§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. Joseph Henderson.]
§ 2.32 p.m.
§ Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)
I wish to deal with the question of free elections in Poland. I think it must be admitted that when the leading writers in some of our papers are discussing this problem the matter is of some importance. Before I begin my argument, I wish to read what is the fundamental matter relative to it. I refer to the Agreement which deals with the question of Poland following what had been done at Yalta. It said that the three Powers noted that the Polish Provisional Government, in accordance with the decisions of the Crimea Conference, had agreed to the holding of free and unfettered elections as soon as possible on the basis of universal suffrage and secret ballot. All democratic and anti-Nazi parties would have the right to take part and to put forward candidates; and representatives of all the Allied Press should enjoy full freedom to report to the world upon developments in Poland before and during the elections. That is the fundamental position. That statement was signed by representatives of this country, the United States and the U.S.S.R. I think most of us will admit that when three powerful Allies sign a document of 1250 that character there must he some definite obligations attached to it.
Those obligations must be attached not only to the parties who signed the document but also to the Provisional Government of Poland set up under the Agreement. The whole point is that that Provisional Government was expected to have free elections in Poland as soon as possible. It must be understood that unfortunately that Government was not exactly representative of the people of Poland. I think that is accepted. It was largely to please one Power that certain people were introduced into that Provisional Government. The question now arises why there should be any trouble at this juncture, almost two years since the matter was dealt with, in securing free elections in Poland. Why should leading writers, representative even of the Labour movement today, be writing in the strain that conditions are such that it is unwise really to have elections in Poland today?
Various reasons are put forward by these writers, and to one who has been connected with the Labour movement ever since it was a movement, who upheld that movement because of its moral foundations and the vital principles of freedom, it is amazing that today these men are writing in this manner. One of the excuses put forward by Mr. Laski writing in "Forward" was that if the constitutional method is adopted, if freedom is allowed in Poland, we must realise that the effect is likely to be anti-Russian and anti-Jewish. Bearing in mind the historical experience of our nation, how the Irish fought for years for a real voice in the control of their country, and the facilities for freedom which we have today, are we, and particularly the Labour movement, to be guided and governed in our decisions like this?
Because we think that freedom is not likely to give us what we want, are we prepared to stand against freedom and to allow despotism to be pushed upon a nation who for years fought with us in one of the greatest fights that has ever been? Surely, there is an obligation not only upon this Government but upon the Labour movement. Instead of trying to hinder the implementation of free elections in Poland, the Labour Government should have been standing unitedly behind the demand of the 1251 Polish people for a free election so that they might decide the issue as to which party they wish to control their country. There is no doubt that this unreasonable attitude has been adopted because of propaganda from given points of view, propaganda which ignores freedom, and because the people who disseminate it are satisfied with the men in power in Poland today, regardless of how they got there. Because they are satisfied with the personality of the people actually governing Poland at the present moment, they are not prepared to act up to the principles of their party or of the movement which has had the adherence of the people of this country for years.
Let us take the "Tribune" for instance. What in reality is it emphasising today? It is rather remarkable, but the writer dealing with this problem in the "Tribune" definitely puts forward the view that, despite all the trouble that has existed in the country and despite all the intimidation and the want of real freedom there, the Peasant Party, the Polish Socialist Party and the Communist Party are all united and unanimous on three particular things. They are united on the question of frontiers, of social reconstruction—the three-year plan—and, in addition, of the land question. The Left Wing "Tribune" admits all this and yet it casts about on the question of whether there should be free elections in Poland. That amazes me. In addition, both Professor Laski and the writer in the "Tribune" admit the possibility that the Peasant Party, of which Mikolajczyk is the leader, might obtain a majority under a system of free elections.
To some people that would be a calamity, but why it should be I fail to understand. I do not think that because people apply their power in a democratic way and happen to elect a party to which I would not attach myself that, therefore, is a calamity. It may be a bit of a drawback and somewhat of a hindrance from my particular point of view, but, surely, in so far as any party is prepared to act and govern the country in a fair and constitutional way, that is not a calamity. Surely, we are prepared to depend upon the intelligence and the psychology of the people they govern. Is not that the principle for which we stand?
1252 Many of our Labour people have advocated that in the Colonies and elsewhere there should be more democracy and yet they are hesitant about a place like Poland. I do not know why that doubt should be expressed. I know some of the Socialists in Poland and have heard expressions of opinion. While disagreeing with the Mikolajczyk party, I am not here to advocate one party against another; I am here to try to encourage the idea that if there is any country which ought to have real freedom it is Poland. We in this country, more than any other, should be the last to help prevent that coming about and should be the first to attempt to get ideal constitutional conditions implemented in Poland as soon as possible. To me, that is all important, something vital and something which I advocate beyond anything else. I should prefer the economic conditions to come later and to keep the freedom of the people rather than have the economic conditions advanced more quickly by dictatorship methods.
There are people in the Labour movement today who are tending in the direction of dictatorship. They encourage those particular principles and, to some extent, advocate them, despite their professed pro-gressiveness. I very much doubt whether the Labour movement will get the same support in the future if that principle tends to be accepted within the movement itself. Whatever split may arise within the Labour movement, it will not be on the question of economic principles; it will be on the question of real constitutionalism and real liberty.
That is where I stand, not because I have any particular feeling for Poland compared with any other country or for any particular class within Poland, but because I believe that if we do not continue to stand solidly within the Labour movement for constitutionalism and freedom of the people, not only in this country but in other countries, so that the people may put into power those of their choice, it will lose the support it has hitherto enjoyed. I do not wish to go into the matter too deeply today, but I would like the Government to give us some idea, if that is possible, as to what they are doing. It is not a question of a party; it is a question of the honour of this country, of the United States and even of the U.S.S.R.
1253 The agreement about which we speak is unique. Since the war began we have had all kinds of unique agreements. To me the whole principle of Yalta and Potsdam was unique: an appeasement, and not something created and built up on the principle of freedom at all. It was a policy of appeasement, and its only saving grace, if it had any at all, was the principle that was inherent in that agreement. Despite the fact that perhaps we did not agree with some of those included in the London Government of the Poles, it is one of the most peculiar incidents in history, I think, that, when we have got through the crisis, when we have got through the military issue and when everything indicates that we are on top, at that juncture we have to separate from the people to whom we have been attached for years, fighting in the great struggle, and to throw over the Government acknowledged for years by our Government and that of the United States, and put new men in to govern Poland at the behest of other people.
There is a duty on the Government representing this country to see that the free elections are actually applied, and, when applied, that the whole of the regulations connected with those so-called free elections will be of such a character that they do in reality give freedom to the people of Poland to decide the issue of who they really want to control their country. I put it to the Government: Have they yet heard, and can they say, when those elections are to be held? Have they examined the new electoral law? Have they examined it closely, to see that everybody who ought to have a reasonable chance of voting will do so? Have they examined the problem to see that each party has fair representation at the different stages dealing with the elections—the registration of votes and the counting of votes? Have the Government themselves considered whether the Poles who fought with us for years, and who are now in this country, will have votes? Have they really gone into this problem? Have they got in touch with the people who matter in relation to it? Are they using their power to the utmost to really get these free elections implemented? I hope they are. I hope they are doing their best. I myself believe they will try to do their best, but the problem is whether they will succeed.
1254 It is indeed a pity that that problem should exist. Have they consulted at all with the rest of the people who signed that document for the implementation of free elections? Do not they think there is a duty, not only to act themselves but to consider how their colleagues are acting with regard to implementing those free elections? If they have consulted with any of the other Powers on this matter how have they found things? What are the viewpoints of the other authorities who have to deal with it? These are questions which ought to be considered, which should be receiving—and I believe are receiving—the serious attention of this Government.
I do not pretend to know on whose behalf I am speaking, except that I am speaking on behalf of myself. Perhaps I speak on behalf of people who think along the same lines as myself. There may have been people who have gone to Poland and seen great demonstrations. Believe me, the Communists are the best demonstrators that have ever lived. If they cannot get demonstrations freely, they will get them by other means, as they get many other kinds of things. There have been many demonstrations in Poland. Some of our representatives did not see them. I do not suppose they ever knew about them. There have been big demonstrations in Poland, whether unfortunately or otherwise I leave other people to judge. I will pass no judgment. However, those big demonstrations were on behalf of the Peasant leader. Had they freedom to demonstrate? Some of our representatives have been trying to draw attention to the demonstrations in Poland. Those demonstrations were not allowed; they were interfered with by the Security Police. That is the kind of freedom which is prevailing. There can be demonstrations of a particular kind, but other demonstrations very often take place in fear, and often with great interruptions and trouble. To me, propaganda is a terrible thing in some ways. The propaganda that is always built up from particular ideals, regardless of truth—
§ Mr. McKay
I hope I do know. I expected the hon. Member to say somehing like that. That is a fact. It does not matter what subject one talks about today, one can get any amount of propaganda about it. One gets different viewpoints, and each man has to pass his own judgment on the stuff that comes forward for his inspection. After all is said and done, the man who wants to try to get at the truth has to read something of the other side's viewpoint; he has to find out the points of view of the other people, otherwise the truth is not likely to be arrived at. The reason, I think, is the fundamental intelligence upon which we depend in the Labour movement as elsewhere. I am satisfied that today the Polish position has been engineered; and it has been engineered in a definite direction. I am not satisfied that real freedom has existed in Poland, and I am not satisfied it exists now. Perhaps we may get the retort that it did not exist before the war. That is a great argument for the Labour movement to put forward, is not it, that because the party of a people has not had the fullest freedom which it should have had in the past we will see that it does not have it in future?
There are new principles, perhaps, coming within the Labour movement, and, perhaps, they are progressive principles and will help the movement on. I make no excuse for ventilating this matter here today. It is a matter of importance to this country. It is a matter of importance to men who fought and sacrificed for years to help us. Whatever our political viewpoints may be, surely, after all, there is some morality amongst us. When we make agreements, particularly between one nation and another— apart from those between one man with another—when great nations make agreements dealing with the future life and psychology and opportunity of a people, surely there is no party in this House prepared to say that those agreements shall not be carried out, unless and until they have been changed in a proper manner? I want to finish. I know other people want to get into this Debate. I wish them luck. I hope they will stand for freedom. I know that I shall get any, amount of criticism. That man who is not prepared for criticism ought never to enter public life. We have had any amount of criticism. Differences of opinion help sometimes, and encourage the 1256 lackadaisical to be more enthusiastic. If I have encouraged any man, not so much to be a partisan, but to be an enthusiast for the encouragement of liberty, not only in this country but elsewhere, then I have helped some little, I hope, towards achieving something that is worth while.
§ 3.2 p.m.
§ Professor Savory (Queen's University of Belfast)
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. J. McKay) on his very eloquent speech, and on raising this question in the House today. I think that the real question that we are discussing at the present moment is this: whether, in these elections which are about to be held in Poland, the Yalta Agreement will be fairly and fully carried out, because it is on account of the Yalta Agreement that the present Provisional Government holds office. What is the relevant clause in the Yalta Agreement? It is that the Provisional Governmentshall be pledged to the holding of free and unfettered elections as soon as possible on the basis of universal suffrage and secret ballot, and that in these elections all democratic and anti-Nazi parties shall have the right to take part and to put forward candidates.The electoral law, which purports to carry out this clause in the Yalta Agreement, was passed through the Polish National Council, which, of course, is a purely nominated body, on 22nd September, 1946, by 306 votes of the Polish Workers' —that is to say, the Communist—Party and its associates against the Party of Mikolajczyk, against the Polish Peasants' Party of 40, who all voted against it.
What does this law provide, this law passed already at the end of September? It provides for the election of 444 deputies; all Polish nationals over the age of 21 are entitled to vote, with the exception of various elements which are described as disloyal, and among these are included people connected with the underground movement—that is to say, practically every Pole who took part in the resistance, the secret and underground resistance to Germany [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] in the siege of Warsaw.
Further it also refuses to allow Polish citizens now abroad to vote unless they have the approval or consent of the Warsaw authorities. The Polish Peasant Party proposed that the Polish Forces in Britain, and Forces who had fought in the Middle East, should have the right 1257 to vote. Polish soldiers on active service, under the new law are to vote for the first tune in Polish history. Under either of the two Polish constitutions they were not allowed to vote. Now, the tear expressed by the Polish Peasant Party is this: that the same thing will take place as took place in the voting for the referendum, although I would prefer to call it a plebiscite, because a referendum is a constitutional challenge. It is a Swiss invention, and is not known to the Polish constitution at all.
What took place? Soldiers were brought up in squads, and made to vote openly in the presence of what I euphemously call, "political education officers." They were obliged to give their vote in batches, collectively.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
When the hon. Member says that Polish soldiers voted openly, is he contending that they did not go into the polling booths, and cast their votes without anyone knowing which way they had voted? No one accompanied them when they cast their votes.
§ Professor Savory
They had to vote as they were told by their political education officers, which is a euphemous term for the Polish secret police. The real intentions of this new electoral law are very clearly revealed in the provisions relating to the composition of the electoral commissions. The chairman and members of the State, district, and local commissions are to be nominated by bodies who are themselves nominated by the present Polish Provisional Government. It is these purely nominated commissions which will count the votes, and publish the results of this General Election. A very remarkable feature of this Polish electoral law is this: the amazing number of seats allocated to the lands recently acquired by Poland from Germany, infinitely more than the number of inhabitants justifies. Why is this immense proportion of representation given to these districts? For the reason that the Polish Peasant Party, the party of Mr. Mikolajczyk, has been prevented from functioning in these territories under the pretext of the German danger. Another excuse which has been alleged is the recent utterances of Mr. Byrnes, the American Secretary of State. In these districts, the Polish Provisional Government will have no difficulty in forcing on the electors a single list of candidates. There will be no opposition, and these men will be elected unanimously.
1258 I would like to congratulate His Majesty's Government on their admirable Note of 19th August—with regard to these elections—which they addressed to the Polish Provisional Government. His Majesty's Government laid down four conditions in order that the elections might be held in accordance with the Yalta Agreement. I have studied the law very minutely, and the only condition I can find that appears to be fulfilled is that an appeal may be lodged within seven days of the announcement of the election result in any particular district. I want to be perfectly fair; I try to speak impartially and objectively. I want to recognise that the Polish Government have carried out this condition which has been laid down for them by His Majesty's Government in their Note of 19th August.
But what are the other three conditions contained in this Note? First, His Majesty's Government demand that equal facilities should be granted to conduct election campaigns freely, without arrest or threat of arrest, and without discriminating restriction of normal electoral activities. His Majesty's Government also demand that these privileges should be accorded to all democratic and anti-Nazi parties, in accordance with the Yalta Agreement. These parties are the Polish Workers' Party, the Democratic Party, the Polish Socialistic Party, the Polish Peasant Party, the Peasant Party and the Work Party. The Work Party, which I prefer to call Christian Democrats, in violation of this recommendation of His Majesty's Government, has been forced to suspend all political activity and, therefore, there remain on the scene the four pro-Government parties, which form the electoral bloc against one non-Communist Party, namely, the Polish Peasant Party. This is the party which has the courage to fight against this Communist bloc. How is this party being accorded the privileges and freedom on which His Majesty's Government have insisted? Mr. Mikolajczyk, in a speech in Danzig, said:In the last few weeks over 90 of our members have been murdered in the Cracow and Kielce area alone.During the Debate on the electoral law, the Communist and Socialist spokesmen charged the Polish Peasant Party with collaboration with the underground movement. That is a fair test of what will happen. It is prophetic. It shows the intention to disfranchise, under this pre- 1259 text, as many members as possible of the Polish Peasant Party.
That is the first recommendation of His Majesty's Government. Now I pass to the second, very ably expressed, thatall parties should be represented on all electoral commissions at all levels and that votes should be counted in the presence of the representatives of all parties.We have already seen that the new electoral law provides for supervision of the elections by nominees of the Polish Provisional Government only, so that requirement No. 2 of His Majesty's Government is not being fulfilled.
Thirdly, His Majesty's Government demandthat the results be published immediately in each voting district.What does the electoral law say? That the announcement of the results need only be made 12 days after the voting. Judging by what took place at the referendum, we know that those days are required for various methods of falsifying the results.
§ Professor Savory
His Majesty's Government are advised by their experts in Poland, and that is why they laid down that the results should be declared immediately. Our Ambassador in Poland had experience of what took place at the referendum, and he was determined that this abuse should not occur again.
§ Mr. Orbach (Willesden, East)
Is the hon. Gentleman talking about the plebiscite or the referendum?
§ Professor Savory
I am talking about the referendum or, as I prefer to call it, the plebiscite. They mean the same thing. If elections take place in accordance with this electoral law passed on 22nd September, there can be no doubt, because of the exclusion of all people connected with the underground movement, that the Government will be able to suppress any voter, and any candidate, they wish to exclude from the poll. My second conclusion is that as the members of the voting commissions will be nominated by Government nominated bodies, the electoral results, even if the elections are free and secret, may be falsified to some extent, as were the results of the plebiscite.
1260 In order to have free elections, surely there must be freedom of speech. Even in the National Council that freedom of speech does not exist. The spokesman of the Polish Peasant Party, Mr. Wojcik, made a very eloquent speech in the Polish National Council against this new electoral law. But what happened? The Chairman of the Council, Mr. Bierut, continually interrupted him, and charged him with "offending the authorities," and finally arraigned him before the disciplinary committee of the Council. This was for the speech which he made in the National Council, where freedom of speech is surely intended to prevail. Mr. Wojcik, in that speech, which was published in the "Gazeta Ludowa," the organ of Mr. Mikolajczyk, although very considerably censored even there, according to this report which I have read, said that the local electoral commissions for the constituencies are entitled to deprive the elector of his right to vote and of his right to stand as a candidate. Why? The Constitution of March, 1921, on which these elections are based, provides that such deprivation of electoral rights can be pronounced only by sentence of a court of justice. Whole villages may be deprived—Mr. Wojcik went on to say—of the right to vote, under the thin pretext that they are connected with underground bands. Similarly, any prospective candidate may be debarred from standing by a decision of the local commission, which may charge him with having obstructed the struggle against the Germans when in occupation of the country.
These local electoral commissions in the constituencies are to be appointed, he objects, by the Provincial National Councils which are themselves entirely dominated by the parties of the Communist bloc. Another provision to which Mr. Wojcik objects very strongly is that provincial governors and deputy governors can stand as candidates for the election. This, he says, will certainly defeat the whole object of the polling. But the strongest objection which he takes to the provisions of the Bill concerning the rights of the representatives of the parties in the voting commissions is that there is no protection. He says:We demand that their rights be clearly defined and that they should be protected against arbitrary imprisonment. Further, these local and provincial voting commissions are not going to announce the results of the 1261 polling, but have to inform the Electoral Commisar General, who alone declares the result, and judging by what took place in the plebiscite we know and can foresee what will happenThese, then, are the objections put forward in the National Council by the spokesman of the Polish Peasants' Party. This party voted against the Bill and justified its vote by claiming that the new electoral law is anti-democratic and anti-constitutional, and that its whole purpose is to falsify the will of the people and to annihilate the fundamental principles of the Yalta decision and even of the Agreement made between Mr. Mikolajczyk and the men of Lublin when he entered the Government and that thus the Communist dictatorship will be perpetuated.
Speeches delivered in this self-appointed Polish Parliament are not allowed to be recorded in the Press. For instance, Mr. Nadobnick made a very important speech on the crimes committed by the Security Police in Kempno. That speech was forbidden to be reported in any organ of the Press. Mr. Burda made a speech describing the deplorable conditions prevailing in Southern Poland. All publication of the speech was prohibited.
§ Wing-Commander Millington (Chelmsford)
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, may I ask whether you share my impression that this very long speech is being read, and whether that is in conformity with the Rules of this House?
§ Mr. Speaker
Of course, it is not supposed to be in Order that one should read one's speech, but one may, of course, fortify oneself with notes and that is what I thought the hon. Gentleman was doing.
§ Professor Savory
I have nothing here but notes, and those are necessarily rather full because I had to quote from the speech of Mr. Wojcik, the leader of the Opposition in the Polish Parliament. I have not written out my speech, but merely collected a few notes of which I have had to make use for accuracy of quotation.
In order to give detailed facts, for which we are often asked, I should like to cite examples of murders which have taken place of the leaders of the Polish Peasants' Party, with the dates, and I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite will just allow me to read these 1262 names and dates since I am afraid that I could not carry them in my head. On 1st September, in the village of Gory, in the district of Pulawy, John Henry Pecio, vice-chairman of the local organisation of the Polish Peasants' Party, was murdered, and, according to the Press, the culprits have not been found.
On 19th June, Joseph Jeleszuk, Secretary of the Polish Peasant Party, was murdered in the Miedzyrzecze district, and the culprits have not been found. On 13th June, Michael Zachariasz, Secretary of the local Polish Peasant Party, was killed in the village of Gory. The culprits were not found.
I must apologise to the House for speaking at this length, but I feel very strongly upon this subject and seldom have we the opportunity of putting forward these facts. In conclusion, I would like to say that, unfortunately—
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
On a point of Order. Is it in Order for the hon. Member to refer to matters for which His Majesty's Government are in no way responsible?
§ Mr. Speaker
There is some responsibility upon His Majesty's Government, because they have laid down conditions under which these elections are to be held.
§ Professor Savory
If the hon. Member had done me the honour of listening to me he would have heard me say that on 19th August, 1946, His Majesty's Government addressed to the Polish Provisional Government a note in which they laid down the necessary conditions for fulfilling the terms of the Yalta Agreement. Unfortunately, at the present time it is certain that Poland is under the domination of a non-European country, whose way of life and whose methods are, by their very nature, alien to hers. The methods are based—
§ Professor Savory
I am coming to the end of my speech, and the hon. Member can reply to me afterwards. These methods are based upon historical materialism, which is the very antithesis of Christianity. This alien domination has caused the bitter struggle of the Poles for the preservation of their Christian way of life. This Christian, Polish culture, 1263 with all its natural features—adherence to Christian morality, respect for the human being and his natural rights, deep love of personal and natural freedom—constitutes, I am glad to say, the supreme obstacle to the aim of merging Poland into the expanding Communist bloc of States, under the leadership of the U.S.S.R.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Zilliacus (Gateshead)
I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will be pleased at the encomium His Majesty's Government have received from the hon. Member who has just sat down. I hope my hon. Friend on this side of the House was also pleased at the reception given to his speech by the hon. and learned Member opposite. Both tributes were well deserved.
The whole burden of the speech to which we have just listened was that the Polish Government should conduct its internal affairs in accordance with Notes sent by His Majesty's Government. I question the very foundations of that thesis. We derive our authority in this matter from the Yalta Agreement. The three parties to it were the United States, the Soviet Union and His Majesty's Government. It is good international law to say that when a Treaty does not provide that it shall be interpreted and applied by a majority of its members, it can be interpreted and applied only by all the signatories jointly. When we are acting in this matter without the concurrence and agreement of both the Soviet Union and the United States, we have not the least shadow of right to interfere in Polish internal affairs. The only right we have under the Yalta Agreement is a joint right with the other signatories.
Moreover we have no moral right, after what we have done to Greek democracy, to give the Poles a lesson in their own internal affairs. It may interest His Majesty's Government to know that the fate of the people of Greece has sent a shudder of horror throughout the working class of Europe. The workers are determined that they will not suffer the same fate, at the hands of Britain or anyone else. I have been in Poland. My acquaintance with Poland goes back for 20 years. I speak the language and I know the people intimately.
1264 The attitude of His Majesty's Government and of some hon. Members on the other side is an outstanding example of our famous British insularity. We have forgotten all about the very profound statement by the late Lord Balfour that democracy can only exist in a community where everyone is agreed on fundamentals. The whole point about the situation in Poland is that that country has emerged after many years of Fascist dictatorship, of which the economic backbone was the big landowners and big business, organised in the Leviathan, and represented by the National Democratic Party and Pilsudski and the dictatorship of the Colonels, the so-called Sanacja. After many years of that regime and many years of German dictatorship, a Poland has emerged which has at last purged itself of its big business men and landowners, and is trying to purge itself of the evil tradition of the two enemies. That tradition meant the perdition and partition of Poland in history. The tradition of hostility to her great Slav neighbour and our Ally, the Soviet Union, has been the death of Poland in the past.
To attempt to rekindle party strife and hostility to the U.S.S.R. in' Poland is a work of supererrogation. The last thing the Poles need is to be encouraged from outside to resume the age-old tradition of internal strife and international hostility to both her neighbours. Those are two things Polish democracy is trying to outlive and get the better of. How can Poland have our British Parliamentary conception of democracy in a situation where there are tens of thousands of people in the underground movement? The hon. Member for Queen's University of Belfast (Profesor Savory) mentioned the resistance movement. There were, in fact, three resistance movements in Poland: The Narodowe Sile Zbrojne, the National Armed Forces, which were Fascist; the Armija Krajowa, the National Army, a national and patriotic movement profoundly anti-Soviet as well as anti-German; and, finally, the resistance movement led by the Communists. In the last stages of the war—and it is important for an understanding of the present situation to know what happened to that resistance movement—there was the outbreak in Warsaw, which was one of the greatest tragedies in Polish history. It was an episode of death-defying bravery which came about at the instigation of men prepared to see Warsaw become a heap of 1265 ruins rather than be liberated by the Russians. It was carried out without any liaison with the Russians as a desperate gamble, which, however, failed to capture Warsaw before the Russians got there.
The head of the Armija Krajowa was General Okulicki, who was dropped in Poland by parachute by the near-Fascist General Sosnkowski after being sacked by Marshal Sikorski for his anti-Russian attitude. These people have gone underground and a lot of them have infiltrated into the Peasant Party, the P.S.L., Mikolajczyk's party. That is not his fault. I do not think he wants them. The hon. Member for the University of Belfast mentioned various mysterious murders of members of the Peasant Party. Some were murdered by the Fascists because they were Left Wing leaders on the side of the Coalition.
I was in Poland quite recently when a whole list of interpellations by the Peasant Party as to what had been done in various parts of the country was published. The replies of the Government brought out the facts of the extremely abnormal situation, including the fact that many of the underground fighters have got into the Polish Peasant Party, of which they have become members while at the same time they are members of the underground Fascist resistance movement. In those circumstances it is an elementary method of self-preservation for the Polish Government to have an electoral law which excludes those people, who cannot be reconciled to the present regime. Democracy can only exist in a community where everyone is agreed on fundamentals. The whole point about the underground movement is that it does not agree on fundamentals in the present regime. The attitude of the underground movement and of General Anders' Army is similar to that of the hon. Member for the University of Belfast. In other words they are filled with a spirit of irreconcilable hatred and opposition to everything for which the present régime stands.
You cannot find room within a democracy for people who are prepared to shoot. You must have some agreement on fundamentals, and the Polish Government is perfectly right in framing its electoral laws accordingly. It is sheer madness for us to attempt, as we are attempting, to incite the Poles against what is 1266 required in the interests of their own country, namely, to hold a general election at a time when the result may be to precipitate civil war in that country. That is the real danger, and that is why the Polish Socialist Party—because it is the Polish Socialist Party who initiated the electoral bloc and initiated the referendum as a means of trying to achieve some agreement on fundamentals—that is why the Polish Socialist Party are begging us not to try to make even more desperately difficult the problem of building up this new social order, and this new democracy in Poland, by trying to legalise the counter-revolution in Poland. Because that is what this conception of democracy leads directly to.
In conclusion, I hope very much that the Polish Government and the Polish community realise that there is no danger whatever of this country giving encouragement to those who are irreconcilable enemies of the régime; that there is no desire whatever to question the foreign policy of the Polish Government of friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union. I believe that both the Government and the Opposition in Poland—Vice-Premier Mikolajczyk as well as everybody else—is most anxious that that policy should be accepted, and that we should not challenge the decision of the Poles to get rid of their suicidal tradition of hostility to the Soviet Union but that, on the contrary, we fully appreciate and agree with that foreign policy. I hope that whoever speaks at the end of this Debate will underline that point, and disassociate himself from the mischievous remarks of the hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Piratin (Mile End)
Though I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Gates-head (Mr. Zilliacus), I, too, would like to make some caustic remarks about the speeches made by the hon. Members for Wallsend (Mr. J. McKay) and Belfast University (Professor Savory). I listened with great interest from the outset of this Debate both to the initiator and the seconder—for that is what the hon. Member for Belfast University proved to be. He ended with a peroration in which he referred to his deep love of personal freedom. Representing as he does a constituency in Northern Ireland where the Special Powers Act operates, that is a travesty of the truth. I did not find any 1267 evidence anywhere when I was in Northern Ireland, nor have I in this House, that the hon. Member for Belfast University has in any way tried to get the removal of the Special Powers Act in Northern Ireland. This may be a very long way from Poland, but I submit it is an argument to show the sincerity of the hon. Member's remarks.
The question raised this afternoon was that of free elections, and for some reason we heard descriptions from the hon. Member about assaults on individuals. Likewise we heard quite a long statement from the initiator of this Debate with regard to the absence of free elections, but not one fact to that effect. Near the end of his remarks he challenged the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs as to whether he had examined the new electoral law that was introduced last month by the Polish Government. I would ask, has the hon. Member for Wallsend looked at this electoral law? We were told the other day by the Foreign Minister that it is a long law, and it is quite evident from what has been said that the hon. Member for Wallsend has made no study of it. No one in this country can claim to be able to judge fully the democratic needs of another country.
§ Mr. J. McKay
On a point of Order. There are two points I want to raise. There is an assumption in the hon. Member's speech that the hon. Gentleman opposite was my seconder. I have never consulted anyone about being a seconder, for no seconder was needed. With regard to the electoral law, the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) has no authority to say I have not studied the law. I have looked at the law as far as I have been able to examine it, and he is merely assuming things which he has no right to assume.
§ Mr. Speaker
I was not paying much attention but, to be absolutely truthful, I do not see where a point of Order comes in.
§ Mr. Piratin
If it is an interjection, I will give way and answer it now. In connection with the firs': point made by the 1268 hon. Member for Wallsend, I made myself quite clear in saying that it seemed that the hon. Member for Belfast University was seconding because he repeated the same points.
§ Professor Savory
I would like to point out that I have not even had the honour of speaking at any time to the hon. Member opposite in any way whatever.
§ Mr. Piratin
In that case, the hon. Members should get together, for they have much in common. For the sake of the Government Party, I very much hope that the hon. Member on this side will transfer to the other side. The House will forgive me for being caustic, but when I see this unity between two hon. Members of such different political—and, if I may-add the remark—religious views, knowing what is going on in Ireland today, I am very anxious about the real aims of such unity.
The question is whether the parties are free if the electoral law operates. The hon. Member for Wallsend quoted from the "Tribune" and on that built up his remarks. I have not read the "Tribune," I have not the time. I think I am right in saying that Mr. Laski said in the "Tribune" that should free elections be held in Poland it was likely to end in a majority for the Polish Peasant Party against the Left Election bloc. The offer was made to the Polish Peasant Party to take part in that election bloc. They were offered a proportion of seats more than that of the P.P.R., and of the Socialist Party. They refused this, and at one time were demanding 75 per cent, of the seats in the new Parliament if they participated in the electoral bloc.
In July there was a referendum, or plebiscite—whichever the hon. Member for Belfast University prefers. Of a total of 13,160,000 voters 11,857,000 participated; 90 per cent, voted. No one is suggesting that 90 per cent, did not vote, but, that although 90 per cent, voted, the results were not as they would have liked. That shows a free democratic vote, and a conscious understanding of the people's responsibilities, for it is a higher percentage than in most constituencies in this country. They were asked three questions, two of which were answered affirmatively by the great majority, including the Mikolajczyk Peasant Party. The other question, the abolition of the 1269 Senate, was opposed by the Polish Peasant Party. Yet 7,844,000 voted for the proposals made by the Left Parties, and 3,686,000 votes were cast for the Polish Peasant Parties "No," to this question. Hence, there were 68 per cent, for and 32 per cent, against. I do not believe that Mr. Laski or anyone, is on the right track when he suggests that an election now would mean a majority for the Polish Peasant Party if there were a free vote. The Polish Peasant Party is free to stand in accordance with the electoral law, and we have no evidence, apart from the views and remarks of the hon. Member for Belfast University to show that the law is not a democratic one.
I want to deal with the question of parties to the electoral bloc and with some of the points made by the hon. Member for Gateshead. I thank the Government for the privilege of having been able to visit Poland. Not only I, but the Labour and Conservative representatives who were present, were informed of a number of facts relating to that position. I found that the best elements in Poland want a bloc not because of tactics but because of the need for rebuilding their country. They say that any violent election fight, as would result in Poland in the absence of this bloc, would not assist in the reconstruction of the country but would result in further chaos. That was the point put by the best elements of all parties. There are those, of course, who put these things second to the theoretical conception of democracy. I would say that the best democracy is the democracy which is trying to build up the country and to give the people a better standard of life. If it is necessary at a certain stage to have an election bloc, as is conceived by the Left parties now, it is only because in the circumstances of Poland, with the unhappy background of the past generation, it is necessary to maintain the national unity for reconstruction rather than that they should be split into diverse parties in order to have a "free for all."
One Minister put the matter to me in this way. He said, "It may do for you in England to have a 'free for all.' "Referring to the Election in July, 1945, he said that it was even possible for both sides to co-operate on the next day. He added, "Poland is different. We have never had a stable Government. We have not had centuries of freedom." Of course, 1270 their point of view is that we have had centuries of freedom, and I did not then want to argue that with him. I prefer to argue that matter in this House, and I am glad to see that the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) agrees with me. Nevertheless, that is their point of view, and I believe there is some substance in it. We must recall, with a certain amount of modesty, that we are not sufficiently competent to try to impose our forms of democratic elections upon Poland, a nation who are going through an entirely different life for that which we experience here. Therefore, I believe that the Polish Left parties are acting wisely in this matter.
The hon. Member opposite referred to members of the underground movement who were prevented from taking part in the election, members to whom franchise would not be extended. He said that, therefore, every one who opposed the Nazis would be affected. He must differentiate in this matter between the underground movement which existed during the war and the one which exists now. The underground movement referred to is the underground movement which operates with arms now and not the one which operated two or three years ago against the German invader. We must agree that that is right. Such people would be outlawed in this country. Hon. Members must not forget that we are in a much more fortunate position than countries like Poland where they have not reached the same stage of stability. The new electoral law has been criticised. There may be small points of detail which from the legal point of view of a Britisher may appear to require alteration. I did not hear the hon. Member who raised that point make such violent criticism in connection with the election in Greece. If I remember correctly, in Greece, women did not have the vote. Under this new electoral law in Poland, every one over the age of 21 will have the right to vote. This, at least, is an advance on the position in Greece where the hon. Member was quite satisfied with the position. May be, that is what he would like to see in his own country, but I do not think the women in this country would be very happy about it.
As I have said before, if we want to be critical, our criticism should start at home. If we want to be critical likewise abroad, then we must be uniform in that 1271 criticism. It is rather upsetting that hon. Members like the hon. Member for Wallsend and the hon. Member for Queen's University are not uniform in their criticisms. If we want to be uniform there is a country just across the Atlantic where it is known that 14 million negroes in the Southern States are not given free franchise. This is in a Western democratic country. There are some English axioms which I observe as principles, and one is that "charity begins at home." Likewise, clarity begins at home. If we wish to criticise, let us criticise ourselves. If we want to go further, let us go no further than those countries which are most akin to us. The United States has often been likened to us. That is where criticism is required.
If I have taken my contribution a little further than was necessary it is because I feel that some lessons have to be drawn from the remarks made this afternoon. One such lesson is that, whatever good will may have been intended, the hon. Member for Wallsend in his concluding remarks showed what he was really referring to. He attacked the Communist Party in Poland and elsewhere, and, in that sense, he was supported by the hon. Member opposite who regards the Communist theory as anti-Christian and anti everything else for which he stands. In view of what the hon. Member stands for, I am proud to be a member of the Communist Party.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Mack (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I will not trespass unduly on the time of the House because I know that everybody is anxious to hear the Minister's reply to this very important Debate. Like the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin), not being fortunate enough to go to other parts of the world under Government sponsorship, I seized time by the forelock and went to Poland before this Parliament assembled. As the House knows, I was the first man there. I also had the opportunity of traversing the lands of Pomerania which have been severely devastated by the war. Only last night I had the privilege of dining with the Lord Mayor of Stettin, who is in this country on a short visit. I do not pretend that everything in Poland is democratically such as we and the Poles would like. Neither will I pretend that the form of 1272 democracy to which my hon. Friend has alluded can be transferred to Poland, having regard to the difference of geography, history, economics and also of the kind of democracy which has been built up in the two countries over the last 100 years.
I would remind the hon. Member for Belfast University (Professor Savory), whose vigour, vitality and earnestness have never been in doubt in this House, that, as he himself must admit, Mikolajczk, the leader of the Peasant Party in Poland, is at one with the most Left wing Communists in Poland, and that a particular feature of foreign policy in Poland must be a firm friendship with Russia. I also agree with the whole gist of this argument from the point of view of my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay), who spoke with equal vigour and sincerity, as I can vouch for, because I sat in close proximity to him and could hear the passion coming from his lips. But I am afraid he must recognise that the whole of his case rests upon an incipient fear that, if Poland is allowed to pursue her elections in her own way, it will bring her too close to Russia. Being too close to Russia would be perhaps, in the view of some hon. Members, a danger to the possibility of effecting a reorganisation of Europe upon democratic lines. Whether we like it or not—and let us be honest about it—no serious person can deny that it is in the interests of Poland to be friendly with her great neighbour.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Belfast University said—and I am rather surprised at him, as a professor, saying this—that Russia was a non-European country. I would remind him that geographically Russia comprises, in her previous border, over half the area of Europe alone, to say nothing of her territory in Asia. Apart from that, the fact remains —and the Poles recognise this salient fact —that, as far as the Poles in this country are concerned, it has been said that the majority of them do not wish to return to their own country. My hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend advocates that they should be given an opportunity of voting in the Polish elections, that they should play an active part in the political future of the country. They themselves say, "We are not prepared to return to our country because we are not in support 1273 of the Government there." It is one thing for soldiers to fight in a foreign country in defence of their own country and their country's interests, and to have full franchise. I suggest it is a very different thing for a large body of the soldiers of that country, permeated by vicious anti-Soviet propaganda, to reject their right to vote in the elections in their own country. That is a factor to be taken into consideration.
In the town of Stettin today the latest figures show that there are 110,000 Poles there, against possibly 6,000 Germans. At a comparable period last year there were only 20,000 or 30,000 Poles who had come into the town. They built themselves a community. They have started one of the most wonderful feats of reconstruction. In Stettin, as I have seen for myself, they are now building a steel bridge over the Oder and its marshes, where they had a wooden bridge six kilometres in length, and a most difficult thing along which to pass with any form of vehicle. They were held up by transport difficulties; they had the greatest difficulty in regard to food because they were deprived of the hinterland; they had to build some rudimentary houses; they had to reconstruct the shattered city as quickly as they could, and to form a town council and local parliament, as it were. They did that in spite of the difficulties I have mentioned. I spoke to them myself, and I was received with wild enthusiasm. Hon. Members can imagine how democratic they were when I say that they waved Union Jacks and sang the National Anthem seven times during the course of my speech. Of course, elsewhere that might have been a way of asking me to sit down. There was a brass band which blared away behind some curtains at the back of the hall; they played with enthusiasm, perhaps not too musically but certainly as robustly as they possibly could. I was told that was the Polish method of signifying their assent to the sentiments to which I had given utterance —not, as we would understand in this country, as a signal to shut up.
The fact remains, the Poles are trying to fight for a democratic principle. The Poles themselves believe—and I believe they will succeed, even having regard to all their difficult conditions—they will build up in their country a form of Government 1274 which can be truthfully and seriously termed a democracy, such as the situation will allow. It is one thing to have an election in this country, where we have close communications: it is a very different thing to have an election in a country where is it not possible to reach a town 200 miles away in less than 24 hours' travel, in a train which is overcrowded to capacity, with breakdowns of communication and things of that sort.
§ It being Four o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. Bing.]
§ Mr. Mack
I say to my hon. Friend, who is an honest man and has studied this matter, that he should not be deceived by this type of propaganda which is presented to him. I know he has been well briefed, but I also know he has the ability, intelligence and initiative to form his own judgment. I would suggest to him, if it is not too late in his life, that he should go to Poland and see for himself the conditions of which he has spoken, and I am certain he would come back and speak in a very different tone from that in which he spoke today.
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Mayhew)
I am sure all of us are grateful to the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay) for beginning such a lively, interesting, and, perhaps, important Debate this evening. I do not think that ever, perhaps, in any Adjournment Debate has there been such a wide contrast between the points of view on the extremes on both sides of the House. At one time it was developing into a kind of competition in exaggeration. If I may begin, as it were, at the end, I should say that I noticed that the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) said that 90 per cent, voted in the referendum, and that that meant that it was a democratic referendum. I immediately did some mathematical calculations about the poll at Mile End at the last Election, and I felt that the hon. Member had no solid ground at all for supposing that 90 per cent, meant a democratic poll, since he himself secured his seat on a 60 per cent, poll in Mile End. Therefore, I think we 1275 must assume that he was grossly persecuted in the Election, or that, at any rate, the size of the poll does not show that the Election was democratic. Of course, it does not.
§ Mr. Piratin
I do not think the information of the hon. Gentleman is correct. The actual poll in Mile End was 68 per cent., and the number of people who had moved and been transferred as a result of the war amounted to another 8 per cent., and the total was 76 per cent.
§ Mr. Mayhew
The hon. Member was less persecuted than I thought. The hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) raised a point of importance when he said that since the Yalta Agreement was signed by the three main Powers its interpretation was a matter for agreement between the three main Powers. I confess I had not thought about that before, but it seems to me, in the first place, that we can say that the Americans are with us. They sent a similar Note about these elections to ours. The Americans are with us. Therefore, we are, at least, in a majority; and if the Russians disagree it is always open to them to refer this question to an international court. We should be delighted to do so if that were their wish, and as a good international civil servant himself, I do not think the hon. Member could object to that.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
Is the hon. Gentleman really saying that because the Russians have not protested—I know they have not joined us—when asked to associate themselves with the Anglo-American Notes, that that fact, really, in his view, gives His Majesty's Government the right unilaterally to try to interpret a treaty signed jointly by us with the Americans and the Russians? I do not think we have any such right.
§ Mr. Mayhew
The Yalta Agreement is quite plainly decided by the three Powers. The Note we sent was not unilateral. A similar Note was sent by the United States and the Russians, if they like, can have the matter referred to an international court. I have no doubt we should be delighted.
§ Mr. Piratin
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but this is important. If we consulted with the United States about this, did we consult 1276 with the Soviet Government before sending the Note?
§ Mr. Mayhew
Our Ambassador and his Russian colleagues are in close touch, and our views are very well know in Moscow. There is nothing hidden about them, and I do not see that my previous statement does not cover the point raised by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
Is it not the fact that the American Government originally sent a Note and asked us to associate ourselves with it, and that we did so, in even stronger terms; and that the American Government asked the Russians to associate themselves with it, and that they did not do so?
§ Mr. Mayhew
If the hon. Member will put down a Question I will try to answer it, but I cannot do so now without notice. The hon. Member went on to say that we should not interfere in what was essentially a domestic Polish affair. Again, I cannot agree with him. This is not a Polish domestic affair. The fact is that at the Yalta Conference we agreed that these elections should be held, we agreed with the United States and Soviet Governments that we would cease to recognise the London Polish Government, which had been good Allies of ours during the war, and would recognise, instead, a new Polish Government, more representative than the Lublin Government, on the assumption that they would hold free and fair elections. Incidentally, we persuaded many Poles to go back to Poland and it is only fair to them and to us that the bargain should be carried out. I say, furthermore, that this is an international bargain. It is a matter of international obligation, and when we insist that this bargain should be fulfilled we are not interferring in Polish internal affairs at all. We are merely asking for another Government to fulfil their international obligations.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Perhaps I may leave that point now, as we have discussed it at some length, although perhaps I can comfort the hon. Member a little by giving him the assurances for which he asked. We have no intention whatever of preventing close cooperation between any Polish party and the Soviet Union, nor do we desire to encourage reactionary and Fascist-minded elements in the ways in 1277 which the hon. Member has suggested. The final point made by the hon. Member for Gateshead was most surprising. Having said that we should not interefere in Polish domestic affairs, he talked about the insularity of the British people, and went so far as to quote Lord Balfour in support. I was delighted to hear that, because I must associate myself, in some small degree, with another non-Socialist—the hon. Member for the Queen's University of Belfast (Professor Savory). I listened to the exaggerated suspicions of the hon. Member for Belfast University with rather a critical ear, but, equally, I want to assure my hon. Friends on this side that we cannot deny all the facts which he quoted, not by any means. We cannot throw out the baby of truth along with the bath water of reaction, if I may put it that way. A great many of the facts quoted by the hon. Member for Belfast University cannot be denied, and should be faced by us, as Socialists. If we are to get at the truth of this matter—
§ Mr. Piratin
In view of the fact that the hon. Gentleman now speaks with the authority of the Foreign Office—and I congratulate him upon his appointment— can he state very carefully what are the facts, quoted by the hon. Member for Belfast University (Professor Savory), with which he agrees, because the hon. Member opposite made a number of statements, some of which the Under-Secretary may accept and some of which he may reject? I think we all ought to know which the Under-Secretary accepts, because he now speaks with the authority of the Foreign Office.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I hardly think that is necessary, because I made it clear that I do not accept everything which was said by the hon. Member for Belfast University, although there are things which he said which none of us can deny. If the hon. Member for Mile End wishes for detailed information, perhaps he would put down a Question. What, then, is the position in Poland? It is this: The elections have not taken place, and we have had no official notification as to the date. There is discussion in Poland about January, but, as I say, we have had no official notification. The position is that political freedom is being denied to very large and important sections of Polish opinion That cannot be gainsaid.
1278 In particular, the Polish Peasant Party are having the utmost difficulty in carrying out their normal political work. They are denied the freedom of the Press, they are prevented from hiring halls for political meetings, they are persecuted by the police, and are prevented in many ways from carrying out their election campaign. Eighteen of their branch offices have been closed, and a considerable number of members have been arrested. Similar measures have been taken against the Work Party, under the leadership of Mr. Popiel, another Pole from London. This party were allowed to hold their congress in totally unacceptable conditions, and dissolved on 18th July because of censorship restrictions, administrative interference, and similar acts against the political rights of the party. Furthermore, the Polish Peasant Party have had greatly increased difficulties since their refusal to join the electoral bloc.
Some of my hon. Friends, and some of those who visited Poland recently, are in favour of a single list of candidates at the elections in the conditions as they exist in Poland today. I cannot say that for myself. On the contrary, in present circumstances, Mr. Mikolajczyk has no alternative but to contest the elections. It is true, as the hon. Member for Mile End said, that he was offered 25 per cent of the seats if he entered the bloc, but all responsible and reliable observers say that his support in the electorate is very much more than that. Some put it at three quarters of the total electorate.
§ Mr. Mack
This is a most important point. I was staggered to hear my hon. Friend more or less concede all the points made by the hon. Member for Belfast University (Professor Cavory) in regard to the alleged persecution of the Peasant Party. May I take it that he gets his information from the British Embassy in Warsaw, and, if that is so, would he not equally give way to the Labour Members of the House who were recently in Poland, and who made a report to the Government, giving their impressions of this matter?
§ Mr. Mayhew
It cannot be denied that the Polish Peasant Party are working 1279 under extreme difficulties. It may be that some people exaggerate, but we must take the facts into account. We do not want the Polish Peasant Party to be at loggerheads with other parties in Poland, but Poland is not the only country where genuine democratic parties cannot come to agreement with Communist parties. By no means is that the case.
§ Mr. Piratin
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Polish Peasant Party are genuinely democratic, and that all the other parties are Communist?
§ Mr. Mayhew
No, certainly not. I shall say more later about the Polish Peasant Party. I think we are a bit too grown up in this country to believe that because a party cannot come to an agreement with a Communist party they are necessarily a Fascist or reactionary party. That is true about the British Labour Party, let alone the Polish Peasant Party. I deny that the Polish Peasant Party are a reactionary party. They are composed primarily of peasant and land workers, and include large numbers of industrial workers from all parts of Poland. Their programme includes a wide measure of land reform, and is composed, in many respects, of good Socialist principles'. Indeed, as far as the nationalisation programme of the Polish Government goes, the Polish Peasant Party are more advanced than the Polish Communist Party.
I do not think that it would be any exaggeration to say that the present viewpoint of this party is not far distant from the social democracy of the British Labour Party. So far as its programme is concerned, there is no reason for withholding our encouragement and approval from this party, any more than we should disapprove of other parties on the continent with aims like ours. The principal difference between the Peasant Party and the Polish Socialist Party is that the latter is collaborating closely with the Communist Party. Both the Polish Peasant Party and the Polish Socialist Party favour close cooperation with the Soviet Union. All of them, including the Peasant Party, want the Poles abroad to return to Poland, and the basic division between the Socialists and the Peasants on this is the degree of collaboration with the Communist Party. The Socialist Party con- 1280 tains many Socialists with true international outlook, and we hope that even if the Communist-Socialist bloc election goes through, the Socialist Party will be able to choose its candidates freely, without having every individual case approved by the Communist Party. We do not believe that the masses of the Polish Socialists like this bloc system any more than many of the rest of the Polish people and His Majesty's Government like electoral blocs and single lists. They leave the voters no choice, and sometimes they are not so much the instrument of democracy as the suppression of it.
The electoral law has now been passed, and there is a translation in the Library, of which my hon. Friend opposite has obviously made good use, but I am afraid that we are still studying this long and complicated law, and I do not want to comment in detail on it at the moment. I do not endorse everything which has been said by the hon. Member opposite, but, at the same time, there are some novel features in the law according to Western European standards. Under Articles 2 and 3, it is possible to deprive a great number of people of votes under rather vague pretexts. I am inclined to agree that "connection with the underground Fascist movement" is a bit vague, and a little difficult to prove or disprove, and the same goes for "aiming at upsetting the Polish Democratic State." I feel that a lot depends on the interpretation of these phrases, and to put them into the electoral law makes it a rather novel business by European standards. Therefore, I think that we are entitled to look at them closely.
I would not have mentioned these points except that during the referendum of last summer many allegations were made, well founded, of irregularity, and I think that, in those circumstances, we are entitled to look at this law with great caution. The procedure laid down in the electoral law is a rather complicated form of proportional representation. It is operated by three kinds of electoral commission: The national electoral commission, the district electoral commissions and the local polling committees. While the national electoral commission and the proceedings of the local polling committees seemed to be very well devised, and attended with a good many safeguards, there is a vagueness about the composition 1281 and procedure of the district electoral commissions. They have the job of collating and submitting the voting figures for each constituency.
As I have said, I do not want to go into details, but we will study it. I mention these points because I am afraid that the Polish Government is not standing by its international obligations and is taking a line which entitles us to look at these things with a critical eye. I can only repeat that we shall judge whether these elections conform with the provisions of Yalta and Potsdam by whether all the legally permitted parties get a fair, equal and above board election.
I do not think the House will disagree with that point of view. As has been said several times in this Debate, His Majesty's Government, throughout these proceedings, have made it quite clear that we expect the Polish Provisional Government to carry out the Yalta and Potsdam Agreements. As has also been said, we have, with the United States, presented Notes recently laying down the conditions which we think are essential if these elections are to be regarded as free and democratic. The terms of the Notes will be familiar to hon. Members and I need not give them again, but perhaps I should also mention that His Majesty's Government have not yet ratified the Anglo-Polish Financial Agreement. This Agreement was signed between His Majesty's Government and the Polish Provisional Government in July but has not been ratified because it is not yet clear that the Polish Provisional Government are fulfilling their obligations that free elections shall be held. I think hon. Members would go with me as far as to say that it is our duty and our task to see that these elections are held and held fairly. It might perhaps be asked, "Why not postpone them a little until things become clearer?" It might be felt that Poland deserved a spell of order 1282 and peace to enable her to get down to the job of reconstruction before the elections, and if postponement would mean those things there would be a great deal to he said for it. National unity would undoubtedly help reconstruction but of course national unity can and must come after the free elections and not before them.
If we are going to have national unity let it be after the free elections, when the Government is representative of the Polish people, and not before. Surely that is the right and sensible thing? The great masses of the Polish people want a more representative Government and free elections, and if those elections are not held at the earliest opportunity then greater discontent is likely than if they are held now. All observers agree that there is much political discontent and even contention in Poland today, and it is due to the denial of reasonable political rights. That would not be solved by a further postponement of the elections.
I have done my best to cover as much ground as possible and to indicate the attitude of His Majesty's Government to this election question. I want to conclude by saying that we fought together with the Poles during the war as Allies. Indeed, as has often been said in this House, it was on Poland's behalf that we entered the war in the first place. Now the war is over we want to maintain with the Poles the same friendly connections that we had before, and we know that the great majority of the Poles themselves want this, too. We deplore the internal tension and we want the true state of Polish opinion reflected in the Government, and we believe that this can only come about by the holding of free and fair elections.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-four Minutes past Four o'Clock.