§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. Whiteley.]
§ 3.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)
The Government have decided not to give to the House, at this stage in the Debate, any account of the state of our foreign relations or of recent diplomatic events. This decision has placed upon me a rather sudden and unusual duty—to act as a kind of understudy to the leading star. I am in even a worse position than an understudy, because the understudy has the part by heart, and the Foreign Office have not given me even the notes or resume of the script. I must therefore trust to the indulgence of the House and do my best.
The whole House recognises the heavy labours of the Foreign Secretary, and the exceptional strain to which he has recently been subjected. The long sittings of the United Nations and the vital questions which have been discussed, have made these weeks almost unique in diplomatic history. They must also have been exceptionally fatiguing. The right hon. Gentleman can feel assured both of the sympathy and admiration of the great mass of his fellow countrymen. On this stage he has played a great national and a great international part. He has carried on the major policies of honour and duty which he inherited from his predecessors, the former Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. For these reasons, and in view of his heavy burden, I was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman thought it necessary last Wednesday to revive an old and rather inglorious piece, and to cast himself for a somewhat stale and melodramatic part. Whatever his motives— and I think I can guess them— I hope 1158 he will not mind my saying that it was unworthy, both of himself and his high office. The broad continuity of foreign policy is a traditional and cherished feature of the modern Parliamentary system. It can, in my opinion, best be preserved by the Foreign Secretary of the day eschewing, so far as possible, the bitter conflicts of internal controversy.
The whole nation has followed with deep interest and' rather mixed emotions-the dramatic debates of the Security Council. It is clear that the developing situation has brought with it both gains and losses. The United Nations organisation, with its manifold activities, has been launched. That is a gain. The young plant, which some thought too tender to be exposed prematurely to the storms of controversy, has survived. That is a gain. Frank— sometimes-brutally frank— discussion has taken place in the open, in the full glare of publicity with all the modern technique. Yet the personal relations of the protagonists have remained friendly. We are so accustomed to this tradition in our Parliamentary life that we do not perhaps altogether realise its importance in the international life. That is a gain. Finally, in the important issues on which the conduct of the British Governments has been challenged— Indonesia, Greece, and the Levant States— the honour and good faith of Great Britain have been broadly justified by the verdict of this world assembly. All these are clear' gains.
Nevertheless, we cannot disguise from ourselves the other side of the picture. The relations between the great Powers are greatly, even alarmingly, strained. New groupings of minor satellites round one or other of the Big Three have taken shape. Soviet diplomacy, for whatever reason, seems to be concentrating upon outward pressure in the Mediterranean and the Middle East against well-recognised and established British interests. In the Security Council the technique of-attack, direct and indirect, has been developed upon all the weak links in the chain of world security and peace. New rivalries, based upon strategical fears and supported by ideological weapons, have been sedulously promoted. It would be folly not to recognise that the Anglo-American-Russian Alliance that held so firmly, in spite of so many difficulties throughout the years of war, is. 1159 virtually, if not formally, in abeyance. All these are losses and grave losses and disappointments. They are dangerous, but not fatal. It would, however, be folly not to admit them and to discuss the disease and the remedies at least as freely in this House of Commons as they have been discussed by the representatives of the United Nations.
Meanwhile, in the meetings of the Security Council four main issues have been raised— Persia, Indonesia, the Levant States and Greece. New questions, with the intensity of an artillery barrage, have also been propelled against us day after day but those are the main four. It goes without saying that on all four my right hon. and hon. Friends approve and commend the stand taken by the Foreign Secretary. The barrage— or counter barrage perhaps I should call it-has certainly been partly successful in its main object. It has diverted attention from Persia. The position of His Majesty's Government is clear and above-board. British troops in Teheran, as we have been told categorically, have not been reinforced. They will be withdrawn as agreed by 2nd March I wish the position in Northern Persia were as plain and unequivocal. In Indonesia, His Majesty'^ Government have inherited, by the decision of the Combined British and American Chiefs of Staff, a difficult and arduous task. They are using-the familiar and proper combination of force and reconciliation in order to discharge it. They have been subject to ignorant and irresponsible criticism. Let them disregard it. They will be sustained by the broad commonsense of the nation as a whole.
In the Levant States after many painful incidents and stresses, in which I myself was involved in 1943, a solution seems now possible and is equally agreeable to our French Allies and our Lebanon and Syrian friends. I always felt that it was a great tragedy that Anglo-French relations should have been embittered by this affair. To the best of my power, I tried to mitigate this acrimony by every reasonable regard for French susceptibilities without disloyalty to the principles at stake. It is indeed a satisfaction to know that at last a solution seems probable in agreement with the French. I think I should add my view that the Governments of the Levant States have acted with dignity and with restraint. There is no 1160 need for any more trouble-making here, and we support entirely the right hon. Gentleman's firm refusal to allow these rapidly clearing waters to be muddied again.
On Greece, my friends are equally in agreement with the position taken by the Foreign Secretary. But perhaps, since I was intimately connected with the whole story, I may be allowed, without egotism, a short digression. British policy in Greece has been misrepresented, maligned and traduced, not least, I regret to say, by British tongues and pens. I am afraid certain members of the present Administration were amongst the worst offenders. These irresponsible declarations have lately been a source of embarrassment to the Foreign Secretary. I trust that they have equally been a source of shame and regret to the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen concerned. I suppose the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility is still in force. The Minister of Health told the House of Commons in January, 1945:We sent British troops to Greece to satisfy the political ambitions of the Tory Party. "— [Official Report, 19th January, 1945; Vol. 407, c. 575.]Is that the reason we keep them there? [Hon. Members: "No."] The Minister of Fuel and Power treated us to the same sort of nonsense, but now that all this fustian and rodomontade have served their purpose, both in the House and on the hustings, they share the responsibility for carrying through a policy which they previously condemned. The present Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, by word and deed, loyally supported their Conservative colleagues in the War Cabinet, and they are now trying to carry to a successful conclusion the high purpose which inspired British intervention. 1 will not weary the House with any long defence of that policy. The Foreign Secretary, in spite of those handicaps, those boomerang weapons so foolishly launched by some of his present colleagues and friends, has made that defence with conspicuous skill and success.
My first connection with Greek affairs was at the end of August, 1944, when the command was changed from the Middle East to Allied Force Headquarters in Naples, and the Greek Government migrated from Cairo to Salerno. From that time, until conditions made possible their return to Greece, our sole pre- 1161 occupation was to avoid, by any means that we could, the dangers which we knew awaited them. The formation of the coalition government under M. Papandreou, including representatives of E.A.M., seemed a happy augury. That was largely due to the efforts of the British Ambassador, Mr. Leeper, the "infamous Leeper," as the organ of the Minister of Health calls him. Mr., now Sir Reginald, Leeper is a great public servant, who deserves well of his country. He is a man of wide culture, liberal out look, and deep sincerity, and I should like to "—
§ Mr. Warbey (Luton)
On a point of Order. If it is not in Order, Mr. Speaker, to criticise a servant of His Majesty's Government, it is in Order to praise him?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is a question which has been put to me before, and again 1 have to answer that it is not proper to attack or praise civil servants.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I think it has not been out of place for a Minister to pay a tribute to those who work and serve under him.
§ Mr. Cocks (Broxtowe)
Further to that point of Order. Can we clear this matter up, Mr. Speaker? I think you ruled, a few months ago, that there was nothing to prevent an Ambassador being criticised. If that is so, is it not in Order to praise him?
§ Mr. Speaker
My recollection does not go back so far as that. I have never ruled that one might criticise a civil servant. That seems entirely wrong. One must criticise the Minister who gives him his instructions.
§ Mr. Macmillan
The Caserta Agreement, which followed those efforts, was signed on 26th September, and it gave us great hopes. The Government representatives, including E.A.M. members, together with General Zervas and General Sarafis, the rival guerilla leaders, sat in conference with us, under General Wilson as chairman, and in two days we reached agreement and signed a compact. I shall never forget the sailing of that armada of 720 ships bringing much-needed stores and equipment, under Admiral Mansfield's direction. We embarked at Naples on Friday, 13th October, but we waited until one minute past midnight, until the 1162 14th, so that was not the reason for any disaster. After some exciting experiences we were acclaimed with universal joy and enthusiasm on our official entry into Athens on the 18th. Of course, we noted the undercurrent of political clash and rivalries between the supporters of E.L.A.S. and E.D.E.S., but we felt confidence in a peaceful restoration of Greek life. Indeed, so confident was I personally that the Greek Government would succeed"—as it certainly would have done if the dark counsels of the extreme revolutionary Communists had not prevailed over their more moderate associates"— that I felt more concerned at that time about the economic rather than the political problem.
At my request, the Foreign Secretary, with the agreement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, made available to us the services of Sir David Waley and with his help the drachma was stabilised on nth November. On 22nd November I left London, to discuss with my colleagues the terms of the so-called new deal for Italy, with the intention of leaving immediately for Washington to discuss them with the President. That was not to be. The storm broke on the day I was to leave for America, and I turned Eastwards, instead of Westwards, and flew with Field-Marshal Alexander to Athens, he having succeeded that very week to the Mediterranean Command. The rest of the story is known in general terms to-all"—the siege, the visit of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to Athens on Christmas Day, the Regency, the truce, and, finally, the signing of the Varkiza Agreement on 12th February, 1945.
All through these events His Majesty's Government have had one policy and one only"—to restore order, to find a political as well as a military solution, to preach moderation and reconciliation. ' Field-Marshal Alexander, the best and most generous of colleagues, worked with his usual calm efficiency at both military and political tasks. He found a worthy adjutant in General Scobie. But it is easy to advise toleration. In the stress of intense emotion it is hard to persuade-others, more intimately affected, to lay aside their animosities. Greece, long distracted by internal' disputes, was brutally lacerated and maimed by the German occupation. In the course of the civil war 1163 cruel passions were aroused, and dreadful crimes committed. It is not so easy to heal wounds as to inflict them. I shall never forget the final session at Varkiza. A conference that had many obstacles to overcome before it could even start, had reached a final impasse. On the invitation of both sides"—for I do not believe personal intervention is effective if it is unwelcome"—the Ambassador and I consented to attend. From 8 p.m. until five o'clock next morning the terms of the peace were debated.
I still regard that Agreement as a great tribute, in all the bitter circumstances, to the patriotism and good sense of the Greek negotiators. Most credit of all is due, through that stirring time, to the noble personality of the Regent. Since that date much has happened, some good some bad. I left the Mediterranean in May of last year. Much has happened since, but all I wish to affirm, with all the sincerity in my power, is the singleness of purpose which has animated successive British Governments. Greece is our loyal Ally. She did not desert our cause when it stood low in the world. Our determination, our duty is not to desert her in the painful path of recovery and reconstruction.
Apart from those main issues"—Persia, Indonesia, the Levant States and Greece "—many other perplexing difficulties present themselves, or are presented to us in the course of what seems to me a planned diplomatic offensive. I must ask some questions of the Government concerning them. What of Poland? Are conditions there worsening or improving? What of the Polish Army? The Foreign Secretary has firmly rebutted the wild accusations made against us as to its use, but may we take it that no man in that Force will be sent back to Poland against his will? If men be unwilling, are we prepared to carry out the suggestion, made by the last Prime Minister, that we should offer citizenship of the British Commonwealth to those whose sufferings and exploits have been almost without parallel in history? What of the Greek territorial claims? Will we abide by our plan"— as the Turkish Government readily agree "—for the Greek Dodecanese Islands to be returned to Greece? Are we ready to resist any claim against the integrity of the Greek mainland?
1164 What are the prospects of Italian peace? The situation is obscure. I am absolutely convinced that in spite of all that has happened in the sad years between the wars the recovery of Italy as a stable and democratic Power in the Mediterranean is a British interest, and a world interest. It is nearly two and a half years since the Armistice was signed. They have been a long way to work their passage home. The Americans and ourselves have made great efforts for Italy, but it is now essential that a formal peace shall be made and made quickly. Hitherto the Soviet support of the Yugoslavian claims to Trieste has been the stumbling block. Now, if rumour is to be believed, we are to expect a sudden and dramatic turn in Soviet policy, but I greatly fear that Italy may become a pawn in a great diplomatic game, to her detriment and to ours. All these uncertainties have created an atmosphere of suspicion. We are irresistibly reminded of Metternich's reception of the news of the death of the Russian Ambassador at the Congress of Vienna. "Ah," he said, "is that true? What can have been his motive? "It is true that the more realistic public opinion of today, compared with the facile optimism that followed the last war, is a healthy symptom, but realism must not be allowed to degenerate into cynicism, or dissolutionment into despair. We do not want this to be the age of open diplomacy and secret fear.
What does Russia want? What is the motive behind these manoeuvres? Are they a manifestation of the expansionist, policy which inspired Tsarist Russia"— greatly 'to the alarm of the European Powers"—during the latter part of the 19th century? Has this urge, temporarily suspended during the revolutionary period, once more taken control, or has Russia, yielding to those secular forces which seized nations in turn"—Spain, France, and Germany"—made up its mind to dominate the world? Is this a manifestation of a new imperialist drive, or do these developments mean the return to the proselytising fervour of international Communism? Does it mean that the militant theorists are back in control? All these are possible explanations. If any one of them is correct we shall know where we are, and we shall frame our policy accordingly. So long as there is breath in British bodies, we shall defend 1165 ourselves and our heritage against aggression. Nor shall we accept any political or economic doctrine except as the result of our free and democratic choice. It may be that none of these is the real motive governing Soviet foreign policy, but it is absolutely vital for ourselves, and for the future of the world, that we should try to learn the truth. These matters are too grave to be dealt with on party or preconceived lines. We cannot be pro-Russian or anti-Russian; we must be pro-mankind. This is the situation. If it drifts on, it is full of danger threatening ultimate disaster. Is there anything that can be done to make a new start, is there any new approach to the problem?
There is another possible explanation. Do we, for instance, make sufficient allowance for Russian experience and the Russian psychological background? All through her history, in early, medieval and modern times, Russia has been invaded, both from the East and from the West, by a succession of enemies. It is no accident that her recent propaganda"— by film, by the written and spoken word, and by orders of chivalry and the like"— has all been concentrated upon the heroic figures of Russian resistance in preceding conflicts. Whether it be Demetrius Donskoi or Kutuzov or Suvarov, it is significant that all these great names are now brought back to the public mind. Each of these successive invasions of Russian territory"—and in the last 130 years there have been four, the Napoleonic, the Crimean and the two German onslaughts"—has caused immense suffering and loss of Russian life and property. The last has been the most devastating, to a degree that we perhaps hardly realise. What is the reaction to continued invasion? The search for security. The French followed this policy after the last war. They sought the Rhine frontier: when that was denied them they sought the American guarantee, and when that failed they set in train a whole diplomatic and political structure, the Little Entente, intended to isolate Germany. These security measures, in their turn, gave rise to new pressures, social, political, and economic, which, if not the cause, were at least the excuse for the rise of Nazi Germany.
May it not be that the apparent Chauvinism of Soviet policy is a form of 1166 insurance, not of expansion, that security not imperialism is their instinctive goal, and that for this a new cordon sanitaire is being created of States made satellite and dependent, both.by power and doctrine, partly dominated, partly converted? These are to form a kind of defensive glacis of small nations looking to the Kremlin for political and economic theory, and to the local Russian commander for material support, and using their arms and police forces, rather than the ballot box, as the instrument of power. It may well be, therefore, that the ultimate cause of these recent manifestations of Soviet policy are, at bottom, isolationist and not expansionist, that their purpose is not to dominate the world either as Russian imperialists, or as militant international Communists, but to secure the soil of Holy Russia herself against new outrages. If this, in their view, requires new strategic frontiers or the invasion of neighbouring rights, or the grave disturbance of the balance of the world, well, the risk, from their view, must nevertheless be taken. Now, when the world is exhausted, may seem to them an opportunity to seize and fortify bastions against foreign aggression.
All this is very wrong and very dangerous, but if this interpretation of Russian motives should be right, it need not be fatal if it is dealt with in time. Drift and delay will lead us to the abyss. Whether we like it or not the world is in fact being divided into different spheres of economic, political and military influence. It is futile to deny the great differences in political conceptions and economic practices of the dominant Powers within these spheres. The task of statesmanship is surely to reconcile them at the points where they meet and in the matters upon which all are interested and involved. With Russia, I believe that this can only now be done by persona! and direct negotiation. Could not Marshal Stalin himself take the initiative? Could not something like the old Stalin-Roosevelt-Churchill combination be reestablished? The Security Council has become, for the moment, the forum for public and often acrimonious debate. It is being used as the instrument of power politics with new rules but the old motives. At this stage the tangle can be restored only if dealt with by meetings of those men themselves, in whom are 1167 vested both the power to frame policy and the power to carry it into effect. Let the Government consider and, in their consideration, let them take note of the anxiety which is now beginning to darken"—even more than domestic troubles and disputes"—the whole spirit of the nation.
If these matters are not resolved, what then? There is another nation with a great population, great agricultural and mineral resources, great industrial capacity, great intellectual and organising power, great past achievement. This nation is wrapped for the moment in mystery and darkness. We are given practically no information on what is happening there. There is a complete statistical and informational blackout. Yet she lies at the centre of Europe. She lies at the centre of the European problem. In the long run, though we seem to have no policy about her future, she cannot be neglected. Her name is Germany.
What is our policy towards Germany? Unless an accommodation can be found, and a formula established between the Eastern and Western hemispheres, you can have no sound policy regarding Germany. If that accommodation is reached Germany, so often the scourge of Europe, can in due course be transformed in to a healthy and valuable member of the European family. Only so, can the soul of the German people be saved. But if not, if there is dispute and acrimony and intense feeling between the East and the West, she will once more become a menace to peace. Nothing can prevent the inevitable and logical development of this situation. Germany, now cast down, despised, shunned like an unclean thing, will once more be courted by each of the two groups, and from a starving outcast she will become the pampered courtesan of Europe, selling her favours to the highest bidder. She will once more have lost the war and won the peace, and Hitler's dream and mad prophecies will have come true. Therefore, before it is too late let us act.
The seeds of war are not sown in the years immediately preceding a conflict; it is the first years after war that are the critical years. In this period, for good or ill, the future is begotten in the womb 1168 of time; after it, events move forward with the grim inevitability of Greek tragedy. The traditions of Western humanism and Christian civilisation have with difficulty survived two wars in a single generation. They cannot outlast a third. Novel and terrible weapons of destructive power hover like vultures awaiting their human prey. In these grave times, in his hour, perhaps an hour of destiny, only Ministers can know the methods and modalities of conciliation. But let them act, not drift. We say to them: Take comfort and inspiration from the good will and willing co-operation of all your fellow countrymen, but be strong and of good courage.
§ 3.55 Pm
§ Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)
I should like to say first with what pleasure and satisfaction I have noted the tone of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), more particularly in what he said about Russia. I am also glad that he recognised a very unpalatable truth; that at the moment the Anglo-Russo-American Alliance is virtually in abeyance. When the. United Nations Charter was before this House in August last, I had the honour to speak and I ventured to remark then that unless there was close co-operation between the three great Powers of the United Nations, then the negotiating machinery set up by the United Nations would prove little better than a skeleton of dry bones: The experience of the Conference just ended, alas, has proved only too well the truth of that statement.
The task of statesmanship then, as I see it, is to bring about such conditions as will enable the three great Powers of the United Nations to work together because, without that, no matter what machinery there is, it will not work. The main difficulty is, of course, Anglo-Russian relations, which have been going steadily from bad to worse since the end of the war. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary has gained much, praise from his countrymen, and outside, by his firm handling of Russia at the United Nations conference, and there is no doubt that Mr. Vyshinsky has handled his country's case with a clumsiness and a lack of imagination which it would be hard to imitate. But, as the right hon. Gentleman said just now, we must try to see what is the cause of all 1169 this. Russian diplomacy never discloses its real aim. The Russians, I heard a diplomat once say, use speech to hide thoughts and not to convey them. We must, then, try to look behind the veil of Russian diplomacy, and then I think it becomes clear that the whole Greek and Indonesian issue was raised because they had a bone to pick with us over Persia"—and other things as well, but I think mainly Persia. Having very largely got his way over Persia, it was a pity Mr. Vyshinsky did not withdraw, in keeping with the traditions of Russian diplomacy, these other charges against us on Greece and Indonesia. I do not think Mr. Vyshinsky will go down to history in the gallery of Russian statesmen along with Prince Gortchakov, Sazonov, and Mr. Litvinov, who is now but a Junior Commissar.
The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary has had an easy task in dealing with Mr. Vyshinsky; he has had a chance to speak his own mind and to stand no nonsense, but when all the applause for this has died down, one is left with the uncomfortable feeling that this by itself does not constitute a foreign policy which will lead us anywhere. The old saying, "Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re "—" Strong in action, moderate in manner" "—is a virtue which can be cultivated by every Foreign Secretary of all ages. In the case of Russia the task of statesmanship is to find out what causes the difficult attitude which Russia adopts. I am not pessimistic about the future. Many times in the past our relations with Russia have been extremely difficult and on the verge even of war. A British Secretary of State once wrote to a British Admiral in the Baltic a despatch which contained this passage:
The Russian Fleet will disturb the world, while it is stirred by ambition and revenge.He added that in certain circumstances he was to engage and sink the Russian Fleet. That was in 1719 when Peter the Great, fresh from his victories in the Northern war against Sweden, had set all Europe agog at this new and sinister power of Russia in the East. But statesmen of the Hanoverian Ministries of that time kept their heads. Again, in the 1820's when the Emperor Alexander, flush with victory over the French, set all Europe agog once more and caused fear to stalk through Europe that Russia would stir up trouble elsewhere, Lord 1170 Castlereagh kept his head and subsequently the man who followed him, Canning, kept us clear of trouble with Russia. Later, in Victorian times, Liberal and Conservative statesmen, although fearful of Russia's expansion in Asia, by applying conciliation with firmness helped us to pass through that difficult phase.
What is the motive of Russian policy? Where can we find the key to Russia's intentions today? I have just spent two months in the Soviet Union where I went not as a Member of this House, but as a humble journalist, and a member of the public, anxious to meet not high people, but people in the market places and villages. I talked to them and was able to get about because I approached the whole thing with an open mind and a desire to be friendly. What struck me most was that the Russians are just as fearful of us as we are of them. All the time they were asking "What are you up to? Are you preparing a Western bloc against us, you and the Americans? "I could see they were determined to prevent their country ever again being a scene of war and devastation to which they have been subjected for the third time in 30 years. I found a nervous suspicion of us. They cannot forget the wars of intervention. While talking to them, I was all the time trying to tell them that 1945 is not 1918 again, and that it is different here and elsewhere in Europe. The Russians are a sensitive and suspicious people, who will require handling with the utmost care. Moreover, I had certain very awkward facts thrown up against me. I was asked about General Anders' Polish Army in Italy and I could not answer it adequately. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary will take this matter in hand as soon as possible.
I agree with the right hon Gentleman the Member for Bromley that we cannot hand back to Russia, those who do not want to go. I would most bitterly resent any action on our part for doing that. Surely, we can implement the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) and try to get them placed somewhere in the Empire. Those who do not want to go back could go to the Dominions and no doubt we could take a certain number here. But those who want to go back 1171 must be allowed to go back. I heard a very ugly story in Egypt recently about volunteers who wanted to go back to Poland. It was said they were dumped on the quay at Alexandria or Port Said and all their clothes and equipment taken away by their officers and they were left there. That kind of thing has been going on among officers of General Anders' Army who are determined to make it as difficult as possible for those who want to go back to Poland.
In general, I feel that the Russians are determined to prevent Governments growing up on their borders which are going to be used as a hostile source of intrigue against them. They are not trying to impose Communism on these countries, nor are they trying to impose collectivisation of the land in Poland or Rumania Indeed, they are actually going to the other extreme and I heard a Hungarian statesman the other day complaining that the Russians are backing a "Kulak" regime in Budapest of well-to-do peasants. Unfortunately, we have aroused suspicions in Russia by our dilatory method of recognising these Baltic and Danubian Governments. We ought not to have been too squeamish about it. It is no use expecting to export our particular form of democracy into Eastern Europe. These people have never known anything like it. Russia and the Baltic and Danubian States have had to listen to long lectures from America about democracy in God's own country and I suppose they have to put up with this as the price of America's abandonment of isolationism and watch the painful process of Americans trying to understand Eastern Europe.
There is another matter about which I would say a word, the Middle East. I went to Russia and then to the Middle East in order to get a little of the line-up there, knowing how important it was. I was in Persia at the time that the Azerbaijan trouble was at its height. I regret to say that the atmosphere I found among the British colony in Teheran was such that among the less responsible element there was talk in terms of the next war against Russia and among the more responsible elements no great desire to find a way of co-operation with Russia. They were taking a purely legalistic line, "Russia has broken the Treaty and that 1172 is that." Russia's case in Persia remains weak, I admit, as long as she refuses to permit journalists and responsible persons from going into Persian Azerbaijan and reporting fairly.
But she has three aims there. The first is to prevent the U.S.A. and Britain from having oil concessions in the North where she feels she has a perfectly reasonable right to get in first. The second point is that she wishes to raise the whole question of the Russian participation in a settlement in the Eastern Mediterranean, and particularly to reopen the whole question of the Montreux Convention in regard to the Dardanelles and the Straits. Russian diplomacy is indirect. It is a question of making trouble in Azerbaijan in order to gain a point somewhere else. After all, let us not forget that in 1915 we signed a secret treaty with Czarist Russia to give Russia, lock, stock and barrel, the whole sovereignty over the Dardanelles and a large part of Asiatic Turkey. I happen to know about that because I was the first person to get the secret treaty, which was handed to me by Mr. Trotsky's secretary. I got it to England to the "Manchester Guardian," which printed it first. I do not advocate that we should go anywhere near as far as we went in that treaty. I am simply pointing out that years ago we were prepared to give Russia far more than she will reasonably ask today. Russia certainly would have a very strong case in asking for the internationalisation of that great international waterway of the Dardanelles, and I think we have an equal right to ask from Egypt, and other Powers of the Eastern Mediterranean, for a similar state of affairs in the Suez Canal.
Thirdly—and this is rather a subsidiary point—the Russian aim is to bring about a reform and a progressive régime in Persia. Our traditional policy in Persia is not of a kind which will, I think, commend itself to the House. Traditionally we have been fond of keeping in power in Persia, by our diplomacy and influence, a Government of the Persian nobility, which is anything but in keeping with the spirit of modern times. The Persian Government and Medjliss consist of charming Persian gentlemen who have been to Eton and Balliol, to Harrow and Trinity, Cambridge, who know the Persian classics from Hafiz to Jelal-udin-Rumi, and who in every way are very 1173 charming people, as I have found on meeting several of them; but I am satisfied they are quite incapable of handling the affairs of their country in such a way as to lead it towards the things that are urgently needed—land reform, social reform, and war against poverty. Until we and Russia can act together over Persia to get Governments of that sort, we shall have trouble in that part of the world. The Russians are exploiting the old regime in Persia and our attitude towards it as a means of raising the disaffected elements of the Middle East against us, including some of the mountain tribes, such as the Kurds. This is dangerous from many' points of view. They are on the borders of Iraq, that very important oilfield, which is so vital to us at a time when we are dependent, as we are now, on a sterling economy.
Unless we use our influence on the side of progress and reform in the Arab countries in the Middle East, Russia will gain prestige among those disaffected elements. I was constantly asked by Arab politicians and statesmen in the Arab countries I passed through, "Is Russia going to be a danger to us?" I replied, "Yes, until you put your houses in order, and if you do that, I do not think she will be a danger to you." Of course, at the present time the Arab League is a force. I have always favoured giving our moral support to it. About two years ago, I put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), who was then Foreign Secretary, to try to find out what would be the attitude of the Coalition Government towards the Arab League if it was formed, and I thought the right hon. Gentleman's answer at that time very sensible. But Russia unfortunately suspects the Arab League as being an Eastern cordon sanitaire. They may be wrong, but whatever happens, the Arab League must not have our support if it is allowed to become that. Moreover, the influence that we seek to assert in the Arab countries, as in Persia, should be on the side of social reform, raising the level of the fellaheen and lifting him out of the poverty and disease from which he suffers. I am certain we could get Russian support for that. Here, then, is ground for co-operation between Russia and ourselves. Our position today, tied as we are to the chariot wheels of Wall Street, 1174 and dependent upon the whims of a reactionary Congress, is not so easy, but we might try to see what a little co-operation with Russia might bring about.
The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary must not allow his dislike of Communist activities in the trade unions to colour his attitude to the Russian State. The Communist nuisance must not be allowed to menace Anglo-Russian relations. That is a test of the right hon. Gentleman's foreign policy. I do not believe that Russia has territorial and imperialist intentions either in Eastern Europe or in Asia. The Trotsky purge nearly 10 years ago brought about a change. The idea of world revolution was dropped. Just before I left Moscow, to go to the Caucasus, it was Constitution Day in Soviet Russia. The newspapers were full of interesting articles about the Soviet Constitution and, tied up with that, foreign policy. The general tone of these articles was that the foreign policy of. the Union is the defence of the Union, because the Union must be an example to the world. That is my interpretation of what I saw in the Press and the talks I had with Russian folk, both high and low. I admit also noticing a desire to.compete with His Majesty's Government in moral support of the working-class parties on the Continent, and they rather resent competition with the Communist parties they are setting up there. They are jealous of any other influence. Even that, however, ought not to cause us to lose our tempers with them. We ought to put up with the policy of pinpricks, even though it is most annoying. On Saturday last the "Manchester Guardian '' said in a leading article:If we want our ideas to.triumph in the battle of the spirit, we shall have to assert ourselves on that plane with the same force and persistence as on the lower plane of diplomacy.We have great moral prestige in Europe, as I saw wherever I travelled. We alone stood against the Fascist beast during the most critical years when other nations— Russia and America—were neutral. That is moral capital which I am convinced we can still use, but it will not last indefinitely. This, alas, is still a cynical world. Power politics and material interests play a very big role in world affairs. I found, in the Arab countries particularly, loose talk about another world war and what a chance they would 1175 have to play us off against the Americans, and both of us off against Russia. "That is the kind of thing we find among these newly developing national countries. My right hon. Friend can deal with this cynicism by acting on a higher plane. He must also seek to find a way to co-operate with Russia, that key to the. peace of the East. Russian suspicions are not altogether groundless, having regard to what happened in the past. They must be removed, and the Foreign Secretary will be judged before the tribunal of history by his capacity for removing them. If he succeeds, he will go down to posterity as one of the great Foreign Ministers along with Castlereagh, Canning, Salisbury, Gladstone, Disraeli and Grey.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Brigadier Head Carshalton)
I ask the indulgence of the House for this, my maiden speech. I will not detain the House for long, and there are only two points about which I wish to speak. The first is about the anxiety of certain hon. Gentlemen opposite about our present permanent staff at the Foreign Office, and about our foreign policy. My second object is briefly to review the presentsituation from a strategic point of view. I would not presume to mention the permanent staff of the Foreign Office were it not that I felt that among hon. Members opposite there is some genuine misunderstanding. The reason why I hold this opinion is partly because I have had some personal experience in this respect. I will admit, though perhaps it will not comfort hon. Gentlemen opposite very much, that before the war I too had my doubts about the permanent staff of the Foreign Office. Their smart black hats, their Balliol manner and their somewhat Edwardian appearance, made me wonder whether they were really the right people to be in charge of a Department that was framing our foreign policy at a time when diplomacy in Europe was being conducted on a jungle basis.
During the war I worked for some time with the Joint Planning Staff in the War Cabinet Offices, and there we naturally had very close contact with the Foreign Office. I can assure hon. Members opposite who are worried in this respect—I say it with all sincerity—I have never met a more up-to-date, hard-' headed or less politically biased set of 1176 men. The hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) feels that if he could get rid of the present incumbents, and put in some gentlemen who are more in sympathy with his own very Left point of view, then, automatically, our foreign policy would become much more Left, much pinker. With all respect I do not believe that the framing of foreign policy is as simple as that. I do not believe that one can pick it out of some pigeon hole ready and manufactured, of a suitable shade of pink.
There are in my opinion certain other factors that enter into it, and the one I know most about is the one which it is most difficult to overcome, that is, the factor of geography and thus strategy. If the hon. Member for Luton really wishes to implement his ideological foreign policy, I would submit to him that the most logical course would be to approach the hon. and gallant Member for King's Norton (Captain Blackburn) and ask him if his scientists and atomic energy, for it is a subject which he seems to have made peculiarly his own, would arrange for a cataclysmic explosion so that the geo-graph of this earth could be changed in such a way that his particular foreign policy could be implemented. It would take a lot of thinking out, and I do not know where hon. Members might find themselves, but I think it might be very cold. In all seriousness, on the question of foreign policy I would ask hon. Members opposite to think a little less about the red of their ties, and a little more about the red on the map.
I would now like briefly to make a strategic examination of the present situation. Hon. Members may think that today, with the invention of self-propelled weapons and atomic energy, the old strategic standards are out of date. I would submit, with all respect, that that is not so. The old rules remain, although in some respects they have been intensified. I believe that two principles of strategy have been accentuated; firstly dispersion has become highly important, and any form of undue concentration, be it of industry or population, is dangerous; and secondly, great strategic depth has become a vital factor in defence. I would now like briefly to run a sort of strategic tape measure over the three great Powers. I select only three, because, however it may be on paper, I think we have reverted to the Three Power system. First 1177 I will consider Russia. Before doing so I would say that I am convinced that Russia wants, above all, security, and also peace. I have travelled from Yalta to Leningrad by train. It is a' long way, and anyone who has done that journey and seen the terrible devastation that has been done to that country over such a vast area cannot fail to realise the grievous wounds she has, and the utter repugnance of most of the Russian people to the occurrence of another war.
Measured by modern strategic standards Russia is immensely strong. Geography has given her great and wide dispersion. Her industries and people are very widely dispersed. As for strategic depth, since the end of the war we have seen Russia annexing countries to give herself strategic depth all round. It is not for me to question or argue, in this short speech, about the merits or demerits of how she has done this, or our attitude towards it. I would only say that we are bound to acknowledge that, for Russia, Poland and the Balkans are an area of extreme strategic sensitivity, and, we have willy nilly, whatever people may argue, recognised that fact. It is when her demands go further towards the South West and touch the Mediterranean—that is what puzzles the world. Again, I do not wish to go into the reasons for these demands. My own opinion is that the most charitable explanation is also the right one. I think that Russia has added several extra claims to her vital ones in case she may get some extra perquisites.
That may not be so, but if it is so I would implore her to realise that the Mediterranean, and particularly the Eastern Mediterranean, holds a unique position in the make-up of this Empire. Russia is a great land Power. Although a superficial impression, I was struck at Yalta, and again in Moscow, by a tendency on the part of the Russian General Staff to underestimate the importance of the sea. Our Empire is made in a very peculiar shape. The Eastern Mediterranean and the Mediterranean itself are, to us, strategically and economically just as intimate as is the Trans-Siberian Railway to Russia. We and the Russians and the Americans have somehow got to keep a strategic equilibrium. Somehow we must all lie, so to speak, in the same 1178 strategic bed. Russia is starting to sprawl, I do not know why. From the position of our head on the pillow, Russia may not guess exactly where our rather curiously shaped body is lying, but I would say to her, "Your foot is getting dangerously near to a place where its presence cannot be supported."
Judged by the same strategic standards what do we find when we turn to this country? In contrast to the great strategic depth of Russia we find practically none. Where is the Western bloc? It is not there. Once again, I do not want to argue the merits or demerits. Turning to the question of dispersal, I would say that in the whole world I doubt if there is a more concentrated industry or population than in these islands. By these measures we appear to be terribly weak. I would appeal once again to Russia not to be deceived in judging this country's stragetic strength by outward appearances. It is our great failing that we appear very weak when we are nothing of the sort. We are a most peculiar country in that respect.
At the risk of detaining the House for a minute more— [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on "]—1 would say this. Some considerable time ago, the Joint Staffs wrote an appreciation for the Cabinet, which went by the name of "Policy in the event of a certain eventuality." I do not think I am revealing any secrets if I say that -that title really covered the question of how we were placed if France collapsed, and we stood alone. 1 can assure the House that the Staffs who wrote that appreciation felt much happier about our rather desperate position after they had written it than they did before, because after close study, going through the facts with a fine tooth comb, they found what one might call a lot of invisible strategic assets. I would say to Russia, outwardly this country appears to be strategically weak, but that is misleading. From all my experience I would say that she is strategically far far stronger than she seems. It would be fatal if because of our apparent strategic weakness Russia thought she could play fast and loose with us in the game of power politics.
I have little time left to mention America, but judged by any standards at all, America is immensely strong. All I would say to America is, "Do not let your great strength allow you to feel that 1179 you can stand away, because if you do, you will spoil what I have termed the strategic equilibrium." There are many people within and outside America, who would like her to stand away, but modern inventions and modern war have made her one in a world strategic balance. It is a very far cry from the Middle East to the Middle West; but strategically they form part of the same defences. I fully realise that the strategical aspect, about which I have spoken, is only one of a large number of factors in this gigantic problem. I myself think it to be an important one, and I believe that my views are shared very strongly in the Kremlin, where great attention is paid to this subject. They are great realists there. I do not in any way suggest that this is the main or the only problem, but I believe that if we could get the strategic equilibrium really fixed and settled, it would be a great factor in establishing peace for the future.
It would perhaps be impertinent for me to suggest an answer, but I have been taught all my life not to "waffle "— or to write without making some recommendation. With all due humility I would submit this as my recommendation. Could not the three Great Powers get together, say within the United Nations organisation, and settle and agree on areas of what might be called "strategic soreness "? Could they delineate those areas, and say, "These are Russia's sore areas, these Great Britain's, and these America's," and draw the lines? Having done so, could they agree to stick to them? I believe that if that could be done, by agreement between the three Great Powers, we should have gone far towards solving the greatest problem mankind has ever faced.
§ 4.34 P.m.
§ Mr. Wilfrid Roberts (Cumberland, Northern)
I am glad on behalf of the whole House to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) on his maiden speech. It was a most interesting contribution to the Debate, and with a large part of it I was entirely in agreement. I may have misunderstood certain references to Balliol, but apart from that I find myself in agreement with very much of it, and I am sure I am voicing the spirit of the House in expressing the hope that the 1180 hon. and gallant Member will make many more speeches.
We have just witnessed a new attempt to organise peace, and a question which I think is in many people's minds is whether this first meeting has or has not been a successful start. Certainly the proceedings developed in an unexpected way, and it may be that the thunder and lightning of the proceedings in the Council rather obscured the solid achievements of the meetings of the Assembly. Valuable though prosaic work has been started. The Commission on Atomic Energy has been set up, the Economic and Social Council has got to work, and the panels of international judges have been elected. Some of us may regret that more progress has not been made with the sad and difficult problem of refugees. But so far as the work of the Assembly is concerned, the United Nations have made a valuable start. It has been valuable too that the small Powers have been given the same opportunity as the Great Powers to put their case to the Security Council. On the other hand, the use of the veto has shown it to be much more obstructive in practice than we expected. Some of us on these benches and elsewhere, drew attention to the dangers of the veto during the Preparatory Commission at San Francisco, but neither we nor, I think, anybody else realised that the veto could be used not only to protect a guilty Power, whether great or small, but to prevent the vindication of a Power which had been unjustly accused. Indeed, the veto has proved itself to be much more obstructive in the United Nations meetings than was the unanimity rule in the old League of Nations.
It is, however, about the thunder and lightning of the Council meetings that I would like to say something. Everyone's first reaction is, of course, to be delighted with the Foreign Secretary, who proved that he can defend this country with such power and energy. That defence has been broadcast daily all over the world, to the greatest audience perhaps any assembly has ever had. We are used to plain speaking in this country and we like it, but the question I want to consider is whether the thunder and lightning have cleared the air or broken the weather. We in the Liberal Party believe that it is vita^ for us to be on good terms with the Soviet Union. That is nothing new for us to say; many of us have listened to 1181 powerful speeches from Mr. Lloyd George, on the Front Opposition Bench, in days when it was not so popular to ask for understanding with Russia. Sir Archibald Sinclair, in the years before the war, was constantly asking the Government of that day to reach an understanding with the Soviet Union. In fact, what eventually happened was that we reached a good understanding, not so much by conscious effort as by accident. An understanding did seem to be created during the war. It can- give no satisfaction to anybody today to see it frittered away by misunderstandings or recriminations. It is no satisfaction to many of us, to see the Foreign Secretary being praised by all the mischief makers of the world"—those who wish to see ourselves and the Soviet Union at loggerheads. It has already been pointed out that, although the issues, around which these controversies in the Council centre, are important and though they were raised by Mr. Vyshinsky, no doubt as a diplomatic counter-attack, the differences and the causes of those differences lie very much deeper.
I, like the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price), was in Russia for some time about a year ago. Those who have been to Russia must be very conscious of the long memories which the Russians have, and how they remember and resent the ostracism of the long years before the war. They also resent the decision, whether right or wrong, to keep the secret of atomic energy to ourselves "—I am not sure whether it is to ourselves or to the United States alone. But to keep this secret from the Soviet Union must seem to Russia a continuation of that old policy of excluding them from important considerations. It will be recognised that the leaders of the Soviet Union believe that both their foreign policy, and their social system, have been completely vindicated by the very acid test of war. It is obvious they now wish to extend their influence, by ensuring that there shall be friendly governments on the whole length of their long frontier. Do we need only to rivet our eyes on those countries where methods are arbitrary and authoritarian? We hear little of Finland today, because I gather the Soviet Union are behaving in a way of which we entirely approve in that country, in which they have fought twice during the last few years. Judging by the results of elections in some of the 1182 countries occupied by the Soviet Union, it would appear they have not interfered, at any rate, not successfully, with the free elections in those countries. We in Britain take it for granted that the affairs of every country on the borders of the Soviet Union are of interest to us. We interfere and express our views. When the Russians, both because of the part they played in the war and in order to safeguard their own security, venture to express their views, or wish to be consulted about countries which are not contiguous with Russia, we regard it as imperialism, and the "long arm of the Bear." We take it for granted that we have reasonable cause to be interested, as I say, in every country around that long frontier from Finland to China.
I do not under-estimate the difficulties of finding a satisfactory working basis for relations with the Soviet Union today. The attitude of the Russian representative at the Council meeting was anything but conciliatory. I do not know that I am any better pleased whether it is Mr. Vyshinsky, or our own Foreign Secretary, who demands that national honour must be vindicated and prestige considered. I think it is a mistake that we did not accept the proposal for an international commission of inquiry into Indonesia. We are only the trustees in that unfortunate quarrel. When the Dutch themselves announced that they.did not oppose the proposition, surely it would have beep a gesture—
§ The Minister of State (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)
I am very reluctant to interrupt my hon. Friend. What the Dutch said was that they did not oppose an inquiry into the conduct of British troops, although they did oppose an inquiry into anything concerning their constitutional position in Indonesia. I may perhaps add that those who brought up the charges about the British troops, themselves admitted that they did not constitute any threat to international peace.
§ Mr. Roberts
Whatever the scope of the inquiry to which the Dutch agreed, limited or not, that does not really affect my point. I should have been glad to see our acceptance of an international commission of inquiry as a precedent. If it was only into the conduct of our troops, I think that precedent should have been applied also to the conduct of the troops of other States in other countries. It 1183 would have been well, if when placed in that position, we had not appealed to national honour, but had' agreed to such an inquiry.
I know I shall be told that I am asking for a new sort of appeasement, not to Germany this time but to Russia. I do not want to appease the Soviet Union. For one thing, I do not think appeasement ever achieves the result that 1 want to see, and that is a good understanding. The Russians are much too realistic to have any respect for a country that does appease. I do not want to condone what appear to us in this country to be mistakes on the part of the Soviet Union. We should reach a better understanding with the Russians if we made perfectly certain that our own policy was a very positive foreign policy. I do not want to see this country abstaining from positive action in foreign affairs because the Russians may object. For instance, it is highly desirable that we should have the closest understanding with the Western liberal and social democratic countries who mean by democracy the same as we mean. It is very desirable that we should have the closest understanding with France, not to the exclusion of the Soviet Union, but that we should go ahead and do our part in giving France a sense of security which she failed to get after the last war. I think we should respond, and I hope some Minister may do so in replying to the Debate, to the suggestions which have been made recently by the head of the French Government. While the Soviet Union are looking for. special understandings with countries in Eastern Europe, they can have no ground of complaint if we do the same thing in Western Europe. They may make a complaint, but if they do I suggest we should not take any notice of it. It is not for any negative reason of balancing Russia, that I want such an understanding but for practical positive reasons, based upon political and economic motives.
What are they? We must be very positive about our belief in democracy. Our relations with one country in Europe are not very convincing at the present time. I refer to Spain. I would like to compare our attitude to two countries, Poland and Spain. I am sure that our Government have been quite right in laying it down clearly, when we recognised 1184 the Polish Government, that we expected "that. Government to act in a democratic manner and to carry out elections within the full meaning of democracy. If that goes for Poland, it should, in my view, also go for Spain. I am not asking for intervention, but we should be downright about this matter. There is an idea abroad, believed in Spain and elsewhere, that we favour a monarchy in Spain. I should have thought we had had enough trouble by favouring monarchies in Greece, Yugoslavia and other countries. I do not really think it is necessary to suggest to the Foreign Secretary that sometimes we make mistakes in foreign policy. If it is true that we are encouraging a change to a monarchy in Spain we might get ourselves into a very difficult situation.
During the Spanish civil war, the present Spanish Pretender offered, on more than one occasion, to fight for General Franco. He has recently expressed very Liberal views. He may, I do not know, have become a Liberal. [Laughter.] He has not made any application to join my party. I mean that he may have become more liberal in the wider sense. Suppose he has not. Suppose we found that a change was not really a movement towards democracy in Spain, when it had been achieved, but was merely a means of backing up a tottering dictatorship. Would it not be very much better that we did not get ourselves involved in that sort of thing?, If the Spaniards want a monarchy, let them have it, but let us do nothing to indicate that this country thinks that monarchy is essential for Spain. The solution that would be satisfactory to the people of this country, is that Poland and Spain should have democratic governments.
The Foreign Secretary did a very good piece of work when he called the attention of the United Nations to the state of the food supply of the world. The recriminations and the long discussions between ourselves and the Soviet Union have diverted attention from the important and urgent problems of economic reconstruction of Europe. There are deep differences between the great Powers upon economic questions. I listened with the greatest interest and approval to the speech of the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) who opened 1185 the Debate. Not the least interesting passage in his speech was that in which he referred to the future of Germany. Taking the immediate view, as well as the longer view, I profoundly doubt whether the attempt to reduce the economic potential of Germany is in the interest of ourselves, or of Europe as a whole. I believe it is a counsel of despair, arising out of the political disunity of the great Powers.
If we, Russia, the United States and France firmly believe that we can stick together and have a common policy during the next 10 or 25 years, it is madness to destroy so much of the great economic strength of Germany, because it could be used for the benefit of Europe. It is essentially needed to alleviate the suffering and misery existing in Europe" at the present time. I would like to see the Ruhr internationalised, and not merely nationalised. We have removed the former owners but we have found nothing satisfactory to replace them. Nationalisation is not sufficient. We cannot trust future Governments of Germany. The Ruhr should be internationalised economically and politically and, provided there is enough confidence between the great Powers who won the war, it should be possible to use the coal and steel resources and the industrial potential of that great industrial centre for the wellbeing of Europe and the world.
Finally, let me say that although the Foreign Secretary may have given great satisfaction to the Conservative Party, by saying that continuity of foreign policy was to be preserved, he gave no satisfaction to me or to my hon. Friends by that assurance. What has our foreign policy been in the past? Before the war it was appeasement, which we bitterly opposed and I think rightly. During the war it was a simple policy, expressed best by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) when he said, "Whoever kills Germans, is our friend." We have to find a new foreign policy today to meet the needs of the new situation. It has to be a positive policy. 1 want to see us on good terms with the Soviet Union and the United States of America. I want to see us the champions of justice for the smaller nations of the world. I hope the policy will be based upon an unequivocal advocacy of democracy. I heartily agree with what the Foreign Secretary has more 1186 than once said, that it should be a bread-and-butter policy aimed at increasing the wealth of the world and at developing its economic resources in the interest of all countries.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
. I wish to ask the indulgence of the House on the occasion of my maiden speech. I have been a Member of the House for only a few days I was elected at a by-election, in which the issues of foreign policy played a great part, and one of the issues at this election was my advocacy of the idea of World Government, which was so eloquently advocated in a recent Debate in this House by the Foreign Secretary and by the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition. I asked the electors of South Ayrshire to send me here to support this idea of World Government as an alternative to the old traditional struggle of power politics. I was elected by an increased majority over the General Election, and I wish to say a few words in support of that new policy, not the policy of power politics or capitalist imperialism, but the policy of working towards a new World Government and away from the old idea of national sovereignty"—the building up of a new world order in the spirit of international Socialism which was advocated in this House by its great leader,. Keir Hardie.
There is very great interest among the working classes in the issues of foreign policy, and I believe that, more than ever before, humble people are taking a great interest in the formation of the new United Nations organisation and are looking forward with new interest and new hope. There is a great deal of support for the Foreign Secretary, and great appreciation of his tenacious advocacy, at the United Nations organisation Conference, of the idea of substituting World Government for the old struggles of the balance of power. I cannot say that I was always in entire agreement with the line taken by the Foreign Secretary at the Uno Conference. If I may say so, I rather regretted some of his references to Soviet Russia. I regretted them because it seemed to me, in one of his utterances, that he spoke rather like the ghost of Lord Curzon. I believe it is a mistake to be afraid of Communist propaganda. 1187 There is no need to be afraid of Communist propaganda if we are ourselves pursuing a strong policy in favour of social justice, and I would ask, not only the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, but also all other hon. Members of this House, to remember the advice given by the late Mr. Wendell Wilkie to the American people, who are just as much afraid of Communism as we are. The late Mr. Wendell Wilkie wrote in his book "One World ":The best answer to Communism is a living, vibrant, fearless democracy"—economic, social and political. All we need to do is to stand up and perform according to our previous ideals; then, those ideals will be saved. No, we do not need to fear Russia. We need to learn to work with her in the world after the war, for Russia is a dynamic country, a vital new giant, a force that cannot be bypassed in any future world.How is it possible that we can break the ice with Russia and secure better relations? I suggest two points with which we can make the approach which other hon. Members have demanded in this Debate. I think we should so frame our policy as to dispel from the Russian mind any idea that we are prepared to make war upon her. I believe it would be a splendid gesture at the present time if the Army of General Anders was demobilised and the Poles brought away entirely from the dangers of Europe. 1 am not without sympathy for the Poles, because, in Scotland, we have had Poles amongst us for some time, and I entirely agree with the remarks of the Foreign Secretary that the Poles are not exclusively of the officer class. They are working men, and the Poles have" suffered more than any other nation in Europe, probably, with the exception of the Jews, as a result of the world war, and we owe it to the Poles that, when they are demobilised, they should be given an opportunity of attaining the citizenship promised them by the previous Prime Minister. I know by conversation with them that the Poles are very anxious that they should be given an opportunity of beginning a new life, preferably in Canada or Australia, away from the feuds and quarrels of Europe, and I hope that the Government will make representations to the Government of Canada and will be able to assure this House that the Poles will be demobilised and given this opportunity to start a new life in one of our 1188 Dominions—a new life entirely away from Europe.
Then, I believe, too, that we should assure Russia as to our future intentions by withdrawing from the bases in the Middle East and Mediterranean which are a source of contention. After all, these bases and this strategy of the Mediterranean and Middle East were framed before the days of the atomic bomb, and I submit that it is far more important to get the good will of the Russian people than to maintain what a previous speaker has described as recognised British bases. The poet whose shade I have the honour to represent in this House said:Oh wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursel's as ithers see us!Those words should be graven on the walls of every Foreign Office and every Chancellery in Europe. How does Russia look at those "recognised British bases? "She looks upon them—and quite rightly so—as bases.meant for operations against the Soviet Union. We have the atomic bomb and Russia has not. Those bases are looked upon by Russia as a threat to her. I believe it would be a great gesture, making for permanent peace with the Soviet Union, if we abandoned those bases and made our ultimate objective, not strategical gains, but getting the good will of the people of the Soviet Union.
I, too, like previous speakers, have travelled in Russia. I travelled in Russia in the grim, hungry days when they were tightening their belts and starving themselves in order to build up their national economy under the Five-Year Plan. Then it was not quite respectable to go to Russia. I saw the Russians building the great dam at Dnieperstroi, the Gorki motor factory, the tractor works at Kharkov and the great Selmashstrov agricultural implements factory at Rostov on Don. It is one of the great tragedies that the great creative work of the Russian Five-Year Plan should have been destroyed in the fires and horrors of war. We worked together with Russia during the war, and it was said at that time that the common enemy was Hitlerism. But we still have a common enemy, and that enemy is famine and hunger. I suggest that the approach to Russia should be an economic one; that, if necessary, we should go to Stalin and say, "We have abandoned our strategy of war, and we invite you to join with 1189 us in a new world plan for the building up of a new economic order which will abolish hunger and famine throughout the world, and will result in a new world from which the fear of war will for ever be abolished." I believe that if we talked to the Russians in those terms, they would understand the language of, planning and reconstruction and would co-operate in building a new world.
One final point. I believe the ultimate test of the foreign policy of this Government is whether they intend to adopt conscription as their policy. If the Government are to continue conscription, it will mean that they will still carry out the old policy inseparable from power politics. I believe there is a very strong, determined opposition to conscription in this country. If we have conscription, the ordinary folk will say that our foreign policy has been wrong. What is the use of talking about conscription and the old ideas of military strategy in the days of the atomic bomb? We need a new urge forward in the building of the new world order about which the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary spoke. I submit that we can get that by following,a policy aiming at creating a new world order of which the guiding idea will be international Socialism, which is the only hope of the people of the world.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Brigadier Rayner (Totnes)
It is rather pleasant, after not having spoken in this House for three years, to have the chance of congratulating a new colleague on a very straightforward and clear speech. I hope we shall have- lots of chances of hearing him in this House and that in the references to Russia that I propose to make I hope he will acquit me of attacking the views he has just expressed. I, also, would like to speak about Russia, and I agree with the many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have already spoken today that the problem of peace is quite a simple one. If Great Britain and Russia can get together, then the chance of another major war is fairly remote, but if they cannot, then it is almost inevitable. Therefore, it is very necessary that we should try to see Russia through the clearest possible eyes.
Before the war, I paid two visits to Russia, but I never spoke about them. Like every other visitor, including Mr. 1190 Priestley, I was under constant official surveillance and had no chance of getting together with the ordinary people. When I came back to this House, I did not feel that I had much worth saying. Now, however, I am rather more qualified to speak. Almost since D-Day I have, in my official capacity, had to deal with Russian officials and officers. I have met them man to man outside their own borders, off their guard—as far as Russians are ever off their guard—and I have filled several note books and learned a good deal. I have learned that the Russian is essentially rather Oriental; he cannot be hurried. "Po malo, po malo," slowly, slowly, is the order of the day, and you have to attain an agreement—if you do attain an agreement—as you would buy some jewel from a merchant of Cairo or Baghdad. Then, inability to understand compromise and desire to save face are Asiatic attributes which the Russian possesses in full measure. So is his valuation of human life, which he regards as rather cheap. He regards it, in military parlance, as one of the least valuable of expendable stores. If that had not been the case, the Russian steamroller would have moved rather more slowly, and the Russian losses would have been less prodigious. Thus in so many ways the Russian shows his Oriental flavour. Even his beflagged decorations are like those one sees in Chinese Turkestan, and the triumphal gateways which have been built outside Berlin will no doubt have reminded many hon. Members who have been there of the gateways one would see outside Delhi on any feast day. I have learned that the Russian is very much a realist. When he does get down to brass tacks then, from his own point of view, he approaches the question under consideration with harsh common sense.
An old acquaintance of mine, a Russian senior officer, asked me in Berlin the other day "Why, when we got to Berlin first, need we share it with you British and Americans? Why need you have any say in our control of Poland, Rumania, Austria, Hungary and Yugoslavia when we conquered them? "Now as a soldier I have always told my Russian friends how greatly we admire the wonderful successes of the Red Army, and how very grateful we are to them for those successes, but I seldom have received any 1191 thanks in return, not from any lack of kindliness or friendship, but just because the average Russian knows nothing about what we have done. He knows nothing about our North African campaign; he knows nothing about the vast stores of ordnance and supplies that we had sent to him through the Arctic and via the Trans-Persian railway. He feels simply that Russia has won the war practically on her own account and that, indeed, we came to her aid much too slowly. So that attack rather annoyed me,' and, somewhat tactlessly, I suggested that some of the Russian troops in and around Berlin were behaving in a somewhat uncivilised manner. "Yes," replied my friend, "but you must realise that we have a different idea of civilisation from you. The mass of our people were serfs up to the middle of last century, and it is a good thing, too, for we are not a soft and rotting civilisation like yours. We are hard, we know want we want and we will get it." That is one occasion on which the cat was let out of the bag— a cat whose colour has been confirmed by' our contacts, as many of my colleagues agree; quite simply we are faced by a highly nationalistic Russia to whom might is still right.
I suggest to the House—and I am completely disagreeing with hon. Members who have already spoken—that the rough and ready Russian civilisation of today is somewhere about where we were in Elizabethan times. There is the same intolerance, the same recourse to the bullet and the concentration camp rather than to the gibbet and the dungeon. There is the same tendency to regard life as cheap, the same belief in might being right. Then I suggest that Russia is intensely.nationalistic. The proofs are too plain to miss. Before the beginning of the war, the Kremlin was presenting Russia to her people as Mother Russia to be loved, defended and died for, and all through the war Russia has based her tremendous effort on patriotism. The Grand Czarist uniforms have been restored, the "Internationale" has given place to a new anthem which mentions nothing of the workers of the world, and the eternal Russian broadcast of all Russian victories in an all Russian war have dotted the is of patriotism. Russia is as nationalistic today as any country in the world. 1192 I suggest that Russia is also, to a large extent, imperialistic Although she signed the Atlantic Charter, her tremendous successes have enthused her with the same sort of ambition as had the 19th century Czar. She has acquired or recovered already in this war Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, parts of Poland and Finland, Bukovina and Bessarabia, yet she wants more. In the name of security—and, with other hon. Members, I believe, there is a great deal in the suggestion that she thinks in terms of security—she aims at that tremendous cordon sanitaire. The Red Army, which is not fed largely from home like the British and American armies, but which lives voraciously off the land it occupies, must soften up various countries into a proper Marxist state of mind. Pure Communism must gnaw its way through countries where it can suitably be employed. For Russia is still internationalist in so far as internationalism will serve her nationalism. Again, there is plenty of proof. She is still glad to welcome Communist parties in other countries which owe direct allegiance to herself. These she uses or spurns as suits her book. Hon. Members will remember quite well those twists and turns of our own Communist Party in the last six years, which proved so clearly what a perfect Fifth Column Communist party may be.
Therefore, let us face the problem we are up against We have to achieve peace with a Russia which is largely Oriental, and which, therefore, thinks and feels differently from us, with a Russia which lags behind in Western civilisation, yet is equipped with all the great powers of modern science, with a Russia which bestrides two continents yet wants more. The light relief is that one feels that Russia definitely wants peace.
§ Mr. Follick (Loughborough)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that Russia was back in Elizabethan times, and yet he says that she is now equipped with the great powers of modern science.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
I thought the hon. Member was going to raise a point of Order. The point he has raised is one that is a matter of opinion.
§ Brigadier Rayner
If I may continue my argument, the hon. Gentleman may get an answer. The only light relief is that Russia does want peace, and if we 1193 stand up to her it will be all right. If not, she may be tempted to engage in adventure after adventure as Germany was, until, finally, the world explodes again.
§ Mr. Zilliacus (Gateshead)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that Russia wants peace and, therefore, it will be all right if we stand up to her. Does he mean that if we threaten war, the Russians will not fight, so it will be all right? What does he mean by "standing up to her "?
§ Brigadier Rayner
I would say that that is exactly what happened in the case of Germany. We continued to give way for too long. We can stand up to a country without going to war with her, though, indeed, the final sanction must be war. We sometimes cheer the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary. We do not cheer him because he is following a Conservative foreign policy. He is not. We cheer him because he is standing up for our country, and particularly because he is doing his best to take foreign affairs out of party politics. We realise his difficulties in dealing with his opposite number, and we recognise the tremendous advantages in negotiation which M. Molotov enjoys. M. Molotov is backed by public opinion which is dictated from the Kremlin, and which can be made bitterly anti-British at command. Our Foreign Secretary is harassed by a public opinion which has been bemused by one-way Russian propaganda for the last six years. M. Molotov is perfectly well informed about what goes on in this' country. Our Foreign Secretary has very little chance of finding out what goes on behind that iron curtain which surrounds Russia. Cannot every soldier on both sides of the House visualise the unhappy position of a general faced by a strong and well-informed opponent, who cannot find out anything about the dispositions of that opponent, and cannot even depend on his own troops?
I cannot imagine that there is any hon. Member of the House who will not desire to help the Foreign Secretary to stand up to the Russian colossus. If the House will permit me, I will make one or two suggestions as to how we can help. Firstly, in the House, and in the country as far as we can, we should take foreign affairs out of party politics: secondly, we should do what we can to restore some 1194 balance to the one-way propaganda about Russia which has gone on for so long. Not very long ago, sitting in our mess in Germany, we heard an English girl speaking over the B.B.C. proclaim that she regarded the wearer of the Leningrad medal with more respect than the wearer of any other medal in the world. We had been dining a V.C. the night before.and were very glad he was not present. We decided there and then that it was about time all the bootlicking one-way propaganda about Russia came to an end. T told the mess that night that when I was in Warsaw in 1938 the British Consul-General was endeavouring, in every way he could, to get two Australian families out of Russia. They had sold up everything they had in Australia and had managed to be admitted into Russia, that place which they had gathered was a heaven for all working men. Six months had been enough for them. We decided that night from our own experiences that no Britisher would stand more than six months of the Russian system and standard of living.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Hackney, Central)
Is the hon. and gallant Member telling us that he, presumably the commanding officer of this mess, indulged in that kind of political propaganda in a military mess?
§ Brigadier Rayner
No, not at all. 1 was merely one member of the mess. You must realise that officers in a mess can talk about foreign affairs and systems. How foolish it all is. We continue to praise an Oriental civilisation some hundreds of years inferior to our own as being perfectly wonderful, and thus we encourage the Soviet Union to be even more unreasonable in their demands. One way in which we can help to restore that balance of propaganda is by attacking the cult of the catch-phrase, those clichés and catchwords which replace principle, and which make it so easy for people not to have to bother to think. A favourite one before the war was "Collective security." A favourite one now is "Fascism." "Fascist" was a very fair description of the Italian system before the war, but it is now used generally to describe anything we do not like or of which we generally disapprove. The Russians use it a lot, whereas their system is very similar to the fascist system that obtained in Italy, and to the national 1195 Socialism of Germany. All three systems deified the State and nullified the individual. In all three the State has been held to be the monopoly of one party which has used it to liquidate all opposition. Nazism went in for a chosen Herrenvolk; Communism goes in for a chosen economic class. In each case the result has been the same, a collection of hard and fast classes covering the masses, the army, and various grades of political bosses. The real difference, as I think a very great many hon. Members feel, is between British democracy which allows an opposition to organise and express itself, and which recognises the dignity and freedom of the individual, and those three totalitarian, systems. It is the British system which our Foreign Secretary is defending at the meetings at U.N.O. and on other occasions.
§ Mr. McAllister (Rutherglen)
While some of us sympathise with the suggestion of the. hon. and gallant Member that bootlicking propaganda is not a very good idea, are we to take it that his speech marks the return to the mud-slinging propaganda carried on by himself and his colleagues on those benches for 20 years before the war?
§ Brigadier Rayner
No. The hon. Member may take it that my speech is merely an attempt to state the other side of the picture. I am speaking from considerable experience in dealing with our Russian Ally. In conclusion, may I make some suggestions to the Foreign Secretary, which I hope will be read by him? Let him remember that in peace as in war the best defence is attack. At conference after conference at a lower level we found that if we put forward our fullest demands without, reservation we probably got half of them out of the Russians. Whereas, if we made them with ordinary British reasonableness, we probably got nothing at all.
Let the Foreign Secretary demand that truth, that first casualty of war, is now brought out of its concentration camp. Let him stand up as its champion, for, if truth could be brought into U.N.O., that organisation would be half way to its goal. Let him give out to the world that, though. Great Britain will not tolerate any interference in her own affairs she will welcome an examination 1196 by any nation of anything she is doing in her Empire, and let him challenge Russia to allow the same. Let him tell Russia that her iron curtain organisation leads us to suspect that things are going on behind that curtain of which Russia is ashamed. Let him refer to our own great experiment in India, where we have been trying to organise a whole continent of nations, and where we have never taken any steps to keep out the most captious of critics. Let him tell Russia that we will accept a thousand Russian tourists here every month on very cheap terms and show them the whole of England, if Russia will do the same for a thousand of our people. Let him define our vital interests and draw the line that cannot be passed. Let him say that, although we have not the power to defend the freedom of all the small countries of Europe, we will support, lead, and, if necessary, organise the small countries on our side of that line. Let him proclaim our own national mission of social progress, a mission we shape from year to year in this House; and which is a far finer one than the Russian one, based as it is on that abiding principle of personal freedom.
We cannot blame Russia too much. She has a different kind of civilisation. She feels and thinks differently. She may think, quite honestly, that it would be a good thing for the world if it were all brought within her sphere of influence, Hitler had the same idea. We think rather differently.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
1 should like to make a contribution to this- discussion on foreign affairs, and to deal with an aspect of it that, at the moment, seems to be entirely neglected. When the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) opened this Debate, it seemed to me we were listening to a foreign policy based on Victorian maps surrounded by feather pens and periwigs. We seem to have forgotten entirely that we are living in a completely different world from- that of 1939. Maybe the atmosphere of this Chamber has something to do with the Victorian foreign policy that has been hurled across the Floor of the Chamber for this last couple of hours. But Smuts was right when he said that the focal point of world affairs 1197 will be Asia. Without talking about Russia in disparaging terms. I think Poushkin was right. He gave the clue to hon. Members opposite to the way to understand Russia. If hon. Members opposite want to understand Russia, let them remember what Poushkin said: "She turns her Asiatic face to Europe and her European face to Asia." Upon that pivot turns their foreign policy. If there is a group of people inside o: Britain and inside of America who are increasing the bitterness between us and the U.S.S.R., let them beware, because at the present moment, as my experience in Burma, in Malaya, and out in Java, where I happened to be three weeks ago, confirms, the people of those lands look to the U.S.S.R. as their protagonist. I do not say that that is for better or for worse. It is a fact of Asiatic history at the present moment. So it behoves us to talk with a sense of responsibility and of the period in which we are living.
The last war, for instance, had its effect and revolutionary changes took place in Europe, and those revolutionary changes had their repercussions in Asia. Idealism arose at first, then cynicism took its place. The last war "destroyed Asia's respect for European culture and civilisation. Into that atmosphere of cynicism against European culture and civilisation there stepped the ideology of Japan. An entirely new fact is that for three and a half years, as never before in history, the whole of Asia, from Cox's bazaar to the Kamtchatsk Peninsula, has been under the sway of Japan, and that fact gives us a new clue to the foreign policy of the future, as compared with the foreign policy of 1939. Why? Because now Eastern Asia has been under one imperialistic rule, namely, the Japanese. This enabled Asia to see imperialism in the raw without the veneer and sophistication of European Powers. The peoples of Eastern Asia began to comprehend for the first time the problems of their rights in Asia as a whole.
Japanese imperialism has given some unity to Eastern Asia; just as Napoleon, attempting to put down nationalism in Europe, expecting to make Europe subject to France, created the very nationalism we had in Europe in the last century. Japan, with qualifications, has done the same thing in the Far East. I found in India, Burma, Malaya, Java and Cey- 1198 lon no longer a negative thing, no longer just a hatred of the white man or anything like that—.that is merely negative— but a positive determination that Asia shall ultimately rule herself, and that she must be free, living side by side with a free Western world. The victory over Japan, Asia, too, rejoices in. For as a Burmese told me, it is a victory of self-analysis, of clarified ideals, of sharply defined objectives. Asia, at last, understands her own mind, as far as freedom and the shaking off of the yoke of the 19th century Imperialism are concerned.
There are other speakers who will talk about policy in Burma. Therefore, I will not trespass on that, except to say one thing. When I was in Burma I talked to Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith about this business of getting ordinary life going. The Foreign Secretary always puts first in his foreign policy, so he tells us, this issue of feeding the people. What did we find when we were having the food Debate the other day? From Burma out to Java it is no good talking in academic terms of foreign policy, and it is no good writing high-falutin' articles in the "Nineteenth Century" magazine about it; unless we get the wheels of life moving by feeding the people, getting transport there, and consumer goods and more food, it is merely poppycock to talk in academic terms in a Chamber like this of what our foreign policy should be.
I asked Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith this question in Government House in Rangoon: '' How do these people live? Are they getting the same wages as they got in 1940?" He replied, "If you want to know the truth, Davies, they live by looting the Army, the Navy and the Air Force." And that is true. You have a" cigarette economy" from Paris to Peking, and nobody seems to do anything about it. It saps the morale, and undermines the means of getting ordinary civilised life working from one side of the world to the other. Black markets, high food prices, and inflation exist in the Far East just the same as anywhere else. Of all the countries in the Far East, Burma suffered more than any, except China; and I discovered she wants, for instance, before she can start a normal economy, 450 million yards of cloth within the next two years.
What wonderful markets for my own constituency, if we could get them going. 1199 But what hope is there of getting them going when we are wasting a couple of days on an academic Debate on foreign policy, when the essential thing is: How are we to get the normal trade of the world to work at the present moment? It seems, that in the Far East some new type of foreign policy, based on a specific zone policy, will be needed and that a policy of economic and social co-operation must be worked out. One can no longer think of Burma as a land of the lotus and rainbow, or merely as a land producing rice, tea, oil, zinc and lead. This land has suffered; it is wounded. It only produces 120,000 tons of rice, whereas it used to produce 3,500,000 tons of rice for export. It will take years to get the East back again to the condition in which it needs to be so that family life can begin.
What are the United Nations doing about this? Our shoulders are broad, but we cannot bear the economic burdens of the entire world, and it is the policy of the United Nations to which we should look if we want the nations of the world to work together. It is no good our thinking that we can work on the old principles. In 1940 we passed an Act to pre vent the buying of land in Burma. Fifty per cent, of the land in Burma is held by absentee landlords—one half of them Indians—on a one year lease. You cannot work an intelligent agricultural policy on the basis of a one year lease. We must reorganise our ideas about that. We, the British, who have been through three successive wars there, must have new ideas about village life in Burma, re-establish the chieftains in the Northern States, and help Burma to regain its dignity. Before Burma can be raised she must have a normal economy. The elephants in Burma are scarce; 80 per cent, of the buffaloes are suffering from rinderpest, and you cannot get rice without buffaloes for crushing it in. What are we doing about that? Nothing but engaging in academic talk in terms used in the days of Queen Victoria. Here is a job of work not only for Britain but. for the co-operation of the world. Anti-Russian speeches or anti-American speeches will not help that co-operation in the highly nervous and neurotic state in which the East is at the present time.
1200 I would like to make one contribution about Indonesia. I had the pleasure of speaking for several hours to the Indonesian Cabinet and I talked to the Prime Minister, Mr. Sjahrir. I was the guest of General Christison, at the time, in Batavia. I was delighted when the Prime Minister told me, in private conversation which lasted for three hours, that he had no charge at all to make against General Christison, and he said that a shot had not been fired except in self-defence by the British. There are 50,000 Japanese on these islands. There are 200,000 Dutch. Eurasians and other civilians. At first, we, the British, were regarded as liberators. That feeling is dying. That is what worries me. The longer the Indonesian situation lasts, the more the suspicion of the Asiatic people is aroused, and they think that we are there to stake, down the power of Dutch Imperialism. I talked to 16 members of the Cabinet and discussed things with them. The trouble in the Indonesian situation is that, unfortunately, everyone has been throwing bricks at the U.S.S.R. Uncle Sam is not without blame. He had 200 of his representatives in uniform in Indonesia looking for markets while we were carrying the candle. It is no good this or any other country thinking that the movement for Indonesian independence is a minor movement, backed up by extremists. As in the French Revolution, you have there a nucleus of cultured individuals, who are the focal point, trying to canalise this movement.
Mr. Sjahrir is a cultured individual, a graduate of the Hague, and a moderate; and between him and Dr. Van Mook and the United Nations lies the hope of solving this Indonesian problem. Apart from Sjahrir and Van Mook there will be no hope. If the Dutch are thinking in terms of war against Indonesia's 80,000,000 people, they alone cannot do it, and I am quite convinced that the British people would not stand for Britain moving in to prop up Dutch Imperialism. I was delighted to find that some of our chiefs-of-staff and others were trying their best to convince the Indonesians that we were not playing the old game of power politics, and that the object of British soldiers being there was not to protect the guilder, the dollar or the pound.
While we are doing this, and carrying this burden in South East Asia, I deprecate the action of the United States for 1201 more reasons than one. I have mentioned one; and I will mention another. I had discussions in Batavia with representatives of the British Press, some of them fine individuals, but I discovered that the Hearst Press of America had sent reporters to Batavia and told one of them emphatically that the report that came out must be anti-British. What kind of world do the Americans think that will build up—if the Hearst Press, and other diabolical newspapers, are allowed to twist the truth? It is time—I should like hon. Members to remember this—that the Pressmen of the world realised the responsibilities that rest on their shoulders in the 20th century. The opinion of hon. Members on these Benches, and perhaps more particularly on the Benches opposite, is often made by reading reports, and if Pressmen are going in for colourful reports what hope is there of the nations of the world getting down to dispassionate judgment about these difficult international problems?
For what then are the Indonesians asking? It is this. They say that the term "Indonesia" was recognised before the war. Yet new bank notes still have the Netherlands East Indies impressed on them. Why have the Dutch removed the sign of the Indies from the back of these notes and impressed upon them cruisers, aeroplanes and soldiers? What is Indonesia being offered? Before the war the Council of the Indies was the only executive body that could legislate, and they only passed Bills to the Assembly for comment. That council was made up of the Governor-General, who was a Dutchman, the Lieut.-Governor-General, who was also Dutch, two Eurasians and two Indonesians. The People's Assembly, it is admitted, consisted of 55 per cent. Indonesians, but it had no voice in making the laws of the country. It was the Governor-General's Council of six that had the voice. On 5th-6th December the Indonesians asked van Mook what he was prepared to offer, and he made a statement which implied that the old Governor-General's Council would still have the opportunity to make the laws. I say that the Indonesians would no longer stand for that. They want a greater share in the determination of their own country.
I was rather interested in some fumbling going on by some of our permanent officials. Whether we are a Labour 1202 Government or not, it is up to the Foreign Secretary to make the policy and it is the duty of our staffs in the Services to carry it out. My criticism of our own Government at the moment is that they are listening too much to the' policy spiked down by permanent officials without having the courage of their own convictions and moving forward in the spirit of the times and in the temper of the times that put us into power in this august Assembly. I want to make this point. In Singapore somebody ordered 2,000 pairs of shoes for the Malayans. What arrived from London or somewhere here? Two thousand pairs of jackboots with heels 1¾ inches thick, thick soles about an inch thick, while the boots were lined with velvet. Those were the footwear that the natives were to use in the tin mines and in the rubber plantations. I saw them myself. I want to know who is doing that. The Labour Government were discredited over it, and I am sure that none of our officials knew anything about it. Again our foreign policy can be influenced in such a fashion as this. When we entered Malaya we saw starvation and scarcity. We introduced feeding for the children in the schools, but it had not been going for a month when there was a signal from the War Office that all school feeding was to cease. That is not the way to get support for a Labour Government in Malaya. I saw coolies who were too weak to load ships. What I am pointing out is that we in the Labour movement have come to power, and we must have the courage of our convictions. We need not lean on anybody. We are here through our own strength and on our own ideas, and unless we keep to those then the Labour Government and indeed any British Government will lose face in the Far East.
I would like to finish with this. Disease and starvation must be fought. British forces are cluttering up the Far East at the present moment. Disease is rampant, especially venereal disease, about which nobody seems to want to talk. People prefer to stick. their heads into the sand and take no notice. Surgical supplies are needed. Why cannot the War Office make the Forces in the Far East loosen up and give some of their surgical supplies to the hospitals and other places out there where they are needed? I went into a hospital in Singapore and in the dispensary there 1203 were thousands upon thousands of bottles with labels but no drugs. In the operating theatre there were rusty instruments which the Japanese had ruined. Yet the Army and other Forces in the Far East have the most modern apparatus at hand. Why is it that that cannot be given for civilian use to increase the prestige of the British and why, too, cannot we get a civil administration going? I should like to say, when we hear of strikes in the Far East, do not put them down to Russia and do not put them down to Communism. These people are hungry and they want food as well as a complete new idea about life. We want men and women in our Foreign Service, trained and armed with a fighting faith in a cause of justice and understanding, and I believe we must have a new type of recruitment to our Foreign Service—a type of person with personality who will get things done irrespective of whether he or she has a university degree or not. That is the type of people we want going into our Foreign Service. How better can I finish than to quote Wingate's Order of the Day when he was moving into Burma at a time when we expected an 18 months' campaign against the Japanese? What was Wingate's Order of the Day? It was:Our aim is to make possible the Government of this world in which all men can live at peace and with the equal opportunity of sacrifice. Finally, knowing the vanity of man's effort and the confusion of his purpose, let us pray God that he may accept our services and direct our endeavours so that when we shall have done all, we shall sec the fruit of our labours and be satisfied.Because a Labour Government at this moment is in power, there is still faith in the Far East, and I say without fear or favour that had a Labour Government not been in power at the present moment the Far East would have been on fire from one end to the other. They believe in us. Let us see that because they believe in us they will not be betrayed.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Nutting (Melton)
I hope the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Davies) will not think me very academic if I draw the attention of the House back to the subject which was mentioned by my right hon.. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. Macmillan) in his magnificent opening speech. That subject is the United Nations organisation. When the last foreign affairs Debate took place, the 1204 outlook was pretty gloomy. The London Conference of Foreign Ministers had broken down, and the discussions of the deputies of the Foreign Ministers were at a standstill. Russian and American blocs were consolidating themselves in Eastern Europe and in the Far East. Generally there was a drift away from world cooperation amongst the three big Powers and consequently among the smaller nations.
Now, I think that whatever state the world may be in today, we have a slight credit on the balance sheet. Some slight improvement has been made. The Conference of Foreign Secretaries of the three big Powers at Moscow and the United Nations Conference have both taken place. The Moscow Conference was perhaps rather obscured by the greater Conference of the United Nations, but nevertheless concrete if not very far-reaching improvements were obtained at Moscow. The two most important improvements were that the deputies of the Foreign Ministers were able to get under way again with their discussions on the peace treaties with Italy and with the satellite Powers, and that the burning question of control in the Far East was settled. I hope the right hon. Gentleman who is to wind up the Debate this evening will tell us about the progress which is being made in the discussions of the deputies on the question of the peace treaties. We have not had any information from the Government regarding that very important question. I will only say, in respect of this problem, that I hope it is the definite attitude of His Majesty's Government to proceed as speedily as possible not only with the peace treaties with the satellite countries, but also with the peace treaty with Italy. I echo the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley, that an early peace treaty with Italy would add immeasureably to the strength of the Italian Government at this moment. In that vital area a strong Government should be produced, and all possible strength should be added to the present Government.
As regards the Far East, I am happy, that the Russians have been brought into the Allied Commission which is to sit in Washington. I have always felt that so long as General MacArthur was running the show in Japan, entirely by himself 1205 it was utterly and completely incongruous with the principle of United Nations' responsibility. Therefore, I am glad that a Commission has been set up, and I hope the powers it has been given in theory will, in fact, be exercised in practice. 1 hope Mr. Byrnes's explanation to the American people is not the correct explanation of what the Far Eastern Commission will do. I hope it does not leave General MacArthur's powers completely as they were before, and that instructions will be issued to him on important questions by the Commission, and will be carried out by him. A very slight step towards democratisation, and away from the bloc system, was taken at that same Moscow Conference by the appointment of two members of democratic parties to the Government of Rumania. I am sorry that the same has not been the case in Bulgaria. The Moscow Conference tended to move in the direction of a new co-operation in international administration. I think it is absolute nonsense to suggest, as some malicious newspapers in this country and America have suggested, that we lost, and America and Russia gained, at that Conference. I think international co-operation has gained, and that the recovery of the lost threads of agreement among the United Nations, particularly the big Three, paved the way for the United Nations' Conference in London.
What of the United Nations itself? Generally speaking, it has done a good job in what it has had to tackle. Unfortunately, the work which it performed in the Assembly, and in Committees, was slightly obscured by the somewhat unreal discussions in the Security Council. But even in the Security Council, a good deal of air was cleared, and there was undoubtedly a healthy exchange of opinions between the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary and his Russian counterpart. However, there are obvious dangers and unsatisfactory aspects in regard to the present voting arrangements in the Security Council. I was glad to read, yesterday, that it is the intention to appoint a committee of experts to go into the question of the veto. I have always felt that this veto was too strong. For that Council to do its job properly the majority view, and the majority vote, must prevail. Of course, there must be a corollary to that—unanimity among the great Powers. If this unanimity exists, 1206 then there is no need for the veto. But to get unanimity there is one obvious essential, to which I would like to refer for a few moments. From my experience of foreign affairs, which is brief but which is, perhaps, intimate, I belive you cannot take too much trouble the agree a basis for discussion before the Conference take place. Anybody who has had anything to do with international congresses or conference will agree with that. Anybody who had to deal with the Versailles Conference, after the last war, will agree that one of the main reasons for its breakdown, for the haphazard nature of its resolutions and decisions, was the complete failure of the delegates to agree beforehand on a definite basis for discussion.
Another danger in which the Security Council stands is that of procrastination. The tendency to refer ticklish disputes to direct negotiation between the parties to those disputes was marked in the American delegation, perhaps not unnaturally in view of the troubles which President Truman is going through in his own country. But for the United Nations to work, it is perhaps platitudinous to say that it must tackle all its problems and shirk none. In particular, it must tackle the economic problems which, at the moment, are perhaps worse and more threatening that the political. Fortified by its wisely adopted parenthood of U.N.R.R.A., it must see that wartime machinery, such institutions as the Combined Boards, is expanded to deal with the infinitely greater economic problem of the peace. It must concentrate on the essential task of dealing with hunger, disease, unemployment, and agriculture in devastated countries.
What of the world at large? Apart from economic problems, there are still obvious and dangerous trouble centres in the world. There are political troubles. The Persian situation is very threatening. I fear that the present Persian Government may not prove strong enough in their negotiation with the time comes, on 2nd March, for the with drawl of their troops, may find a little clause in a rather ancient treaty which will give give them the 1207 opportunity, together with the general state of unrest in Persia, to remain in that country. I hope it will not be so, but I rather fear that it may be. I should be grateful if the Minister of State will tell us, later, whether the Government have anticipated that eventuality, and what steps they intend to take to deal with it. Indeed the whole of the Middle East may boil over at any moment. There is pressure in Egypt for a revision of the Treaty, and such revision must obviously come, even if it is only of a token nature. I say "token," because when the question of the Italian colonies comes to be settled the strategical importance of Egypt and the maintenance of troops there is very much greater than ever before. I therefore hope that the Minister will tell us something about Government policy in regard to the Egyptian Treaty.
Then there is Indonesia. The Dutch proposals appear to me to be sensible and moderate, and I hope, indeed, I expect, that Dr. Sjahrir will accept them, although I fear that the extremists may not.. Therefore it is possible that the agreement may have to be enforced. This will require a reinforcement of troops, and I hope that the burden of reinforcing the troops and enforcing the agreement will not fall on this country. I hope it will fall squarely on the shoulders of the Dutch, who are responsible for that area. Then there is Greece, which is little nearer a solution of her turbulent situation, and Italy, which is still racked by the economic bankruptcy and political intrigue and irresponsibility with which she has been tortured ever since her liberation. Germany, as the right hon. Gentleman who opened this Debate made plain, is being administered as two, and in some cases even as three, countries in spite of the Potsdam Agreement, while Eastern Europe remains largely shut off from the outside world and only very slowly and tentatively progresses towards democratic rebirth.
Indeed it is only too easy to be pessimistic when one looks at the world today, and it is only too easy to be, what is much more dangerous, cynical about the present situation. It is easy to say that we heard all this talk about U.N.O. in a. different context after the last war, and that we shall never get the nations to agree. Cynicism of this kind at this 1208 moment is, in my humble view, as dangerous as was the over enthusiasm and blind faith in the League which existed.after the last war. Both cynicism and pessimism are utterly wrong and defeatist. As the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary said at the opening of the United Nations organisation, we must not expect miracles; the United Nations cannot solve all the problems in a day or even in a decade. It can only work by the united efforts of its members and by the subordination of national policies of all its members to the interests and purposes for which it was set up.
The first conference of the United Nations has been successful. The nations have learned a good lesson in how to work together. They have developed, as "The limes" put it the other day, "a corporate sense." The organisation is blessed with the power which the League lacked—the co-operation of America and of Russia. The principle of responsibility and unanimity among the great powers is firmly established. A fair beginning has been made, and we, I think, have given a lead through the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman, the Foreign Secretary, of which we may well be proud. We have played our part in getting the organisation on to its feet. We must continue to give it that combination of idealism and realism which it needs, and work for its success in a spirit of sober confidence and high endeavour.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
I am extremely glad that this Debate has taken a turn to the Far East, both in the very vigorously eloquent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) and also, in passing, in the thoughtful speech of the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Nutting). In my view the Far East is, although it is insufficiently discussed in this House, as in this country is, one of the two crucial problems in international affairs today, the other being, of course, the subject which has pre-occupied most hon. Members, Anglo-Soviet relations. It is of quite desperate importance, this continent of Asia, this region of the world where, as. has been so well said, the French and the Russian Revolutions have arrived hand in hand, and I propose to devote most of my few remarks to that subject. 1209 Before doing so, I should like to accept and endorse my hon. Friend's solemn remonstrance to Pressmen. As a journalist, I should like to say that I entirely share his view that we should report responsibly and accurately such events as have been occurring in Indonesia—though I think, as a matter of fact, that the remonstrance should be forwarded not so much to the Pressmen themselves as to newspaper proprietors, especially those millionaire proprietors, such as Mr. William Randolph Hearst who debase the whole profession of journalism.
Let me also deal parenthetically with one or two points made in the speeches of other hon. Members. I do not suppose that my right hon. Friend when he comes to reply, will find it necessary to deal at any great length with the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner), and the hon. and gallant Member will excuse us on this side of the House from attempting to deal in any detail with his somewhat discursive though interesting essay in ethnography and terminology, and his reminiscences of what must have been a singularly happy mess Much as we like having him with us here, the hon. and gallant Member ought really, at this moment, to be in Ottawa, helping the gallant "Mounties" in those extraordinary proceedings in that place where the spirit of the late Lord Tweedsmuir and "The Thirty-Nine Steps," seems to be lingering. According to his rather murky lights, however, the hon. and gallant Member did deal at some length with this first most crucial problem—Anglo-Soviet relationships—and I thought that the most interesting passage of the speech with which the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) opened the Debate was his analysis of the attitude of Russia as being a desire not for expansion so much as for security
I do not want to deal at length with this particular subject, but there is just one point which has not, I think, been made and which is of extreme importance. Some little time ago some of us used to think and speak of Britain and the British Empire as being the great middle power between the extreme individualism of America and the extreme collectivism of Soviet Russia. Imperceptibly, but suddenly, those relative positions are completely reversed, so that that responsible journalist, Walter Lippmann, 1210 was able to say on 13th February in his column in the "New York Herald Tribune" when writing about the difficulties and the deterioration of relationships between Britain and the U.S.S.R.: "That is where the United States will have to come into it…. as the mediator who can restore negotiations within the Big Three." In my view, at this moment the Americans are getting on much better with the Russians than we are, and that is, possibly, in some respects a disquieting factor.
Turning to my main theme, I would like to say that the main political fact. in the world today is hunger, and that when we in this country grumble, as we are entitled to, about certain difficulties and inconveniences—about dried eggs, or whatever it may be—it is very difficult for those of us who have fairly recently been to the East not to see, in our imagination, the gaunt and despairing faces of the literally millions of our fellow human beings and fellow citizens of the British Empire who are going to die of starvation this year.
I really feel that in this country we must try to get this matter in proportion. It is estimated by reliable and responsible people that in India alone 6,000,000 persons will die this year of starvation, and the Minister of Food admitted quite clearly in the Debate last week that we shall be totally unable to meet their urgent requirements—to provide what Lord Wavell has asked for India. That is a terrible situation, and the same prevails to a greater or less degree throughout the rice-consuming countries of the Far East, such as Burma and Malaya. In Malaya our stock of good will, I am afraid, has deteriorated considerably since the moment of liberation last summer, when we were received with tremendous good will by the Malayan people. It has deteriorated for a number of different reasons, but chief among them is this business of hunger, and the fact that Malaya is overcrowded with Dutch and Eurasian refugees from Indonesia, whom the Malayans see coming in and being given rations and so on, all helps to exacerbate the situation in Malaya and links it directly to this controversial subject of Indonesia.
I think that the Foreign Secretary, above all previous Foreign Secretaries, perhaps, is well aware of this particular 1211 problem. He always puts the feeding of all people everywhere, and their standard of living, well in the forefront of his foreign policy. Also, he does not adopt towards the Far East, 1 am glad to say, that terribly negative, nescient attitude which one finds all too often among people in this country, and which reminds one so disquietingly of Mr. Chamberlain's famous phrase in his broadcast about Czechoslovakia—" a distant country of which we know nothing."
On this question of Indonesia I was extremely glad to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Leek said, and, to learn that, from his own eye-witness observations, he was able to confirm absolutely what some of us in this House have been saying about the Indonesian situation for some months past. For the benefit of my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, I would like to say also that my lion. Friend the Member for Leek has read the Debate, which he will remember we had on nth December, and tells me that from his observation and talks with Dr. Sjahrir, General Christison, Admiral Mountbatten and everybody on the spot, including the Dutch, he agrees with every word that I ventured to say in that Debate.
At the recent United Nations Assembly this matter of Indonesia was raised in what may have seemed a rather clumsy and exaggerated way by the Ukrainian delegation. I think it is only fair to them to point out that they were obliged by the terms of the Charter to use the phrases they did use. It was a technicality. It was necessary to refer to the "endangering of peace," or whatever the particular phrase was which seemed to us somewhat exaggerated. None the less, I am glad that it was raised there, and I am rather sorry that we did not go further in seizing that opportunity of really putting ourselves right, with everybody by handing over the whole responsibility for the Indonesian situation clearly to the United Nations. It is true that negotiations are at present going on which, like the hon. Member opposite, I hope most sincerely will be successful. Some of us had the privilege of meeting Dr. Van Mook when he was in London immediately after the Chequers conversations. I must say that I personally formed a high opinion of his 1212 ability and moderation and integrity. We know that he had great difficulties at The Hague We have heard testimony this evening to the moderation and intelligence of Dr. Sjahrir, who may not be able to control all the extremists, it is true, but who does, I am quite convinced, carry with him the opinion and the sentiment of the overwhelming majority of the various peoples of Indonesia: indeed, so we were assured by Dr. Van Mook himself—and.it would be hard to have a more impartial opinion on that point. Furthermore, we have in Indonesia at present, very fortunately, Sir Archibald Clark Kerr—than whom, if I may be momentarily disorderly, Mr. Speaker, there is no mere admirable Ambassador.
The only point at which I part company with the hon. Member opposite is when he thinks that the Dutch proposals, so far as they are known to us,, are completely adequate. It may be that Dr. Sjahrir will accept them. I sincerely hope he will; but, if he does not accept them or if he cannot put them across his own people, what happens then? Do we embark on a semi-permanent commitment in Indonesia? The only way the terms can then be imposed is by force, and the hon. Member for Melton suggested, quite rightly I think, that we do not want to have the onus of that. He added that it should be left to the Dutch alone. There are great dangers about that course. I think that the Dutch, if they attempt to reimpose their regime by force on Indonesia, will be committed to a very long and bloody war. They have shown already that they are not really capable of handling this situation, and the peoples of Indonesia in their present stage of development and nationalist excitement, with reasonableness and with calm. The Dutch have alternately shown hysteria and intransigeance and I think that it is only going to cause infinitely more bloodshed, and that it will take much longer to get a peaceful solution, if we leave it entirely to the Dutch. On the other hand, there is this dilemma, that we want to get our own troops away as quickly as possible. That seems to me to build up into an overwhelming argument for really placing the whole of this problem in the hands of the United Nations—that is, if these present negotiations break down; we all hope, of course, that there will be a peaceful solution as a result of them.
§ Mr. Nutting
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will not mind my interrupting, since he was referring to my speech. Before leaving that point would he say whether he does not think there would be. Sufficient numbers in the Indonesian Army, say 50 per cent., who would follow Dr. Sjahrir and endorse the agreement and, therefore, be able to co-operate with the Dutch troops in enforcing it on the country?
§ Mr. Driberg
That is a very speculative point. The fact is, fortunately or unfortunately, that the Dutch are extremely unpopular in Indonesia at the moment. The hon. Member must remember that. Whereas the Indonesians, on the whole, like our troops, most of whom have behaved most admirably, they most definitely do not like the Dutch troops, and I think it would be very difficult for Dr. Sjahrir to persuade any substantial portion of his armed followers to co-operate with Dutch troops in reimposing a Dutch régime. I really do not think that would be very likely to happen.
I would like to refer again in passing to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leek, that some of the Press reports from Indonesia have not been entirely responsible In particular, I have learned from officers who have recently returned that some of the stories which have been told, not only in the newspapers, but, I am sorry to say, from the Government Front Bench in this House, have been very far from accurate and have unnecessarily imported prejudice and blackened the character of the Indonesians. One story in particular concerns the lamented death of Brigadier Mallaby. That was announced to us as a foul murder, and we accepted it as such. I have learned from officers who were present when it happened the exact details and it is perfectly clear that Brigadier Mallaby was not murdered but was honourably killed in action.
There is obviously all the difference in the world between the two things. I am perfectly prepared, for the sake of my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, to go into details, but I do not want to lengthen my speech unduly, and I can give them to him privately afterwards if he wishes. I am satisfied that Brigadier Mallaby was not murdered but honourably killed in action.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker
I would be much obliged if the hon. Member would go into details. Brigadier Mallaby had gone to negotiate a truce and "killed in action" implies that there was aggression on one side. It was not aggression on our side as he was negotiating a truce. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
§ Mr. Driberg
If hon. Members will wait they will hear the actual details. It was like this. The incident was somewhat confused—as such incidents are—but it took place in and near Union Square in Surabaya. There had been discussions about a truce earlier in the day. A large crowd of Indonesians—a mob, if you like—had gathered in the square and were in a rather excited state. About 20 Indians, in a building on the other side of the square, had been cut off from telephonic communication and did not know about the truce. They were firing sporadically on the mob. Brigadier Mallaby came out from the discussions, walked straight into the crowd, with great courage, and shouted to the Indians to cease fire. They obeyed him. Possibly half an hour later the mob in the square became turbulent again. Brigadier Mallaby, at a certain point in the proceedings, ordered the Indians to open fire again. They opened fire with two Bren guns, and the mob dispersed and went to cover; then fighting broke out again in good earnest. It is apparent that when Brigadier Mallaby gave the order to open fire again, the truce was in fact broken, at any rate locally. Twenty minutes to half an hour after that, he was, most unfortunately, killed in his car—although even now it is not absolutely certain whether he was killed by Indonesians or by a grenade thrown by an Indian officer at some Indonesians who were approaching his car, which exploded simultaneously with the attack on him. Those are the actual facts of Brigadier Mallaby's death. I am sorry to have inflicted them on the House at such length, but my right hon. Friend did ask me to do so, and I do not think "that they amount to a charge of foul murder against people in an extremely delicate situation in which we do not want to use language likely to exacerbate it.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
I do not want to interrupt, but this is a grave matter. This very gallant officer 1215 was well known to many hon. Members of the House for his services rendered during the war. Presumably, the Government must have a report of the incident and, in view of what the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) has said, I hope the Government will take steps to make the report public.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I feel sure my right hon. Friend will be prepared to do that. Whether I can do it tonight is another matter, but my right hon. Friend will reply to many points tomorrow.
§ Mr. Driberg
I shall welcome that, because my information came absolutely at first-hand from a British officer who was actually on the spot at the moment, whose bona fides I have no reason to question. I have known him for some time.
As I have gone on unduly long, I shall have to skip most of the rest of what I wanted to say, but I would like to end by saying that I hope that the problems of South-East Asia are going to be dealt with as a whole. There is a good precedent for that in a document to which I invite the attention of the House—the agreement between Australia and New Zealand at the beginning of 1944 and, in particular, the two paragraphs at the top of page 7 of that agreement, with which I will not weary the House now. It is essential that the problems of all these countries, Burma, Indonesia, French Indo-China— where we have largely got our Forces out after, I am afraid, practically re imposing the status quo of French imperialism— should be dealt with in this way, and Australia and New Zealand should obviously be brought into discussion. It is a good sign that the appointment was announced yesterday of a special emissary to advise the Government on foreign affairs as regards South-East Asia. This is a sign that the problem is going to be handled urgently as a whole. I hope South-East Asia will become not an American, nor a Russian, nor a British sphere of influence, but a United Nations sphere of influence. I am sorry I cannot extend the same approval to the choice of the first holder of this very important, post. In view of your Ruling this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, I will not comment on this appointment other than to call attention to the comment in yesterday's "News Chronicle" by the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Vernon Bartlett), 1216 who can hardly be described as an extreme partisan of the Left, and to say that the only people who will be pleased with the appointment are the Japanese, and, of course, the Egyptians.
This matter of overseas appointments, about which we have heard a certain amount recently, needs tackling urgently. Long-term reforms are very well in their way, but they do not deal with the immediate position in Asia, or anywhere else, and whilst the long-term reforms are maturing we may all be atomised to pieces. On this point, the Government remind me of a theatrical producer who has learned that bedroom farces are no longer fashionable, and that the public will take Shakespeare now. He puts on a season of Shakespeare—and then goes and casts Tom Walls as Hamlet, and Nellie Wallace—bless her!—as Lady Macbeth. We really must have new men and new methods in foreign policy in the Far East and elsewhere, not merely to tell the world, but to show the world, that we have a Socialist Government in Britain.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Major Hugh Fraser (Stone)
It is a great pleasure to me that the hon. Members for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) and Leek (Mr. H. Davies) raised the question of Indonesia. I think they underestimated what the present Government are doing and what British troops are doing in that area. The hon. Member for Leek said that the discussion here tonight was academic, and that the problem in the Far East was being disregarded and replaced by academic arguments on foreign policy. The whole question of food, as is concerns 60,000,000 people in Java and other territories in the East Indies, is affected vitally by the new set-up in the Dutch East. Indies and that depends enormously on what policy is pursued by His Majesty's Government today. It is not an academic matter at all. It is not a matter which calls for new men and new methods. The Government have laid down what their responsibilities are in Indonesia, and it is on those responsibilities that the House may ask for some assurance and confirmation. The responsibilities which the country undertook were two. The first was the capture and eventual deportation of some 80,000 Japanese, and the second was the liberation of a large number of Dutch persons, held by the Indonesian army in the centre 1217 of Java. But there is a third matter that arises, and that is the holding of the ring between the Dutch negotiators and the Indonesians. To say that the Indonesian army is not of importance, to say that it is merely a matter of argument in Surabaya or Batavia between Mr. van Mook and the Indonesian representatives, is not in the least true. It is a question of negotiations being carried on with an insurgent force, the so-called "Indonesian Republic," which is backed by a considerable force of arms. For that reason, we have been forced into the situation of having to hold the ring inside Indonesia between two forces which are opposed to each other. I think we may ask the Government seriously what their future intentions are concerning the full acceptance of that situation, since the restoration of order in Java is of vital importance to the feeding of some 60,000,000 or 80,000,000 people in that area.
It is not only a question of the extremely complicated irrigation system created by the Dutch, but of the supply of fertilisers for the dry paddy fields. Unless these and other matters affecting the extremely over-populated area at the centre are looked after, there will be starvation throughout Java. The restoration of order is essential, and that restoration will, and must, depend upon what decisions can be reached between Mr. van Mook and Mr. Sjahrir. I think it would be as well to remember that all that has been said about Dutch oil, Royal Dutch, and so forth, and Dutch imperialist interests, is not entirely true. The movement towards democracy in Indonesia and the Dutch East Indies has been of extremely rapid growth. Since 1904, in 1917, 1925, 1928, 1938, and 1942—less than half a century—there has been a tremendous advance, unparalleled in the political advancement of a people anywhere, and at the same time a tremendous expansion of the wealth and prosperity of Indonesia. Let not that be forgotten. It is not a question of the Dutch maintaining a stranglehold on the Indians. They have not done so. I believe that in Indonesia there is to be found some of the finest development by a Colonial Power that has been seen in the whole world.
To put the other case, the case for Soekarno and Sjahrir, I think the House must distinguish distinctly between those 1218 two men. Hon. Members must distinguish most clearly between Soekarno, the President of the so-called "Indonesian Republic," the puppet of Japan, who received the Order of the Golden Treasure—second class—from the hands of the Emperor himself, and Sjahrir. That is an important point which was not sufficiently stressed by the hon. Member for Leek, who did not make a distinction between those people who believe in the power and excellence of Soekarno and those who support Sjahrir. Soekarno is not present at the conferences. He is President of the so-called Republic; he is in the interior. These negotiations are being carried on with Sjahrir. Whether the negotiations succeed or fail—as succeed, pray God, they will—there is certain to be a period of extreme difficulty, which will go on for several years, during which somebody must assume responsibility for order, responsibility for carrying on the normal civil services, which are not being carried on at the moment, and responsibility for the irrigation schemes. The point is that the Dutch will not be able to put troops in the field in sufficient numbers for at least another 18 months. That is why the problem will arise in a critical and acute form as to who will see that the agreement, when it has been reached between the Moderates and van Mook, is carried out. Therefore, I ask the Government for a statement as to what they regard as being the precise limit of their commitment in that most unfortunate and unhappy land of the Dutch East Indies.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
There has been much discussion outside and some discussion in this Chamber, together with some criticism, of the work of the United Nations. I think the United Nations have done a good job. They have made a start at laying the foundations of an organisation that can protect world peace. There have been differences, and unfortunately those differences have been between the Labour Government and the Socialist Government of the Soviet Unions, the two Governments that should have the most in common. There has been much talk in the Press and in the House explaining the causes of these differences. The right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. Harold Macmillan) made a speech which can be boiled down to the simple thesis—I should be prepared to go 1219 over it with anyone tomorrow—that anything that is done by Britain is honourable beyond question, and anything that is done by the Soviet Union is mysterious, suspicious and subject to very considerable question.
We will leave these fictions aside and we will discuss one or two facts. The first fact, which I put to the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply, is that foreign policy must harmonise with home policy, or the Government will be wrecked. Some of this discussion to which I have referred has gone into the workshops and the Forces. I have here a letter, one of the very many I have received from men serving in other parts of the world, in which the writer says that, "in the first place, there was the speech that was made by the Government spokesman, Lord Jowitt, on 6th November in the House of Lords, when he said that the world situation and not the transport position was the deciding factor in demobilisation." That has been discussed not only in the workshops, but among the Forces everywhere—foreign policy and its relation with demobilisation. Foreign policy is discussed also in relation to many other questions that affect the workers and the lads in the Forces. Last week the Foreign Secretary, speaking in this House, received the most vehement hostility from the Tory Benches. What was he speaking for? He was speaking for the organised working-class movement of this country. But we know that on occasion the Foreign Secretary has spoken in the House and received tumultuous cheers from the Tory benches. What was he speaking for then? Hon. Members have told us today that he was speaking for Britain. But the hon. Member forgot that there are two Britains. Even Disraeli recognised that. There are the Britain of the Tory Party and the Britain of the people. The Tory Party has a foreign policy which harmonises with its home policy. What is its home policy? Democracy that maintains the landlords and capitalists at the expense of the masses of the people.
I ask the Minister this question. Maybe he will consider it, maybe he will answer. If the Tories have to choose between democracy without landlords and capitalists, or landlords and capitalists without democracy, which will they 1220 choose? The right hon. Gentleman may say that that is a hypothetical question, but it is not. It is a question which is being presented in country after country at the present time. Take Poland. We have heard quite a lot of talk about Poland. There the new progressive forces and the Government that represent them have dispensed with the semi-feudal landlords, and the big estates have been divided among the peasants. They are nationalising the industries. The Tories are very concerned about Poland. What is their concern? Democracy. They are so anxious about democracy. Day after day there are questions about democracy, but let any one raise in this Chamber a question about Franco Spain, Portugal or Argentina, and the Tories do not want any interference with the internal affairs of another country. [Laughter.] It is a great subject for the levity of the right hon. Gentleman, who has recently returned to the House, but he should not forget that his master, when he was Prime Minister, signed an agreement at Yalta and prepared the way for the signing of another agreement by the present Prime Minister at Potsdam pledging this House and the country to destroy Fascism wherever it was found. When do they intend to get busy on Spain, Portugal and Argentina? Let us have less of Poland and more of democracy in Spain and Portugal.
In the Balkan countries the landlords have been dispensed with, and the big estates divided among the peasants. If the liberation forces had been given the opportunity the same thing would apply in Greece, but our Forces there were used against them. I listened to the right hon. Member for Bromley explaining what happened in Greece, but he did not state that the then Prime Minister of Greece had given a permit for a mass demonstration on the Sunday, and late on Saturday night, near midnight, at the incitement of the Ambassador, he forbade the demonstration, when there was no time to call it off. When the demonstration took place, the fighting started, and tanks, guns, bombing planes were used by Britain to break up and destroy, if possible, the progressive forces in Greece. Whatever the intentions, the effects are there. The one country in that part of the world that still has the landlords claiming the land, and where the masses of the people are left without, is Greece. 1221 Here we have a situation in which the workers of this country are paying, in taxation, to help to maintain the landowners in Greece, while they are paying a political levy to get rid of the landowners here. That is not Labour policy, that is Tory policy.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Is the hon. Member aware that the land in Greece was distributed by. Mr. Venizelos to the peasants 25 years ago, and the landowners were left with 160 acres?
§ Mr. Gallacher
The landowners are there in Greece, and own the greater part of the land there. I do not want to become personal, but the landowners are not only there but here. No one can dispute that the assets there are still in the possession of those who exploit and rob the peasant of the fruits of his labour. If the progressive forces had been left alone the Royalists would have gone, in a big hurry too. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) said at the time that our Forces were there to prevent a massacre. Our Forces used tanks, guns and bombing planes to massacre.the progressive forces. If workers are killed it is not a massacre; it is only.when there is a danger of some Royalists being killed that there is talk of a massacre. No Tory can point out to me a case in history where a massacre of peasants or workers has taken place which was called a massacre by the other side of the House. If the progressive forces had been left alone, Greece would have been in line with the other progressive countries.
I wish to say a word or two about Indonesia. Our troops are there, and they would be much better back home. If they had not been there the Dutch would not have lasted there any length of time. They would have had to get out of Indonesia, and the Indonesian people would have had their independence. The Foreign Secretary, speaking at U.N.O., said that our troops had never been used against the Indonesian Nationalists. I have hear4 an hon. Member say that in a private conversation, he was told that the British had taken no offensive action towards them, and had only acted defensively.
But no one can persuade me that the wiping out by bombing planes of a village, whether it be in Indonesia or 1222 Czechoslovakia, is. defensive action. What have our troops been used against if not against the Indonesian Nationalists? We are told, if we are told anything, that it is not against the Indonesian Nationalists but against the extremists. That is an old story, but it is an old Tory story. Last week in this House Tory after Tory got up and said that the Trade Disputes Act was not passed against the honest bona fide, trade unionist; it was to defend and protect the honest trade unionist from the extremists. But the important thing is that if it were not for our troops being there, the Dutch oil imperialists would have had to get out.
Mention was made by the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) about the question that was raised in U.N.O. about the danger to peace. If the Dutch imperialists are left in Indonesia there will be a very serious danger to the peace of the world. If any exception is taken to that, take the statement made by the Noble Lord yesterday, when he drew attention to the fact that this Commission of three /had to go to India, because the situation in India was endangering the peace of the world. That is where we are in India—endangering the peace of the world.
Surely if our presence in India, and the situation that has developed out of it, is endangering the peace of the world, the presence of the Dutch in Indonesia will also be a menace to the peace of the world, to the whole of Asia, because as has been said before the Asiatic peoples are determined to get their independence and play their part with other nations in world progress. The Dutch are in Indonesia. What for? In the interests of the Indonesians? No. In the interests of Indonesia itself? No—they are there to get all the money and profit they can out of the poverty of the Indonesian people. That is what they are there for. The Minister said that our troops are not being used against the Indonesian Nationalists. Is the Minister prepared to go to that Box and say that our troops there are assisting the Indonesians to get their independence, to get rid of those who have been exploiting them for generations? That is what the workers are paying the political levy for—to get emancipation for themselves and to assist the workers elsewhere to get emancipation.
1223 Do not let us have any more of this talk about conspiracies against Britain. When the Boer war was being fought, the Young Labour movement of this country, and in every country, supported the Boers against the British imperialists. Was it a conspiracy against Britain? No, it was the natural response of men who were struggling against exploitation to support a small nation fighting for its independence. During the last war part of the Labour movement supported the war and the Government, while another section of the Labour movement opposed the war as an imperialist war. The Foreign Secretary was with the section opposing the war. He, like myself, was a spokesman at the Leeds conference of the soldiers' and workers' delegates pledging our full support to the young Soviet State that was growing up in Russia and which has played such a part in leading the masses forward. Was that a conspiracy against Britain?
§ Mr. Gallacher
No. It was the natural response of the workers, who were anxious to assist their fellow workers and to get in line with the progress that was being made.
§ Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth)
Was that also the natural reason why, at the beginning of the war, the hon. Gentleman could not work with the Foreign Secretary in standing up for his country?
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am not going to be led away by a distraction of that kind. I have done with that. I was here in theHouse all the time, and I was prepared at any time, whenever any question was raised, to face the Tories on the policy they were pursuing at the beginning of the war. I was prepared to support the war against Fascism, but when the right hon. Gentleman's Friends started trying to get Fascist Italy in on the side of Britain— [Interruption,] It is a fact. Read the publication of the late Lord Lloyd, with an introduction by the then Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax. It was published in pamphlet form and called "Britain's Case." In it, the highest possible tribute was paid to Mussolini and his Fascists, to Franco and the Fascists of Spain, and a declaration was made to 1224 America that we were not fighting against the Fascists but were carrying on quite a different sort of fight. Let hon. Members read that.
§ Mr. Bracken
We might also consider the tribute paid to Herr von Ribbentrop by certain eminent gentlemen from Leeds.
§ Mr. Gallacher
They were on the right hon. Gentleman's side—on the Tory side—the people who had Ribbentrop over here. Do not forget that in this House the Tory Party appealed to the then Speaker and got him to reprimand me for being offensive about Mr. Ribbentrop.
In Indonesia the conditions are simply appalling. Last week I received a letter from six staff sergeants. It was addressed to the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and a number of Members of Parliament. The story they tell is almost unbelievable, that our soldiers should be encouraging in any way a situation producing such appalling and fearsome conditions! These staff sergeants, who signed their names, make a demand to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary that our troops should be taken out of Indonesia, and that the Dutch should be taken out too, so that the Indonesians can have the opportunity of building up their own independent government.
There were several other points 1 wanted to make, but I promised not to be too long, and I never like to go back on my word. But I want to put one or two questions to the Foreign Secretary, through the Under-Secretary. First, does he recognise the community of interest between the people of Britain, the Labour Government and the new progressive forces in Europe? Second, does he agree that while the military defeat of Fascism has been achieved, its political and moral defeat is still to be accomplished? Third, does he agree that our foreign policy has got to be directed towards breaking the power of the former economic and political backers of Fascism?
If he does agree to those propositions— the propositions of Yalta and of Potsdam—there can be no fundamental differences between our foreign policy and that of the Soviet Union. I would say that the Foreign Secretary has to harmonise his 1225 foreign policy with his home policy. There has got to be a clean-up in the Foreign Office, and in the ambassadorial staffs. Let him publish a list of the higher officials in the Foreign Office, and of the ambassadorial staffs, and give us their social background. We shall then see the character of the.people who represent us in every part of the world. The right hon. Gentleman has to get a working-class policy, a policy which represents the progressive people of this country, and which will fit in with the progressive desires of the movements now going on in the various countries of Europe
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Maclay (Montrose Burghs)
The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr.Gallacher) has left dangling some of the most tempting pieces of bait I have seen for a long time, but I am afraid I must resist them and stick to the points which I am very anxious to stress this evening in my own speech
I would like for a short time to refer to the beginning of this Debate, and say a few words about the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan). I feel that it was a most interesting and at times exceedingly moving speech. Generally speaking, I think that what he said had the agreement of this House. I personally agreed entirely with everything he said about the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Minister. He gave him great praise for the work he has done recently and with that I could not more cordially agree. But I hope I may not be thought grudging if I say that I believe that the Foreign Minister, in fact, the British Government, have to go much further than they have done during recent weeks. These recent weeks must surely have shown that it is not enough to say that the whole basis of our foreign policy is the United Nations organisation. That is admirable, but does it really mean very much? Does it mean any more than that we want peace and prosperity for all? It is admirable, but is it very constructive? The world must know, I submit, what we are prepared to put into the common pool, what is our strength, and whether we intend to preserve it, build it up where necessary, so that we can give of our best for the common good. The world must know how far we intend to allow other nations to go before we call 1226 a halt, particularly if the motives of those other nations are obscure.
That there is doubt, at least in the minds of certain nations, as to British intentions must now be obvious to everyone. I would like to quote from tin article which comes from a very surprising source. In a most interesting leader written, I imagine, by the editor of the paper, one finds:One reason, we believe, which is inducing the Soviet Government to act as they do is their conviction that Britain has ceased to be a Great Power, that the British Empire is disintegrating and that this country is slowly but surely entering a period of decay. From a Tory Government which, by its nature, is egotistically nationalistic and ruthlessly imperialist they might have expected a determined fight for Britain's position in the world, and therefore respected, if not liked it. In contrast, they expect a Labour Government, which they regard as inherently weak and tending to make the worst of all possible worlds, to be unable to prevent such decay and even to hasten it. And they go over to the attack very largely because of this suspected weakness, while being careful and accommodating with the respected power and strength of the United States.I make no comment on the part in the middle about the Tory Government because I do not want to make a controversial speech this afternoon. That paragraph is taken from the leader in the "Tribune," which paper, I understand, is produced under the most admirable Socialist auspices. I hope hon. Members opposite will read the whole of the leader. It is a most constructive and very interesting one. It is not, however, only the Soviet Government that is wondering whether Britain has ceased to be a Great Power and whether the British Empire is on the point of disintegration. Many other nations in the world have doubts and fears. I say fears because to the greater part of the world the existence of the British Commonwealth and Empire represents stability, respect for the rule of law in national and international affairs. For all its defects I do submit that no nearer approach to the world State of our dreams yet exists.
Can the world be blamed for wondering what is to be the fate of the British Empire under the present Government? The Foreign Minister's recent performance must have given great encouragement but Socialist speeches, Socialist books for years past are remembered. Questions and interjections from the back benches opposite at Question Time 1227 receive publicity. Can hon. Members opposite deny that over a period of years Socialists in Britain have given the impression of being utterly ashamed of the Empire, if not actively hostile to it? Can other nations be blamed for wondering whether the Foreign Minister speaks for his Party or only for a section of it, for wondering whether under Socialist Government Britain intends to allow her Empire to disintegrate? There could be no greater tragedy for the future of world peace than that that should happen. I do urge hon. Members opposite both in this House and out of it, no matter what they feel about defects in its structure, to make it clear they believe in the British Empire and the British Commonwealth of Nations and the principles for which it stands. It has been said to me by numerous foreigners of several nations that what worries them most about this Government and about the Socialists of Britain is what they intend to do with the Empire. Are they just going to let it go or what is their constructive policy?
I would like to illustrate the point I am going to make about the Empire and the Commonwealth from my own recent personal experience. During the war, I was privileged to serve for two years under the right hon. Gentleman the Senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) when he was the British member of the Combined ' Shipping Adjustment Board in Washington. Subsequently, I succeeded him in that position for about a year. Acting, of course, under the instructions of the Cabinet and the Minister of War Transport, our principal duty was the co-ordination with the United States of the United Nations' merchant fleets so that the most effective use might be made of every possible ship in furtherance of the war effort in every corner of the globe. Our work involved daily, if not hourly, consultation and negotiation with our United States colleagues. It entailed continuous contact with Dominion and Colonial representatives in Washington and a fairly close contact with representatives of the maritime United Nations. I realise that this experience was in a limited field, but not so very limited as the decisions reached affected only military operations but the daily rations, war production, and a considerable part of the economic life of a good many nations. I venture, therefore, to 1228 draw on that experience for a few minutes.
Early on we learned a most essential lesson. That was that the full concurrence and agreement of the Dominions, both on general principles and in detail, were essential if we were to get agreement with our American colleagues. For a short time we did not have that agreement and the American shipping authorities "were at times faced with conflicting arguments and claims. Everyone quickly realised how much more difficult this made our problem. We had to tackle it and we did not find any difficulty in reaching a common basis of agreement with our Dominion representatives on these very difficult subjects, provided there was ample exchange of information and prior consultation. I urge the Parliamentary Secretary to listen carefully to what I am saying on this subject because I think it is of the most vital importance, and I hope he will convey it not only to the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Minister but to other Cabinet Ministers. What the Dominions will not stand is action by the United Kingdom which affects their interests if it is taken without prior information and consultation.
Agreement with the Dominions once achieved was welcomed by our American friends. I do not think I am in any way exaggerating when I say that once the Commonwealth and the United States were in agreement the other nations involved welcomed the clarity of the lead that was given. When war conditions gave way to the transition from war to peace the maritime United Nations gave a magnificent lead in the field of shipping by the formation of the United Maritime administration which, while recognising the rights and privileges of the nations concerned, nevertheless, preserved order in a highly competitive international industry and made certain the continued availability of the world's shipping for the essential tasks of demobilisation and reconstruction. The United Maritime Administration has had its last meeting but, according to the recent official Press release, it has been able to submit agreed decisions to its component Governments and I think that shipping will be kept under a reasonable co-ordination during the next eight months until these still urgent tasks are completed.
My reason for mentioning all this is that there can be no doubt that the success 1229 of the Allied handling of ships during the war and the success of the United Maritime Administration has been based, first of all, on agreement between the Dominions and the United Kingdom and, secondly, on Commonwealth agreement with the United States. If the United Nations Organisation, dealing with its far wider field is to be successful, can there be any doubt that the same pattern must be followed?
I do urge responsible Ministers, and the Government as a whole, to study very closely the whole machinery of consultation and exchange of information with Dominion Governments. I know well that arrangements exist for regular consultation with the High Commissioners in London, but I doubt very much whether that is enough. The hon. Member for Stone (Major H. Fraser) during a recent Debate on Foreign Affairs, made a very interesting contribution on the subject. He urged further consideration of annual Imperial Councils and I think he also asked for reconsideration of the proposal made by Mr. Menzies that there should be a permanent Commonwealth Secretariat. I, too, hope that these things may come, but I am convinced that even without them a much better exchange of views and information could be achieved than now exists. Too often in this House, when Ministers are asked whether the Dominions have been consulted upon some action that has been taken, the answer is that the Dominions have been kept informed, but that is it very different matter.
If we are to achieve Commonwealth unanimity, I believe we must have some system of contact, on the departmental level. The fault may not lie by any means entirely with the British Government, or with our own system. It may possibly rest with the Dominion Governments. I would like to cite from my own personal experience in order to show why I am stressing this matter so strongly. I am anxious that the Under-Secretary of State should take up this point, because it is, I believe, fundamental to our Commonwealth relationships.
At one stage during the war it was necessary at very short notice to reduce sailings from North America to Australia and New Zealand. I have no doubt that High Commissioners in London, and the Prime Ministers' of the Dominions concerned, were fully advised of the basic 1230 shipping figures and of the operational requirements which had made the cut in sailings necessary. I am certain, on the other hand, that even the departmental Ministers in the Dominions had no understanding of the circumstances which had made the cuts necessary. These Depart-' mental Ministers had to bear the brunt of criticism in the Press and elsewhere when shortages began to appear, but all they knew was that, unexpectedly, their supply programmes had been thrown out of gear, and sailings had been cancelled. Not unnaturally, they were very resentful of what they considered very highhanded action by the United Kingdom Government. I am emphasising this point because I think it is not enough to have a good machine working with the High Commissioners in London. Some system should be devised which will enable working members of Governments in the Dominions to know what is happening.
This all boils down to something of which I have been convinced for a long time, namely, that we must stop thinking of ourselves as the mother country. We are co-partners. No partner should take any action which affects the interests of his co-partners, without making certain that all are fully informed, and, as far as possible, are in complete agreement. I make no apology for straying into the subject of Dominion relationships during a Debate upon foreign affairs. I am absolutely convinced that the future of our relationships with the United States of America depends upon the Commonwealth approach. On those relationships the future of the United Nations organisation depends.
Nothing that I have said in any way precludes constant search for close and friendly relations with Russia. If there had been any doubt about it, events have surely made it clear that the Soviet Union is filled with suspicions and fears. I freely admit that those suspicions and fears are understandable, but let us be frank about them. They will take a long time to get rid of. Let us do our level best at least to give a stable foundation to our search for better relations with the Soviet Union, let it be clear that until the United Nations organisation has reached the stage at which every nation in the world can rely upon its functioning, the British Government intend to do their utmost to hold together the Com- 1231 monwealth and Empire and to work in the closest unity of purpose with the United States.
That this involves some much more clear declarations of policy with regard to the strength of our Armed Forces, to the protection of our lines of communication and our bases may well, I know, be embarrassing to certain hon. Gentlemen opposite, but can they not realise that doubt as to our future policy in these matters can do nothing but cause fatal uncertainty, can be nothing but destructive to the aim which everyone of us most fervently desires—the ultimate unity and agreement between the Commonwealth, the United States and the Soviet Union, without which there is little hope for peace in the world?
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Major Wilkes (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)
The hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) proved adept at letting drop a few tasty morsels for discussion. I shall not attempt to pick up more than one of them before I develop my main theme. I am a little astonished that he should feel worried about the policy of His Majesty's Government and of those who sit behind His Majesty's Government. I do not want to be unduly controversial, but I would point out that it was not a Labour Government that filled our friends in Europe and abroad between 1933 and 1939 with a sense of despair, and of wonder whether we intended to abdicate from our position of world responsibility. The criticisms that occasionally come from the back Benches regarding foreign policy, are mainly because His Majesty's Government are not taking up a sufficiently positive line to make the Empire a moral beacon for the whole world today.
§ Mr. Maclay
I am delighted to hear that remark. Would the hon. and gallant Member agree, however, that for many years past there has been an extraordinary attitude on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite—I am not accusing the hon. and gallant Member himself, because I do not know—of apparent shame about the British Commonwealth of Nations?
§ Major Wilkes
Nobody who contemplated, the past 25 years, with its decline of economic standards in the West Indies 1232 and the developing Colonial slumdom in West Africa from 1918 onwards, could help criticising many facets of Empire administration. I would like to point out that no hon. Gentleman on the Labour Benches ever advocated, between the two wars, returning to Germany the Colonies which we had taken from Germany.
I begin my main speech by saying that nobody in this House can help feeling a sense of despair at the fact that today, only some seven or eight months after the end of the world war, we should be discussing, in cold blood, whether we are to have another world war. Nobody can fail to feel horror and disgust, and a sense of foreboding for the future of the human race. The invention of gunpowder meant that feudalism had to disappear. It marked a step forward for civilisation, more than five or six centuries ago. It meant the disappearance of feudal castles and loyalties. In a similar way the splitting of the atom and the invention of the atomic bomb mean an equally urgent step forward. They mean nothing more or less than that the nation State is finished. They mean that spheres of influence, and the older forms of strategical security are finished too. The nations will not recognise that fact. I differ from the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan). I am glad to see that he is in his place. I say that almost equal responsibility rests on all the great Powers, who have never shown any sign of even beginning to think in the sort of terms that are necessary today.
The Soviet Government are no exception to this. At one moment, they say, quite rightly, that their exclusion from the atomic secret suggests to them a danger to their security, and they are thinking in atomic terms. Within the next week or so, they put forward claims to 20 or 30 square miles of territory in Northern Turkey which makes hostile to them the whole of the ruling circles in Turkey. They incur the hostility of the Turkish nation by making a claim which, in modern terms of security, and in terms of modern weapons, can give no security at all.
We have this strange dualism running through the policies of all the great Powers. At one moment they are thinking in terms of 1912, or even of 1936, and, in the next, they are thinking in terms
1233 of 1946. I would like to say that the division into spheres of influence which we can all see taking place, indeed, before our eyes, and to which the right hon. Member for Bromley drew such eloquent attention, means that we, and all the great Powers, are seeking to develop, support and back those elements in the countries near to our own spheres of influence which we judge will be most friendly. This is not just something which Russia is doing. It is something which we are doing in the Middle East and which- America is doing in the Pacific, and I should like to take up, if I may, the question of whether or not we have been playing the game of power politics in Greece.
It is not a barren argument, or an academic argument, because, surely, it we realise that our own motives are no different from those of Russia, if we realise that all the great Powers are playing a similar game, we shall, at least, begin to approach future problems with a sense of realism. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley might devote his attention to the fact that, throughout the German occupation, we were trying to develop a balance of power among the guerilla groups and were supporting and arming smaller groups to prevent E.L.A.S. holding a too dominant position among the guerilla forces. During no three months in 1943 or 1944 did the total casualties inflicted by E.L.A.S. upon the Germans amount to less than 1,000—not large in terms of what other Partisans were doing, but still sufficient to hold 120,000 German troops in Greece, and no mean contribution, therefore, to our Allied victory.
What happened? Because we were playing this insane game of power politics from the beginning of the German withdrawal on 6th September at Kalamata until the landing, five weeks later, of British troops at Patras, although E.L.A.S. troops had been placed under the direct orders of G.H.Q., no single directive to the E.L.A.S. forces in Greece for action against the Germans reached the Partisan headquarters. Indeed, British officers in Greece had to transmit messages to Partisan leaders telling them not to follow the retreating Germans out of the Peloponnesus, telling them that, on no account, without General Scobie's permission, were they to cross the Corinth Canal. because we did not want E.L.A.S. forces 1234 to approach the region of Athens before the arrival of British troops in Athens. That was certainly one of the reasons why the guerillas did not attack the Germans when evacuating Greece.
I always think it strange to find this charge made against the guerilla forces— that they did not chase the Germans out of Greece—coming from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who know that it was not policy to give orders to the Partisans to do so because of the fear that the guerilla forces would have been most dangerous, politically, at that moment. So far as actual events that took place are concerned, the guerilla forces actually entered Athens on 13th October and the first British troops on 16th, and the Partisan troops, contrary to what was feared, made no attempt to seize power at all. For three days they were in absolute control of the city, and for three days they did absolutely nothing. They lined up on the quay welcoming the British troops and cheered with the rest of the population. So much for that kind of fear.
Before it became necessary to falsify the facts of Greek resistance to fit in with the Churchillian policy that developed later, General Scobie made a speech at Corinth of which I have made special note. He spoke on 24th October, 1944, and, in addressing the E.L.A.S. leaders at Corinth, he said:The Germans are being chased from Epirus. I hope that before long we shall have completely cleared them from Salonika and Macedonia. I know you are eager to continue the fight, but there is not time to get you into contact with the enemy before he crosses the Yugoslav border, where he will be suitably dealt with by our gallant Allies—the Yugoslavs and the Russians.That is a speech which I have not forgotten, and which I think has been quoted for the first time in this House. I absolutely agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley that we must not leave Greece. Greece has suffered far too much in this war, and needs our help as much as anyone needs our help. I only regret this perfectly absurd demand on the part of the Soviet Union for the immediate evacuation of British troops. We have a great contribution to make, and I hope we shall make it. Let it not be misunderstood that this desperate attempt on the part of some Left Wing circles is because they 1235 have, for 16 months now, been waiting for us to play fair or to evacuate, and the demand to evacuate comes almost as a last despairing cry that we will play fair.
As for Russia, I believe that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley was most fair in his alternative proposal. I think that Russian policy today is not a policy expressing strength and confidence, but is, rather, a policy expressing insecurity, and I think that what we are watching today is the 1946 equivalent of what we watched in 1939 and 1940. I believe we are watching today the last desperate effort to close all land approaches to the Soviet Union, a last desperate effort to create a series of buffer states, a policy not born of strength and self-confidence but out of self-distrust. Russia lost 8,000,000 to 10,000,000 men in this war. The open gloating in the Allied Press over the atomic bomb discovery has put back Russian and British relations for many months, and it 'will take much hard work to revive them. Speeches such as that made by Mr. L. S. Amery that, with the invention of the atomic bomb, Russia becomes vulnerable and a secondary Power, are given an importance in the Soviet Union far beyond the importance they receive in this House.
I prefer to believe that Russian policy today is a policy of self-defence, a policy of attempting to gain security by the rather pathetic means and the rather pathetic methods whereby we are attempting to gain our own security in different spheres. We have forgiven ourselves so easily for- the history of the last 25 years of Anglo-Russian relations that we find it irritating that Russia does not forgive us so easily for our record. But I believe that with patience, with firmness and with faith we can achieve that agreement with the Soviet Union, without which the future of the human race is indeed dark.
In conclusion, I would like to say a few words about the situation in the Middle East as it has developed in this insane attempt to build up spheres of influence in an age of atomic energy. I hope I shall not be ruled out of order if I mention Palestine. Palestine is part of the Middle East and it is utterly unreal to talk about Palestine without 1236 reference to the power politics carried on in that sphere. The criticism that is some times made of the Foreign Secretary's policy is not that he is playing power politics, but that he is not playing the right kind of power.politics. If we are to—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
Although I cannot rule the hon. and gallant Gentleman out of Order, I think it is desirable, as we are having a special time set aside for a Debate on Palestine, that any reference to Palestine should be reserved until then.
§ Major Wilkes
With the greatest respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I would mention that I approached Mr. Speaker before he left the Chair and asked if it would be in Order to mention Palestine in passing, and he said he thought it would.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I did say I could not rule the hon. and gallant Gentleman out of Order, but I hope his reference to Palestine will not be unduly extended.
§ Major Wilkes
As I said, the criticism sometimes made of the Foreign Secretary is not that he is playing power politics— indeed, in the somewhat desperate straits in which we now find ourselves the playing of power politics is inevitable—but that he is not playing the right kind of power politics. He is not playing the power politics which will win, and he is not backing the forces that are capable of appealing to the masses of the world who desire more than anything else social and economic reform. If this country is to play its part in the world as a great Power, as we hope it will, it is essential that it shall be thought of as a leader of the progressive forces, of the unprivileged peasants and of all the urban working classes of the Middle East "living in squalor. If we do not lead these forces to a better existence, we shall find that other great Powers will do the task for us. So long as this Empire of ours remains a symbol in Asia and the Arab Middle East of Colonial Imperialism, so long our position in relation to the Soviet Union and America will not be that of a first-rate Power, but of a third-rate declining Colonial Power
The tragedy of the Palestinian situation is that policies are being devised, and 1237 have been devised in the last 10 years, not with a view as to what is best for the inhabitants of Palestine, but with a view as to which policy will best serve our interests in this power, politics struggle. The criticism we make is that the elements on which the Tory Foreign Office officials and the last Government relied proved, in the hour of greatest need, broken reeds. I want to quote from a noted friend and admirer of the Arab people, Glubb Pasha, who says, according to a book written by an ex-Member of this House:I do not think it is fully realised to what extent during the six weeks before Baghdad fell the whole Arab world seemed to be solidly against us. Every Arab was convinced we were done for. Every Arab force previously organised by us mutinied and refused to fight for us.I want to see a policy adopted in the Middle East which will rally to our side the kind of people who have recently been arrested in Cairo for carrying on Socialist propaganda. I want to see a policy which will enable the Arab peasant in debt to the landowner, to the landlord, and to the money-lender to feel that Britain has a contribution to make in the Middle East. Unless we do that, we have no future in terms that matter in the Middle East, and the only terms that are beginning to matter all over the ex-Colonial Empires of Asia are the terms of social and economic betterment. Unless our Foreign Office realises that, then it is thinking in utterly antiquated terms. It is because of our anxiety on this point that we are pressing, as much as we can, for a reform of the Foreign Office. We believe that the men who were advising the Governments of this country between 1925 and 1939 showed an utterly unreal appreciation of the balance of forces. One has only to read the memoirs of ex-Ambassadors to realise that they were living in a childish world that has long since passed away.
I ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs not to underestimate the very real, deep and urgent feeling we have that there should be in the capitals of Europe and throughout the Middle East men who can appreciate the new ideas that are stirring in the minds of peasants and workers the world over, men who can mould their policy so that this country becomes a symbol to the world of progressive leadership in terms of Imperial power because, in terms of physical power, it must be admitted that this country has neither the 1238 ability nor the resources to stand up to America or the Soviet Union. We shall either make our contribution to the ideals for which we stand or we shall make very little contribution in the near future at all.
I want to conclude by quoting Lord Lytton, not only because he made this speech at a key moment in our history when the old world represented by the Tory Party entirely failed to understand why the League of Nations had to work or why the alternative was war if it did not work. He made this speech in 1933 in reply to those so-called realistic speeches made by Sir John Simon which undermined the whole system of collective security and made the next war inevitable. He made it to the so-called "realists" who still sit on the benches opposite, and this is what he said:You will, perhaps, feel disposed to criticise me for being too theoretical, too idealistic shall we say, for a practical world. It is true that I have spoken of principles and moral principles, but it is the business of statesmen to find practical means of giving effect to principles which they have accepted and it is not justifiable or statesmanlike to abandon principles whenever you find them inconvenient.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Professor Savory (Queen's University of Belfast)
I have listened, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with the most profound attention to the words of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and I should very much have liked, had it been possible, to reply to his remarks on Palestine. I have travelled in that country, and I might have contributed something to the Debate. But in view of what you have said, Sir, I must refrain.
In regard to Greece, I listened to every word of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when he dealt with that question. I heard his speech not only in English but also in the most exquisite French from a superb interpreter, and, therefore, I think I know it fairly well. I should have thought that the speech— especially the quotations from the trade union report and from Sir Walter Citrine—would have replied in advance to practically everything the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Major Wilkes) has said.
With regard to the other point raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman—the question of Russia—I agree with him that 1239 we should do everything we possibly can to remove all suspicion, and that has been the policy of the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and of his predecessor. One hon. Gentleman in the course of his speech spoke of '' mud slinging "by this side of the House against Russia. I cannot plead guilty to any such charge. During the whole period of the war, I have uttered nothing but the utmost praise of and gratitude for the Russian achievements. For many years I have been a deep student of Russian literature, and I have a very profound admiration for the Russian people. Nothing that I have ever said is, in any sense, derogatory of a great nation, but at the same time I feel we in this House should show fair play, and I have been deeply affected by attacks which have been made in this House on the Polish Army. The hon. and gallant Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner) said that from his experience after talking to Russian officers the Russians knew nothing about what we had done in this war, that they had not been told of our achievements in Africa or in any other part of the world. I cannot help feeling that hon. Members opposite perhaps also need a wholesome reminder of what the Poles have done for us in the war. I do not want to speak at great length—these facts are well known—but perhaps I might be allowed to give a very brief summary.
First of all, at the time of the catastrophic defeat of Poland after those five weeks of heroic struggle, a great many of the Poles escaped and formed in France several divisions. Two divisions fought with the utmost heroism on the French front up to the last moment. The armoured brigade fought against almost impossible odds, and after the collapse of France, no less than 30,000 Polish troops managed to get to Great Britain. I would like to point out, without saying anything derogatory of our French Allies, that I do not know of any single French land unit which escaped abroad. Then do not let us forget the heroism of that Polish mountain brigade which took part in the battle of Norway and so distinguished itself at Narvik, and do let me remind hon. Members of the amazing gallantry of the Polish Air Force in the Battle of Britain. According to the official report of the Royal Air Force, 10 1240 per cent, of the German planes shot down over Great Britain during that battle have been attributed to the Polish fighting squadrons. Then a very notable Polish brigade under the command of General Kopanski, now Chief of Staff of the Polish Armed Forces, was formed in 1940 in Syria out of men who had escaped from Poland through the Balkans and the Middle East. After the French armistice, they disregarded French orders and crossed into Palestine in order to be able to continue the fight. This brigade took part in the first siege of Tobruk in April, 1941, and the heroic part they played there has been so often described that I need scarcely refer to it.
Then again the first Polish armoured division which now forms part of the British occupying forces in Germany was landed in France from Great Britain on 1st August, 1944, and on 8th August they fought the famous battle of Caen. On 17th August, it was they who succeeded in closing the Falaise Gap. They fought at Ypres between 6th and 8th September and they entered Breda on 14th October. They were the very first to march into Ghent. Their commander was the great General Maczek who fought in Poland in 1939, and who commanded, in the first battle of France, the Polish Armoured Brigade which I have already mentioned. Then do not let us lose sight of the fact that the Polish parachute brigade was the only non-British unit which participated in the famous defence of Arnhem.
I have not hitherto spoken about the Second Corps of General Anders because I have reserved that for special consideration. I was handed just now by a colleague the "Soviet News," which, if it were sent to me, I should always read with great regularity, because I want to hear both sides. I saw that the principal article was nothing but an attack on General Anders. I should like to remind those who seem, to have launched an attack upon this very great man, of the following facts. He was born in Warsaw, was educated in the Gymnasium there where he learned Russian; in fact he was forbidden to speak Polish even to his own brother. He joined the Russian army, and in the first great war he was the only Russian commander to capture a German general with the whole of his staff, for which he received from 1241 the Russians what was considered at that time to be the highest order—the Order of St. George. Further, the Russians showed him so much favour that he was, in the whale of history, the first Pole and the first gentleman whose faith was not of the Orthodox kind, to be admitted to the great Russian military staff college. In the war of 1939 he fought with the utmost gallantry. He has been wounded eight times.
Of all the brigades that fought in Poland during those terrible five weeks his was certainly the most successful, and, so far from showing any hostility to the Russians, when the Russians advanced into Poland on 17th September and said, "We are coming to help you "—they broadcast it wholesale—" We are coming to help you Poles fight against the Germans," this great man accepted it and was perfectly willing to co-operate with the Russians in carrying out their promise, namely, assisting them to resist the German attack. But when he found that the Russians had made a deal with the Germans for dividing up Poland by the famous Molotov-Ribbentrop line he then realised that his duty was to Poland and he. resisted to the very last. He carried on for five days after the fall of Warsaw, was captured in October by the Russians and imprisoned in solitary confinement for 20 months. I have asked him the reason for this solitary confinement. He said, "I am afraid I cannot tell you. I do not know. All I do know is that I was carried into the Central prison in Moscow—that terrible Lubianka Prison—and I was in solitary confinement for 20 months." When he came out he was still leaning heavily on his crutches, but he was prepared, at the demand of Marshal Stalin, to head the Polish army which it was agreed, after the German attack of 22nd June, 1941, should be formed in order to help the Russians against the common enemy. He was perfectly willing to let bygones be bygones, to forget the past and to co-operate in every possible way he could with the Russians.
It has been alleged, entirely falsely, that he abandoned Russia at that time. I do not want to trouble the House unduly, because I do not want to exceed a certain minimum of time, but I have here two despatches, the full texts of which anybody can see, which Marshal Stalin sent 1242 to General Anders. In the first the Marshal was obliged to point out that, owing to lack of provisions', they could only give 30,000 rations to 70,000 Polish troops. Secondly, when it was found that they had not sufficient equipment, Marshal Stalin sent him another telegram, of which I have a copy, suggesting he should go to the Middle East. When these 70,000 Polish troops arrived in Persia, they were suffering terribly from starvation; they were ill-equipped, and it was some time before General Anders succeeded in restoring their strength. Then in Syria they joined with the brigade of Kopanski, the so-called Carpathian brigade which fought at Tobruk, of which I have already spoken. When they landed in Italy there was a series of magnificent victories beginning with Monte Cassino, going on to Piedimonte and Ancona and finishing with that brilliant assault on and capture of Bologna, one of the most renowned feats in history.
Today General Anders is being attacked on the ground that he is carrying on anti-Soviet propaganda. He is an honourable man. In any conversation I have ever had with him I have always found that he spoke the truth, and I would not doubt the word of this gallant gentleman for a single moment. He has denied the charges of the Polish Provisional Government that he was supplying certain Polish clandestine organisations with arms and money, and pointed out it was ridiculous to accuse him of sending arms to Poland by air, since he has no aircraft at his disposal and as the Commander-in-Chief of the Second Corps he is under A.F.H.Q., and everything which he has is given to him by them. At the same time, he denied the accusations of anti-Semitism in the Polish Second Corps. There are over 1,000 Jews in this corps, including 180 officers, and not one of those Jews has expressed the desire to return to Poland.
Therefore, I feel hon. Gentlemen have perhaps been rather biased. I think one of the justifications of university representation is that the Member should try to form an impartial view of these questions. I read both sides. The whole of my life—it is only by the merest chance that I happened to stray into politics— has been devoted to research, and I have tried to form a judgment on the evidence I have been able to discover. I have a 1243 large number of Polish friends here in London, but so far from urging them not to go back to Poland I have said to them, "I feel that what you should do, if you possibly can, is to try to restore your country. Go back and work for your native land." They have all said to me over and over again, "That is what we want to do. Do you mean to say when we have our children there in Poland, our wives in Poland, you think we do not want to join them? All that we want is a reasonable guarantee of security."
I have here extracts from the correspondent of the Associated Press in Warsaw. I have made inquiries and have been told by an American friend that this Mr. Larry Allen is one of their most reliable and esteemed correspondents. This is his despatch sent on 5th February:Authoritative sources reported today a new drive by Polish secret police whose net already has swept an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 persons into prison. Official accounts of police activity were not available, and Brigadier General Stanislas Radkiewicz "—that is to say the Minister of Security—has repeatedly refused to see journalists. Newspaper reports are censored closely and all incoming and outgoing messages are scrutinised by the military.I give that despatch for what it is worth. I have told the House the name of the author, a Mr. Larry Allen—who is, from the name, possibly a very good Irishman—and that is what he sends to the Associated Press from Warsaw. I confirmed that by looking at the papers published in Stockholm. During the last war I had the honour to be sent out as Secretary to His Majesty's Minister in Stockholm and I try not to forget my Swedish if I possibly can. The "Stockholm Svenska Dagbladet" and the "Morgon Tidninjen" have published similar information from Warsaw:Many political prisoners in Poland, probably many thousands of them, are being kept in prison for eight months and even more without being properly tried. The official Warsaw authorities explain that the large number of arrested persons makes it impossible to carry out the examination in due time. An American sergeant by the name of Louis Nagy, who was kept in prison for five months until released as a result of the intervention of the American Ambassador declared he was starved and man-handled several times by the Polish secret police.Those are the reports which our Polish friends read, and naturally they feel they 1244 must have some guarantee of security before they go back to Poland. I thought it my duty to put a Question to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs with regard to the political murders which are being executed of these partisans and possible leaders and collaborators of Mr. Mikolajczyk. The right hon. Gentleman said this:I am seriously concerned at the number of political murders that have been committed in various parts of Poland in recent weeks, in circumstances that in many cases appear to point to the complicity of the Polish Security Police. I regard it as imperative that the Polish Provisional Government should put an immediate stop to these crimes in order that free and unfettered elections may be held as soon as possible in accordance with the Crimea decisions."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd January, 1946; Vol. 418, c. 143.]The reaction among the circles of the Polish Provisional Government was extraordinary. The very next day they summoned a Press conference. I have received reports from the Newspaper Cutting Association to which I subscribe, in which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was most bitterly attacked. But surely the wind has been taken out of their sails by the very remarkable confirmation from the. American Secretary of State, Mr. Byrnes, who has fully endorsed every single word that was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The Secretary of State, Mr. Byrnes, issued the following statement on 31st January.In regard to allegations that a reign of.political murder is taking place in Poland, it may be stated that recent reports indicate that a number of murders have taken place, of which in some instances prominent members of the Opposition have been victims. While this Government is fully cognisant of the unsettled conditions which necessarily existed in Poland after six years of occupation, and realise the difficulty confronting the Polish Provisional Government, nevertheless, it is regrettable that the Polish Security Police appear to have been implicated in a number of these cases.During the close of the last Session of the old Parliament, week after week for five weeks I put Questions to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs with regard to the 16 Poles, three of them members of the Government, who had been arrested in spite of the safe conduct given to them by the Russian general. Wednesday after Wednesday I put the same question in practically the same words, and the answer was. always the same, that we 1245 could get no information. It was only when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) went to San Francisco that M. Molotov revealed the fact that these three members of the Polish Government and other officers had been arrested; and I am thankful to say the right hon. Gentleman, the then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, broke off negotiations. On a previous Motion for the Adjournment of the House I alluded to the condemnation of those men, when Members of the Labour Party called out and said, "They have confessed." Of course, they confessed, just as our British engineers confessed—were forced to confess that they had committed sabotage; and immediately afterwards went to the British Legation in Moscow and withdrew the whole of the confession which they had made.
How were these confessions of these 16 Polish gentlemen extorted? One of them has escaped into Italy. His name is M. Stypulkowski. What does he say?While in close confinement there, I was cross-examined by the N.K.V.D. agents 141 times, 500 hours in all, while other members of this unfortunate delegation as many as 200 times. The N.K.V.D. possesses a magnificent mechanism for breaking down human resistance. Under its treatment the victim gradually loses his senses of self-criticism and self-preservation and becomes subject to hallucinations which make him an easy prey in the hands of his tormentors. Its object is to extract from the victim complete admission of guilt, and this explains why every person that found himself in collision with the Soviet authorities admitted one and all of the crimes attributed to him by the N.K.V.D. (This method includes the placing of the victim on a table with his hands firmly tied down, and by breaking his resistance with the aid of a powerful electric lamp shining over his head for five days and nights, as well as threats alternating with cajolery).I want to get at the truth. This is the statement of that gentleman Mr.Stypulkowski, who has escaped and has given this statement at the present moment in Italy.
Other people want to speak, and I want to come to a conclusion. I have tried to give you the facts. I have endeavoured to put them forward with impartiality and objectivity. I have not exaggerated the case. I do feel that I have a natural sympathy with our Polish friends. I have no axe to grind. I live in Belfast. I am only following the history of what is taking place, and I have been moved, for the reasons I have given you, by the history of these cam- 1246 paigns—moved with profound admiration for our Polish friends. My one hope is that they will be able to bring about a reconciliation with Russia, and that they will be able to return to their beloved Poland. May I, in conclusion, just quote a few lines from their greatest poet, the poet of 100 years ago, the poet who sang the heroism of their General Kosciuszko? This is what this great poet Mickiewicz said:The Pole, though he is famed in all the nations of the earth,For loving more than life itself the country of his birth.Yet he is ready to depart and to the world's end goAnd live the weary length of years in misery and woe,Fighting against the might of men and destiny's cruel hand.That through the storm this hope may shine: I serve my fatherland.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
I think the House has listened with great appreciation to the very remarkable speech which has just been delivered. I do not want to follow my hon. Friend into a discussion of the Polish question, because he knows more about it than I do. I content myself with expressing the hope to His Majesty's Government that they will accord decent treatment to these Poles in Italy, and in my native country of Scotland, who feel unable in existing circumstances to return to their native land. Time was in the past when we were not afraid or ashamed to offer asylum to foreigners who were willing to work and earn their way and their keep in this country; and I think that in view, especially, of our desperate shortage of labour at the present time, we could do much worse than offer generous treatment to any people who fought hard for the Allied cause during the war, and who would prefer to make their homes in the future in this country. I only say, in the light of the speech of my hon. Friend, that I hope the Government will give sympathetic consideration to this.
It has been generally acknowledged that we made a pretty fair mess of things after the last war; and that there were two main causes for this. First of all, our failure to achieve a stable political situation, or a stable economy, in Western Europe; and, secondly, our failure to make the League of Nations an effective 1247 instrument of international policy for the maintenance of peace. Our failure in Western Europe was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) in his opening speech this afternoon. It was due, fundamentally, to our refusal to underwrite French security; and that was the cause of most of the subsequent troubles. But it was also due to our refusal to abandon the obsolete economic doctrines of laissez faire and multi - lateral free trade, and our refusal to accept the modern economic concept of regional planning and organisation, both for defence and for economic purposes. There was at the end of the last war a Supreme Economic Council, which was precipitately abolished. There was also a proposal, shortly after the last war, for an economic anschluss between Germany and Austria. It was specifically prohibited. Nor were regional agreements, political or economic, permitted by the Western democracies and victorious Allies after the last war
I vividly remember a dinner in Dusseldorf in 1928 when Fritz Thyssen, of all people, made what was probably the last concrete proposal for an economic union in Western Europe. He suggested to me that the coal and iron and steel industries of France, Germany and Great Britain should get together; and he said that the whole future of Western Europe depended on an economic union of this kind. I came back here and made two speeches on the subject in this House; and I remember that, while the idea aroused some interest, it was allowed to fade. I think Thyssen had the guts of the problem there. If we had been able to get together in an economic federation in Western Europe, with all our heavy industries, this war might never have broken out. But what happened? Instead, we poured money indiscriminately into Germany. So did the United States of America, with no plan or purpose, other than that of making quick dividends; and then we suddenly withdrew it all, in the crisis of 1930. The result was economic chaos; and 7,000,000 unemployed in Germany, on whose backs Hitler climbed into power. The absence of any effective economic co-operation on a regional basis between the many newly created political States after the last war 1248 reduced central and eastern Europe to complete anarchy
Meanwhile, the League of Nations, composed of independent, disputing Sovereign States, careless of economic realities, entirely pre-occupied with the political chess board, had completely failed to produce any kind of authority capable of imposing order upon a rapidly disintegrating world.
What is the position today? How are we doing, by comparison? It would be a brave and optimistic man who said that we were doing very much better. There are some of us who would say that we are doing even worse. We have not, I admit, abolished the Supreme Economic Council, for the very simple reasons that there is not one to abolish, and never has been. But, so far as the settlement of Western Europe is concerned, and particularly the future of Germany, we appear to have no views of any kind at all. The Russians discovered this at Yalta, at Potsdam, and at San Francisco. They discovered that we. had no views about the settlement of Europe; no views at all about the future of Germany; so they went ahead and imposed their own terms in Eastern Europe. Mr. Molotov—I watched him with great interest and considerable admiration at San Francisco—found the Western democracies of Europe divided, undecided, disunited and impotent. It was easy for him, in these circumstances, to run through their broken ranks; and the ball is still at his feet.
I am sorry, but not altogether surprised, that our relations with the Soviet Union should have become so bad. Hon. Members opposite must, I think, confess that many of them at the last Election proclaimed—my opponent did—that the return of a Socialist Government was absolutely essential to put relations between this country and Russia upon a firm, sound, good and solid basis. Yet today our relations with Russia are infinitely worse than they were when the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was Prime Minister. Why? Perhaps it is because the Russians have never had any great respect for indecision, for impotence, or for words as such. I am not afraid of war in the near or even in the middle future. Wars break out only because one side thinks 1249 it is strong enough to achieve a quick victory; and the only certain thing about a third world war is that both sides would be destroyed completely, and probably the rest of humanity would be annihilated at the same time. I am, however, very much" afraid of a kind of "frozen peace," based on suspicion and fear, which can do no good to this country and the rest of the world. The danger of this has not been diminished by the public slanging matches which we have recently witnessed between the Foreign Secretary and Mr. Vyshinsky. I agree with the right hon. Member for Bromley and the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head), who, if I may say so, made a most remarkable maiden speech, that there is real hope for our future relationship with Soviet Russia. The motives of the Soviet Union are not yet quite clear to some of us on both sides of the House. But, as one who has fought for 20 years for Anglo-Soviet friendship, and who was not long ago described by a Member of the Opposition as a "hack Communist speaker," my impression is that the Russians are mainly occupied, and preoccupied, with the question of their own security; and that we can do a deal with them provided—not that we "stand up" to them as I think one hon. Member said—but provided we are perfectly frank with them, and put all our cards on the table.
I do not blame the Soviet Government for being suspicious of us, after our lamentable policy towards them between the two world wars. At the same time, I think that they underestimate, because they do not clearly understand, the importance to us of sea power, and therefore of the Eastern Mediterranean. Like many other great land powers, including Germany—and I think that was one of the main reasons why Germany lost the war—they have never quite understood the vital importance of the sea to a great maritime Power like us. I think that we can talk to them about that; and, perhaps, ultimately persuade them of it. But of one thing I am quite certain. Russia is essentially an Oriental country, and I do not think it is altogether wise to conduct negotiations with an oriental country in the teeth of the radio, and under the arc lamps of modem publicity. I do not think that, in the long run, will get you 1250 anywhere. I think that it is much better to conduct delicate negotiations in private, in spite of the clap trap that is talked about secret negotiations. Then, when you have completed your talks and arrived at some general understanding, that is the moment to bring the whole thing into the full blaze of publicity.
Let us consider for a moment this business of the United Nations, which has been referred to at intervals in the Debate today, but skated over rather quickly. I think that the term "United Nations" is, at present, something of a misnomer and, in the light of recent events, something of a farce. This Assembly of over 50 independent Sovereign States is merely an international talking shop. That is so far as it has got as yet; and so long as the veto power remains in its present form, that is as far as it will ever get. There is a good deal to be said for a talking shop—it clears the air from time to time—but a genuine union of nations must involve some surrender of national sovereignty, and that has not yet been achieved. We can all agree that our ultimate aim must be the establishment of the rule of law among the nations; and it is no use kidding ourselves that we have got it, or that we are yet within sight of it. I never thought that I should quote the "New Yorker" to this House—that remarkably vivid, gay, pungent, American newspaper with which many hon. Members are familiar. It recently contained the following remarkable passage, commenting on a statement of President Roosevelt that the United Nations had agreed upon everything up to 90 per cent, at Dumbarton Oaks:A league of sovereign independent nations faces a problem of police control which is insoluble. It may define aggression, draw rules, and agree on a means of enforcing the rules, but it must founder on the ledge of sovereignty and on the test of whether, in a pinch, a nation shall control its own destiny and act as it pleases. If you like you may call this only 10 per cent., but at a place like Munich— which is where it lands you eventually—it looks bigger than that, and tougher.I think that there is a great deal of truth in that. We can all agree that it would be better if we now had a little more action, and a little less public debate. We may perhaps be galvanised into this by the spectre of famine that hangs today over Europe and many other parts of the world. In such a situation, I submit that discussion should surely 1251 centre round food and raw materials, rather than politics and gold. I have said many times in this House that if His Majesty's Government had devoted a tenth part of the time they have wasted talking about currency stabilisation in a world that does not yet exist, to talking about goods, we should be living in a very much easier world today. The same thing goes for U.N.O. If that organisation had concentrated on the urgent and desperate tasks of rescue and reconstruction that face it, instead of allowing itself to be diverted by untimely and fruitless political controversy, the outlook today would be far more hopeful than it is.
I conclude with two constructive proposals. The first is that His Majesty's Government should impress on the United Nations organisation the desirability of setting up now a Supreme Economic Council to deal with the present emergency, charged with the responsibility for initiating a world economic policy conceived in terms of essential raw materials and food, and directed to the immediate relief of urgent human needs. I venture to suggest that had the United Nations organisation addressed itself to this most urgent and most desperate task in recent weeks, instead of wasting its time in the barren sands of fruitless political controversy, it would have made a greater contribution to human welfare, and a better impression upon the world at large.
My second suggestion is that His Majesty's Government should take the lead, for which many countries are now looking, to build up a regional economic bloc in Western Europe. It is the first time that has been mentioned in this Debate. By this I mean quite simply the regional grouping or federation of countries which have economic interests in common; similar, if not identical, economic objectives; complementary trade requirements; and, last but not least, a common political and cultural heritage, which otherwise might easily be lost. It is manifestly absurd to suggest that such a federation would be directed or organised against anyone, and no one knows that better than the Kremlin, which has done precisely and exactly the same thing in Eastern Europe already. On the contrary, a united Western Europe would provide a far more substantial and stable market for primary producing countries; 1252 and prosperity breeds prosperity. Provision for such regional organisations— and I want to press this upon the Minister of State—is specifically made in the Charter of the United Nations; and two are already in existence, one in the Western sphere embracing the United States and the South American countries, and the other in Soviet Russia and the satellite Powers which are firmly within her orbit. I submit that three such organisations are better for the United Nations, and for the world, than two. I do not want to see the world divided into great Power organisations, one of which is based on iron Communism, and the other on what my hon. Friend the Member for Chippen-ham (Mr. D. Eccles) and myself have described as free knock-about capitalism. I fear an ultimate clash between two such organisations.
I feel that in Western Europe we have a separate, different contribution to make, based upon our long history, our traditions, and our culture, which might combine the best elements both of Soviet Russia and the United States. Anyway, we had better face the realities of the situation, which are that between these two great federations of Soviet Russia, on the one hand, and the United States, on the other, fortified by their satellite Powers—because that is all you can call them either in South America or in Eastern Europe—the smaller nations of Western Europe, of whom we are one, cannot hope to survive, politically or economically, in isolation. Unless we get together in pursuit of a common political and economic policy, we shall inevitably, sooner or later, be absorbed into one or other of these two great economic and political blocs which surround us, one in the East and the other in the West. Much lip-service has been paid in this country to the principle of federation; but when it comes to action it is a rather different matter. Recently I made in the country some severely practical suggestions with regard, first of all, to the future of the Western zone of Germany; secondly, to the international control of the industries of the Ruhr; and thirdly to a reciprocal agreement on trade between like-minded countries in the Western European zone. They were dismissed, except in another place, as largely impracticable. Nevertheless, the fact remains—and this is my last sentence—that there is only one alternative to the 1253 regional planning of Europe by mutual agreement, and that is yet another attempt at unification of the European economy by force, or by the threat of force. For my part I am in favour of a serious attempt at the first; and I am therefore most strongly in favour of a clear European policy on the part of His Majesty's Government. It is the first time we shall have had it; and it is long overdue.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ The Minister of State (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)
Hon. Members in various parts of the House have raised a wide variety of topics like Poland, Indonesia, Spain and so on and I am sure the House will forgive me if I leave the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to reply to them tomorrow, and if I confine my remarks to what the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. A. Nutting) and other Members—in spite of the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby)—still persist in regarding, although it is true it is six days since the meetings ceased, as one of the great realities of the present hour, that is, the first meeting of the Assembly of the United Nations. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen, in his references to the United Nations, had an inflexion in his voice which I did not wholly understand. But surely by any test the first meeting of the Assembly must have been an international event of great importance. The acting Leader of the Opposition has said that this is our last chance to save what I think we rightly call our civilisation. We know now, however much some people derided it at the time, that the League of Nations was the last chance but one. If we allow the institutions of the United Nations to perish, as we allowed the institutions of the League of Nations to perish, then the pages of our history are numbered and the memory of our times, in spite of all our great achievements, will pass away. Whether we like it or not, our fate is bound up with the fate of the institutions which came to life in London six weeks ago, and of which the hon. Member for East Aberdeen has spoken as he has done just now.
I do not think that anyone in his senses believes, that because a Charter had been signed, a new millenium would begin. Some of those who professed to have high hopes are saying that their hopes are dis- 1254 appointed. I think perhaps, like the hon. Member for East Aberdeen, they expected too much. They forget it is only six months since the fighting ended and that the powers have not been able even to make their peace treaties. They forget that, in many countries, democracy has been smashed to smithereens and is far from being yet restored. The building up of international democracy—and that is what we have got to do—will be a long and difficult task. It may take many a day before the new institutions have successfully solved the major problems which baffled and defeated statesmen in days gone by.
In his last speech to the Assembly on its closing night, that brilliant President, M.Spaak of Belgium, who has rendered such great services to the world, said that he had three criticisms to make of the proceedings, three changes which he would like to see. First, he hoped that in future there would be fewer cocktail parties; secondly, he hoped that when delegates had heard a previous speaker express the views which they had intended to express that they would, with however heavy a heart, refrain from speaking; and thirdly, he hoped the Councils would not meet at the same time as the Assembly. That last proposal is one of great substance. On this occasion the Councils could hardly help themselves.
Indeed, they had to meet at once. But I think no one can doubt that it was a great disadvantage, in many ways, that they should have been meeting while the Assembly itself was in its first session. For one thing, the Security Council, as has been shown today, almost completely blanketed the Assembly from the Press. Some day, Press proprietors will learn that there are limitations to the proposition that only quarrels are news. There was a great deal of work in the Assembly that was news, but was never reported.
In his most interesting speech today, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) dealt at length with some of the Security Council's proceedings. He said, among other things, that it had become an instrument of power politics by new methods. With great respect, I do not believe that anyone who took part in its work, great or small—and by that I mean 1255 representing a great or small Power—will share his view. I think those who took part would share more nearly what I think were the very judicious views expressed by the hon. Member for Melton. I think it is arguable that it would have been better if no questions had been brought before the Security Council at its first meeting, if it had been allowed to get on with the work of organising security, of considering the military agreements which it has to draw up with the member States, planning the work of the military staff committee and the relations of that committee with the atomic commission, and the like. But it was not to be. Appeals were made, and the Council could not refuse to take them up. And I am certain there is a credit balance. Some things have been firmly established. For instance, I do not think any small Power will ever again hesitate to put a complaint before the Council. That is very much. I do not think, as the hon. Member for Melton said, that the Council will now ever try to shuffle out of its duty. I do not think it can, after the precedents which have been created. With all respect to my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen, who is no longer here—
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I beg my hon. Friend's pardon. I rejoice to see him in a different place. I believe.every dispute will henceforth be debated not in secret but in the open, in the light of day. I am certain that if the Council had tried to deal with these four matters in secret there would have been disaster before the end. How difficult it would be to hold a Secret Session of this House in time of peace. In international affairs, as in national, the people have a right to know what is being said and done on their behalf and in their name. In the Assembly, on Thursday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that public debate was the very essence of democracy, the foundation of its institutions, and the guarantee of the weak and oppressed against injustice and tyranny.
§ Major Hugh Fraser
Is it not a question of how much publicity is given to the deliberations of the United Nations? In the Soviet Union I do not think there has been much publicity.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Well, unless the debates are in public no publicity can be given in any country. I hope that the publicity given to United Nations proceedings throughout the world will be greatly increased beyond anything we have known in the past. It was agreed by the Assembly that the United Nations are to have their own radio station, and I hope it will do what the B.B.C. did on their European service, namely, broadcast day by day proceedings to the world at large. I believe that only good can come out of that.
I do not want to discuss the details of the four different questions which came before the Security Council, but I do assert that in three of them concrete, practical results of importance were obtained. Certainly, valuable precedents were created, and a good many lessons learnt about how to make the new machine work, and how it should and should not be used. My hon. Friend the Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) regretted that there was not another precedent, that we had not agreed on a commission of inquiry in Indonesia. A commission would have been, in many ways, a useful precedent, which every right minded man would have welcomed. But I ask him to consider that in this particular case not a shadow of argument had been brought forward to prove the case against the conduct of British troops. Indeed, Dr. Sjahrir himself has said that not a shot had been fired by British troops, except in self-defence. The member of the United Nations—the Ukraine—who raised the matter, did not ask for the British troops to be withdrawn. It might have had a devastating effect on the negotiations going on between Dr. Van Mook and Dr. Sjahrir if a commission had been sent to Indonesia. Surely, it was better not to be doctrinaire about a commission, and to accept the result of what was, on the whole, a very satisfactory debate. In any case, I would like to assure my hon. Friend that no precedent against a commission of inquiry has been created.
But the principal thing I want to say about the Security Council is utterly to deny that its debates made relations between the great Powers any worse. On the contrary, I believe they improved relations between ourselves and the Soviet Union, and I am certain they improved 1257 relations between the Soviet Union and the United States, and, incidentally, between the United States and ourselves. That in itself would not be a bad result. Let the House remember that, before these matters were brought before the Council, charges were being made against the United Kingdom throughout the world, day by day. They were being listened to, they were creating resentment, misunderstanding and ill-feeling. It was far better for these matters to come out into the open. I am certain it was the feeling of every delegate on the Council, who took part in those discussions, that the general atmosphere had been positively improved. I know that that was the view that Mr. Stettinius took, because he said so to the American people before he left these shores. Many of his colleagues said the same to me in private. The Australian chairman said so in his closing speech. And may I quote what Mr. Vyshinsky said to the Council in the last sentence he used in the most dramatic of all the discussions—that about Greece? He said:In conclusion, may I express the hope that the relations between the Soviet Union and Great Britain will develop in the direction of strengthening and growth of friendship and co-operation in the interests of both countries and of all the nations united in the new, young. United Nations Organisation.I could bring much evidence from other public statements by Mr. Vyshinsky and his colleagues, and from private conversations, to prove that these words were sincerely spoken, and were intended to be believed.
I come back from the Council to the Assembly. It was at one time thought that the first meeting of the Assembly should be primarily constitutional in character. With all respect to my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen, that would have been a difficult enough and an important enough task for one meeting. But for my part, I never believed, from September last, that the Assembly would get through without having to deal-with some of the difficult and urgent questions which the war had left behind. But I never doubted that its main task would be constituent; that it would have to create an international democratic system for the conduct of international affairs. To do that, we have to get, as my hon. Friend said, a basis of accepted constitutional and general law; legal institutions to apply it; political institutions to develop it, and to promote 1258 the common interests which nations share; we have to secure the conduct of business by Parliamentary Debate, and that means debate in public; we have to secure the acceptance of majority rule; and we have to develop—what it took us a good many centuries in this country to develop—a general desire that the institutions should be made to work.
The Assembly had to start with, as the foundation for its constitutional and general law, the Charter drawn up as the result of the meetings at Dumbarton Oaks and San Francisco. It added to that Charter rules of procedure and, in its five weeks' work, it created many new precedents and adopted interpretations of the Charter and of the rules of procedure which already are beginning to build up the system of law.
Of course, there are defects in the constitutional law of the Charter; nobody doubts it. If the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) had had to draft it alone, he would not have written the Charter as it is today, and still less should we have done so on this side of the House. We have to take it as it is, and I think we shall find that there were a good many defects in our own constitutional law, even after we had cut off King Charles's head. We have to remove the defects as and when we can, but let us not be in too great a hurry. Let us remember our own history, let us remember how much custom and interpretation can do. I believe that if we go on as we have begun, confidence will rapidly grow, and I believe that we shall most rapidly make confidence grow if we use the instrument we have, rather than if we undermine it by saying that we know it will never work.
We have to have legal institutions. The Court of International Justice was elected by the Assembly; and it is a very strong Court, to which the' British Commonwealth contributed two most distinguished judges. This Court is to meet in April, its quarters are already settled at The Hague, and it has some work already on its books—a dispute, between this country and Guatemala about a frontier, which we have expressed our readiness to submit to the decision of the Court, and a request from the Security Council for an advisory opinion about the meaning of 1259 the Statute of the Court itself. Our hope is that the Court will play a far greater part in the life of the world than the old Court of prewar days. If we can make it do so, it certainly will. The Assembly had to bring the political institutions into life.
I venture the assertion that, from the technical point of view, in spite of the improvised Secretariat with which we had to work, in spite of the improvised buildings in which we had to work, in spite of the fact that it was the first meeting, this Assembly worked more smoothly, and that it had a higher level of Debate and a better record of result, than any Assembly of the League of Nations at its best. That is saying a good deal. It means that we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Mr. Gladwyn Jebb and his improvised Secretariat, and if I spare my words tonight I hope no one will think that my gratitude, or that of the Government, is the less warm for that. Mr. Jebb and his colleagues, many of whom were still in status national civil servants, worked with an energy, a single minded devotion to their task, which was the admiration of all who saw it. I would agree, further, with the view expressed by the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Vernon Bartlett) that in this Assembly there was a higher proportion of good Parliamentarians than we used to have, and that there was, broadly speaking, a greater knowledge of the work to be done.
The Assembly elected the councils and the Secretary-General. There were very keen elections for the councils. Some people said there was too much manoeuvring, too much canvassing, going.on. That meant, at least, that there was great importance attached to the work of the councils by the members of the United Nations. I think it was a very healthy sign. The elections, in fact, were marked by the most generous withdrawal of Canada in favour of Australia, and of New Zealand in favour of Yugoslavia. Apart from that episode, however, I venture to say that the results of the elections gave us extremely strong councils—one of them the Supreme Economic Council—which have already proved that they will do admirable work.
Democracy requires the acceptance of majority decisions. I began my personal 1260 part in this work in August last, and I often found at the beginning that I had differences about points of very real importance with my Soviet colleague, and I often found that both he and I had some difficulties in accepting a defeat when we were defeated. But our discussions, as the weeks and months went by, became increasingly more amicable and increasingly more fruitful in their results, and matters that would have caused us the very greatest difficulty in the beginning were accepted without difficulty at all in the end. We found it easier to differ and easier to agree; and if sometimes one of us had taken a strong line and was beaten, the next time it would probably be the other, and we all accepted the majority decision taken and we went on to the next business with our friendship quite unchanged.
The same thing happened in the Assembly. On many matters of major importance there were majority decisions, sometimes after heated and prolonged debates. They were loyally accepted, and plainly accepted, by all parties, with a determination that the decision taken should be made to work. I said that to make democratic institutions a success, you must have a general spirit of cooperation. I remember Lord Balfour telling me in the very early days of the League of Nations that some foreigner had once asked him why the British Parliament worked so well. He said that, after some reflection, he answered, because all parties wanted it to work. That is what we have to get in these international institutions; and I am certain from conversations with delegations from every Continent, that, when they left London those who were here felt that they had made good progress in five weeks towards that goal.
I said a lot of important, concrete political work arose. I have not time to describe it in the seven minutes which remain. I have spoken of the Atomic Commission, of the Military Staff Committee, and of the great tasks they must face. We had a very prolonged and animated Debate about the World Federation of Trade Unions, the International Co-operative Alliance, and other bodies which desire to be associated with the work of the United Nations. The decisions made, the plans proposed, which in my view will certainly be adopted, for 1261 securing the co-operation and the support of those great mass movements throughout the world, were a most important piece of work, and I venture to hope that it is one of the factors upon which we can rightly build hope that these great mass movements will in future be associated with, and be giving their whole-hearted support to the cause to which we are all pledged.
The hon. Member for North Cumberland regretted that we had not done more about refugees. The refugee problem is one of the very greatest importance and of great urgency. It is now being handled by U.N.R.R.A., whose mandate is not yet over. The Economic and Social Council appointed a commission to consider new machinery, and it laid down the principles on which the commission should work. I think if new machinery is required for refugees, we shall have it fey September, and, with respect to the hon. Member, that will be soon enough.
In their most interesting speeches my hon. Friends the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) and the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. H. Davies) raised the question of famine and hunger in the different continents of the world. My hon. Friend the Member for Maldon said that hunger is the main fact in world politics today. The Assembly did not do nothing on the subject of hunger, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen alleged. On the contrary it did everything it could. It was raised on the initiative of my right hon. Friend, and a very remarkable debate took place. As a result of that debate, the President of the United States made his most striking statement a week ago, promising enormous help which otherwise might not have been forthcoming—something up to, unless I am misinformed, 60,000,000 bushels of wheat, with a great deal of other foodstuffs. Canada promised not only to keep on her present restrictions but to make greater efforts than she has already made. Australia told us that all her rice was to be kept for export and that her present crop, just reaped, was 125,000,000 bushels, contrasting with 53,000,000 bushels last year, and it would, to the maximum possible extent, be kept for export. Other nations promised help according to their power.
In another Debate, on U.N.R.R.A., Australia promised another one per cent. 1262 and so did New Zealand, that is, a total of£15,000,000, Turkey and the Argentine said they were coming in, and would give their contributions, another large sum of money. Other powers promised food. Even countries which have been occupied, like France and Holland, made contributions to the expenses measured in millions of pounds. A Committee was set up to follow up that action and I am certain that a real result will be obtained. And the Assembly Resolution on Food is not the end of the matter. The Emergency Economic Committee in Europe is to hold a conference at the beginning of April, and the Food and Agricultural Organisation is to hold a world conference in the early summer. It is my conviction that, by that action, started by the Assembly, a great result, not only for the crucial months until July, but for next winter also, will be obtained. On other matters of reconstruction raised by hon. Friends, health, transport, economic policy and so forth, the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council took important action of which I have no time to speak.
In the moments which remain to me, I want to summarise what I think is the main result of these meetings. Some people said we had not the blind enthusiasm or faith of 1920. I lived through 1920 and I do not remember the blind enthusiasm and faith; but I do remember that almost every Government was hostile to the League. Now the Governments are genuinely behind the United Nations. That is the immensely important difference. But if anybody thinks that we can get peace and cooperation between ourselves and Russia by withdrawing important questions from the framework of the United Nations and going back to Three Power politics, by taking important disputes away from the tribunals we have created to deal with them or by trying to obtain security by setting up watertight geographical zones, then I say plainly that His Majesty's Government do not agree. And I do not believe the people of this country will agree. If one thing is more certain than another it is that peace, like prosperity, is indivisible. We are determined to use the institutes of the United Nations to kill power politics, in order that, by the methods of democracy, the will of the peoples shall prevail.
§ Mr. Boothby
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he does not agree that this is a very important Debate and if he can give any explanation for the absence of the Foreign Secretary?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Yes, Sir. I hope the hon. Gentleman will realise that the burdens which have fallen upon my right hon. Friend during the last few weeks have reduced him to a great state of fatigue. It has been almost impossible for him even to carry on his day-to-day work at the Foreign Office, and it is a very great burden on him to have this Debate this week. He will be here tomorrow. He will, of course, have reported to him everything that has been said today. I am sure he will make a full reply, and he has, in fact, been present for a considerable part of the proceedings.
§ It being a Quarter past Nine o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.