mids'bro, W.)|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham)||Evans, Col. Sir A. (Cardiff, S.)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Everard, Sir W. Lindsay||Jones, Sir L. (Swansea, W.)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Fermoy, Lord||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.|
|Bull, B. B.||Findlay, Sir E.||Joynson-Hicks, Lt.-Comdr. Hon. L. W.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Fleming, Squadron-Leader E. L.||Keatinge, Major E. M.|
|Burden, T. W.||Foot, D. M.||Keir, Mrs. Cazalet|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Fox, Squadron-Leader Sir G. W. G.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Fyfe, Major Sir D. P. M.||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Scottish U's)|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Galbraith, Comdr. T. D.||Key, C. W.|
|Caine, G. R. Hall-||Garro Jones, G. M.||Kimball, Major L.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T. (Bromley)||Gates, Maj. E. E.||Kirby, B. V.|
|Cary, R. A.||George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G. Lloyd (P'b'ke)||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Gibbons, Lt.-Col. W. E.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Challen, Flight-Lieut. C.||Gledhill, G.||Lancaster, Lieut.-Col. C. G.|
|Channon, H.||Glyn, Sir R. G. C.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Goldie, N. B.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Levy, T.|
|Christie, J. A.||Grant-Ferris, Wing-Commander R.||Lewis, O.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. (Ep'ing)||Greenwell, Colonel T. G.||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Little, Sir E. Graham- (London Univ.)|
|Llewellin, Col. Rt. Han. J. J.||Prescott, Capt. W. R. S.||Summers, G. S.|
|Lloyd, C. E. (Dudley)||Price, M. P.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Lloyd, Major E. G. R. (Renfrerw, E.)||Prior, Comdr. R. M.||Sykes, Maj.-Gen. Rt. Hon. Sir F. H.|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Ladywood)||Procter, Major H. A.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Loftus, P. C.||Pym, L. R.||Tate, Mrs. Mavis C.|
|Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Quibell, D. J. K.||Taylor, Major C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Lyle, Sir C. E. Leonard||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'd'ton, S.)|
|Lyons, Colonel A. M.||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Oliver||Ramsden, Sir E.||Thomas, I. (Keighley)|
|Mabane, Rt. Hon. W.||Rankin, Sir R.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Rathbone, Eleanor||Thomas, Dr. W. S. Russell (S'th'm'tn)|
|McCorquodale, Malcolm S.||Reakes, G. L. (Wallasey)||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Thorneycroft, Capt. G. E. P. (St'ff'd)|
|Macdonald, Captain Peter (I. of W.)||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Thornton-Kemsley, Colonel C. N.|
|McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Thurtle, E.|
|McKie, J. H.||Robertson, D. (Streatham)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Maclay, Hon. John S. (Montrose)||Robertson, Rt. Hon. Sir M. A. (M'ham)||Tomlinson, G.|
|Magnay, T.||Robinson, Wing-Com. J. R. (Blackp'l)||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Maitland, Sir A.||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Comdr. R. L.|
|Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir S.||Rowlands, G.||Turton, R. H.|
|Marlowe, Lt.-Col. A.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Martin, J. H.||Russell, Sit A. (Tynemouth)||Walkden, A. G. (Bristol, S.)|
|Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Salt, E. W.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Mellor, Sir J. S. P.||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. (Oxford U.)||Ward, Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Mitchell, Colonel H. P.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. E. D.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Savory, Professor D. L.||Waterhouse, Captain Rt. Hon. C.|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Schuster, Sir G. E.||Watt, F. C. (Edinburgh, Cen.).|
|Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Scott, Donald (Wansbeck)||Watt, Brig. G. S. Harvie (Richmond)|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. (Rochdale)||Scott, Lord William (Ro'b'h & Selkirk)||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)||Wells, Sir S. Richard|
|Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Shephard, S.||White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)|
|Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Shepperson, Sir E. W.||White, H. Graham (Birkenhead E.)|
|Morrison, Major J. G. (Salisbury)||Shute, Cot. Sir J. J.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Sidney, Captain W. P.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Silkin, L.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Major C. E.||Simmonds, Sir O. E.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A.||Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.|
|Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. D.||Windsor, W.|
|Nicolson, Hon. H. G. (Leicester, W.)||Smith, Sir Bracewell (Dulwich)||Windsor-Clive, Lt.-Col. G.|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. W.||Smithers, Sir W.||Wise, Lieut.-Col. A. R.|
|Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir D. B.||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Peat, C. U.||Southby, Comdr. Sir A. R. J.||Woodburn, A.|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Spearman, A. C. M.||Woolley, Major W. E.|
|Peters, Dr. S. J.||Spears, Maj.-Gen. Sir E. L.||Wootton-Davies, J. H.|
|Petherick, M.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Wragg, Sir H.|
|Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Stourton, Hon. J. J.||Wright, Group Capt. J. (Erdington)|
|Peto, Major B. A. J.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||York, Major C.|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Strickland, Capt. W. F.||Young, Major A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (Northwich)|
|Power, Sir J. C.||Suirdale, Colonel Viscount||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:—|
|Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton||Mr. James Stuart and|
Question put, and agreed to.
That a sum, not exceeding £1,000,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the expenses which may be incurred during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for general Navy, Army and Air services and supplies in so far as specific provision is not made therefor by Parliament; for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of the war; for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community; for relief and rehabilitation in areas brought under the control of any of the United Nations; and generally for all expenses beyond those provided for in the ordinary Grants of Parliament arising out of the existence of a state of war.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Tuesday next; Committee to sit again upon Tuesday next.