§ 3.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
Every Member of this Committee who has been studying recent developments in the international sphere, whether here in Europe or in the Far East, must have felt increasingly concerned at the trend of events. We in this country have consistently felt that the only wholly satisfactory basis for international peace was close friendship and collaboration between the great Powers whose joint action brought victory on the battlefield. On that issue there is, I think, no dispute anywhere in the Committee. That policy was pursued by the Coalition Government and by the so-called Caretaker Government, and I have no doubt it is being pursued with equal sincerity by the present Government. That was our objective; I think I could say it was our national objective. To an increasing extent we have failed to realise it, and that failure to reach constructive Allied agreement has paralysed European recovery.
2231 The Yalta decision, the Potsdam Declaration, the Charter of the United Nations, the Armistice terms and the Peace Treaties so recently concluded, are all based upon that assumption that the victorious Powers would work together and that they would pursue a common policy towards the smaller nations whether those smaller nations were liberated Allied states or former adversary satellites. For instance, the Yalta Declaration pledged the signatories, all of us, to promote free elections and to allow the nations to choose their own forms of Government. We undertook to help the liberated nations and former Axis satellites—if I may quote—to solve by democratic means their political and economic problems.The Armistice terms signed with the defeated satellite Powers set up Allied Control Commissions, and by the terms of those various agreements the Allies have obligations to keep each other informed of events in the respective enemy countries. For example, when the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary asked the Soviet Government the other day for information in respect of recent events in Hungary, he was not merely exercising his own undoubted right under the Armistice terms, but he was also reminding the Soviet Government of what it was that Government's duty to do without being asked. Those facts need to be borne in mind.
I would ask the Committee to look for a moment at the contrasting position in Italy, where the forces of occupation are Anglo-American—whereas in Hungary they are, of course, Russian—and we have always sought to keep the Soviet representatives informed. So far as I know, that has been successfully accomplished. Certainly, I cannot recall any single occasion when the Soviet Government asked for information and were not given it. As I have mentioned the example of Italy, perhaps I might refer to the great pleasure with which I think all Members of the Committee have seen the final conclusion of agreement for the withdrawal of British troops from Italy after the entry into force of the treaty. I think that step is a real contribution not only to Anglo-Italian friendship which we all wish to see restored, but to the recovery and stability of Europe as a whole.
2232 In contrast to those events, I must ask the Committee to look for a moment at what is happening, as far as we are able to judge, in Eastern Europe—in Bulgaria, for instance, Where, as the Committee knows, the population is essentially Russophil. The leader of the Agrarian Party, M. Petkov, has been arrested, and I understand he has been charged with preparing an attempt to seize power by force of arms, while the small number of opposition deputies—I think there are 23 of them altogether—who belong to that party have all been expelled from Parliament. I recollect that the right hon. Gentleman had occasion some time ago to protest at the way in which these Bulgarian elections were carried out. But it is even more disturbing to find that the few opposition members who were none the less elected, who got through the net, if I may so describe it, are now prevented from carrying out their parliamentary duties. How can anyone pretend that treatment of that description gives to the people the right to choose the form of Government under which they will live?
I turn to Rumania. During the year which passed before the elections, the Committee will remember that over and over again His Majesty's Government sent a series of notes protesting against the delay and the lack of political freedom accorded to the opposition parties in the immediate pre-election period. What happened to those representations? They were all rejected on the grounds that they were direct interference with Rumania's internal affairs. What has happened since last November? His Majesty's Government said that the elections had neither been free nor fair, but involvedwholesale falsification of the results by the Government authoritiesMeanwhile, since then, there have been political arrests, and I understand that the British representative at Bucharest has approached the Rumanian Government regarding the conditions under which political prisoners are held at the Hain Prison at Pitesti. Nor have we any information, that I know of, concerning the charges against these prisoners. They are imprisoned without having been tried and without any specific charges of any kind having been brought against them. That again is contrary to the undertakings which we all gave each other on the various occasions to which I have referred.
2233 The right hon. Gentleman had to complain about elections in Poland. The Under-Secretary of State said:His Majesty's Government… cannot … regard the results as a true expression of the will of the Polish people."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1947; Vol. 432, c.1376.]Now we have the news that early in this month six prominent Socialists have been arrested. No details have yet been made available concerning their trial but, so far as I can make out, the inference seems to be that these particular Socialists are not in favour of the fusion of the Socialists and Communist parties in Poland. I hope that is not a precedent for anything in this country later on. The same methods are being employed elsewhere in Europe. I would draw the Committee's attention to what has happened in Greece. The Communist Party there have issued a public warning that they intend to fight the American aid programme to Greece, to the utmost of their strength, including the help of guerilla war. Now, there were free elections which, I do not think anybody will deny, were well conducted in all the circumstances—certainly, elections which compared very favourably with those held in Bulgaria or Rumania or Poland.
§ Mr. Eden
It is not a question of who wins. That is not our business. The point is that the Allied Commission that supervised those elections, the three Governments, our own, the American and the French, all reported those elections to have been fairly held; and I do ask the Committee to note that, despite that fact, the Communist Party, which took no part in those elections at all, is now seeking by guerilla warfare to wreck the American aid programme. I note also that that announcement was made within 48 hours of the arrest of the Bulgarian Opposition leader, M. Petkov, and I wonder if there was not some connection between those two events. I say that the Greek record in that respect is favourable, compared with what has happened elsewhere in Eastern Europe.
Now a word about Austria. There we saw an ugly political crisis flare up suddenly on the report that the Communist leader. Herr Fischer, had been holding meetings with the leading mem- 2234 bers of the People's Party—the People's Party which headed the poll in the general election of 1945. Here we are dealing with an ex-enemy country under Four-Power occupation, and so, of course, a different technique is involved, a technique using internal rather than external pressure. But we see this result. It appears that the Chancellor, Dr. Figl, was pressed to reshuffle his cabinet on a basis more favourable to the Communists, who at present, I think, hold only four out of the 165 seats in the Austrian Chamber.
§ Mr. Warbey (Luton)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what evidence he has that the initiative in that case did not come from the People's Party?
§ Mr. Eden
I am just giving my interpretation of the events so far as I am able to judge them. If the Foreign Secretary has any different information I shall be glad to have it. If I assume that the pressure comes from the quarter I named it is because it has done so in every country in Eastern Europe. Is that an unnecessarily rash assumption? I leave the Committee to judge. But wherever it came from, the point that I am making is that the Communist Party, which, as I say, holds only four out of 165 seats, is, in fact, in Austria a fragmentary one—not unlike the Communist Party, in point of fact, in this country. The pressure there is for enlargements of the Communist membership, apparently—here again I am only estimating—but apparently in return for some prospective Soviet concessions in regard to reparations and the signature of the treaty. That is what I think is happening.
§ Mr. Eden
For the moment the situation appears to be held. But coming so soon after the Hungarian coup, these events can hardly fail to cause further apprehension, and I ask the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey), who interrupted me just now, and anyone else who has similar feelings in this matter, where is the next move to be? Will it be Finland, hitherto comparatively free from external pressure, but where already there are rumours of threats against the Right Wing Agrarians and, to a lesser degree, against the Social Democrats? Or will it be in Italy, where the present Christian Democratic Government is wrestling valiantly with a severe financial crisis and a heavy burden of 2235 unemployment? We do not know. We cannot say. Hon. Gentlemen may retort to me, "If you have not certain knowledge you should not throw out these dangerous suppositions." I would reply that, by making it clear that we are under no illusions that such attempts may be made, His Majesty's Government can best contribute to forestalling them.
Finally, in this brief review, I must come to Hungary, which appears to be, on the information available to us so far, the most flagrant example of all. There, as the Committee knows, M. Kovac, the Secretary-General of the Smallholders' Party, was arrested by the Soviet military authorities on a charge of espionage against the Red Army—after, the Committee will note, the Communist Party had made a vain attempt to deprive him of his parliamentary immunity. All the attempts made by the British and American Governments to obtain information about that have been rejected. Now here, let me say this. I am not asserting that everyone in the Smallholders' Party has necessarily behaved impeccably. I am not asserting that. I do not know. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for Luton laughs, but the point lies here. If there was any evidence of wrongdoing that evidence ought at once to have been made fully available to the allied Governments who share responsibility for what was done. Contrary to the statute which governs the Control Commission, General Sviridov's note to the Hungarian Government and the information which it contains were withheld from the British and American members of the Commission. That was a refusal of a right which is absolutely clear under the terms of the statute. I will quote it. It is a right—and I recall it very well—to receive copies of all communications, reports, and other documents which might interest His Majesty's Government.That is the obligation. To justify the refusal to fulfil that, M. Molotov says it is the British and not the Russians who are interfering in Hungary's internal affairs. How utterly fantastic that is. Here, again, I need hardly say, no evidence is forthcoming.
What I have said in respect of M. Kovac applies with equal force to, the Prime Minister, M. Nagy, and his treatment. I say with regret, but quite definitely, that the refusal of the repeated Allied requests 2236 for information must inevitably increase doubt as to the validity of the charges that are brought. If these charges are genuine, why cannot we be told about them, and told of the evidence? If we are not told, we are bound to suspect the genuineness of the charges. The result of all this has been in Hungary to increase the Communist Party's strength—
§ Mr. Eden
I cannot believe that the hon. and learned Gentleman is quite so simple as that. He knows perfectly well that these matters move by stages; he knows how much the Communist Party's power has increased over the police; and he knows that the Communist Party is only 17 per cent. of the Hungarian electorate. It is certainly infinitely stronger in authority than it was before these events took place. I do not think anybody for a moment is going to dispute that.
§ Mr. Tiffany (Peterborough)
But surely they should also increase the strength of the other parties similarly?
§ Mr. Eden
It is not part of my business to explain to hon. Gentlemen the mental processes by which they should arrive at these particular conclusions. If there is really anybody who thinks that the recent events in Hungary—the arrest of M. Kovac, the dismissal of the Prime Minister—were not particularly convenient for the Communist Party, he has a wonderful view of European affairs. If these things really took place despite the Kremlin, I should be indeed surprised.
Let me now turn to another aspect of the matter. I do not like to say these things, but I think it is our duty to say them. I, of course, have not the same responsibility as the right hon. Gentleman. In response to the interruption made just now, I say that I believe—this;is my forecast—that we now see in Hungary all the usual Communist preparations for rigged elections. I hope I may be proved wrong. If I am proved wrong, nobody 2237 will rejoice more than I shall. But the realities have to be faced, and I believe that in the long run we do not do any good to Anglo-Soviet relations if we pretend to accept replies which, in our heart of hearts, we find it impossible to believe. We have to face this fact, that ratification of the peace treaties with which the right hon. Gentleman struggled for so long a period, is taking place in conditions of considerable cynicism, and the concessions for which he fought hardest—and all honour to him for doing so—such as the human rights clauses, with their safeguards of such very simple things as the right of free speech, are being flouted in many lands before the ink on the document is dry.
Wherever we turn we see, too, delay in reaching vital agreements. Six months ago I was happy to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman—and rightly so—on the Trieste solution, yet what is happening there? Today there appears to be deadlock over the choice of governor. I must say—and I choose my words—that the effect of all this is, unhappily, to undermine confidence between the victors in the late war. That is deplorable, and there is no one in this Committee who does not regret it. But for those of us who do really want to see Anglo-American-Soviet friendship, it would be hypocritical to pretend that confidence is unshaken, or that good relations are unimpaired. I must add one personal word on this. I do not forget that a little more than 12 years ago I was the first British Minister to go to the Soviet Union after the revolution; I do not forget that in the war years I saw, as did some of my colleagues, the Russian battlefields. I know something of the terrible price Russia paid in life for the Allied victory, and there is in our minds always—and it is true today that there is still—an immense fund of good will in this country towards the Soviet Union, but that good will can now he evoked only on the basis of sincere partnership and mutual respect. There is really no other way.
If that was all I had to say to the Committee this afternoon, I should feel that the outlook would even justify Dr. Johnson's "inspissated gloom." Happily that is not so, and for a very few moments more I want to refer to Mr. Marshall's recent initiative. That momentous offer by 2238 the United States Secretary of State, made in his Harvard speech, has brought new hope to Europe and to the world. It is, indeed, a generous action, and one which deserves to rank with "the most unsordid act in history." The offer is not only important in so far as it affects the economies of both Europe and the United States; it is not merely that dollars may be made available to countries whose economies are now dying for lack of dollars or what dollars can buy, although that is important enough. This offer can mean much more than that. It can mean that European countries are going to be stimulated to agree upon common economic measures for their joint salvation. Such, indeed, is the first step towards that united Europe which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has so much at heart.
In the Foreign Affairs Debate in this Committee in November, 1945, I made a plea for a transformation of relations between nations, and for the consequent modification of some of our conceptions of sovereignty. Since then, I have on several occasions, both in this Committee and outside, urged the Government, so far as I could, to take steps to secure closer co-operation in economic matters with our Western neighbours, and particularly with France. All this is, of course, wholly compatible with the progressive development of trade which we all want to see, within the Empire, both with the Dominions and with the Colonies. If the Committee want all example of that they have only to look at what has been done, on a smaller scale, in this sphere in the Benelux Agreement between Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. By the end of this year, in spite of all the difficulties which had to be overcome—and they have been formidable—these countries will have established a complete customs union between them. I think that one of the results of that will be that this group of small countries will then become probably the third trading Power of the world; that is, with their overseas partners, of course. Admittedly, such negotiations take time, and I am not saying that here is a solution of Europe's difficulties, because time is just what we cannot afford. We, the countries of Europe, as I see it, have to meet an economic crisis which will reach its peak in the next 12 months —perhaps in the next six months.
2239 Mr. Marshall, in putting forward this offer, has, quite rightly, made it clear that while the United States Government are prepared to help, it is for the European countries themselves to agree as to their requirements, and as to the part which they can and will play in making the best possible use of America's assistance. Mr. Marshall, I have no doubt, has memories—as have the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister—of the Combined Chiefs of Staff and the Combined Food Boards in Washington during the war. It would seem perhaps that, according to his experience then, he now wishes to know what Europe's requirements are. He will wish to satisfy himself, and the American people will wish to satisfy themselves, that those requirements have been properly examined, analysed and pruned, so that the American help, whether in dollars or in commodities, can be made available in the right place and in the proper quantity. There may be some hon. Members who say—and it has been said to me already by others not in this Committee—"But are you sure that our American, friends are really going to go through with this plan?" Well, I would reply, that the best contribution we can make to winning a favourable answer to that question is to prepare a plan with which they can go ahead.
I will mention one other aspect of this question which has to be remembered. The importance to a creditor nation, and especially a creditor nation on the scale of the United States, of restoring the prosperity of Europe hardly needs any argument. I think I am right in saying that last year the United States had a favourable balance of trade at the rate of more than 5,000 million dollars a year. I understand that that figure is now probably much larger. If the United States is to continue as a great exporting nation, then clearly it is of the first importance to her to try to build up European prosperity, and that cannot be done quickly. Perhaps it could never be done at all if the shortage—indeed, the famine—in dollars is not relieved.
So I come to put one or two questions to the right hon. Gentleman, and I leave it to him whether he feels he can answer now or on some later occasion. What organisation, what machinery, will have to be set up to enable Europe to put forward her requirements? Is it possible to 2240 adapt any existing machinery for this purpose? Can we make use, for instance, of the Economic Commission for Europe, or do we require some special organisation for this immediate purpose? On these points I am not prepared to be dogmatic, but I should think it likely that the urgency of the present task might well call for special handling. In any event, it is important, and I should have thought desirable, that the Economic Commission for Europe, set up by the United Nations, where decisions are taken by a majority vote, should be associated with this work in some way.
In my view it was correct that the right hon. Gentleman should make the first approach to our neighbour, France. Here, our relations are always close and intimate. At the same time, I was glad to note that he made a similar approach to the Soviet Union. In any plan, the needs of Germany must, of course, be taken into account, but whatever machinery may be employed, it is essential that the work shall be done with speed. We hope that all will join to help in this work, but if, unhappily, some countries should not wish to participate, it is still our duty to go on with those who will. I believe—and I say this in all sincerity to the right hon. Gentleman—that in this way we shall not only best serve those countries who do join, but also any countries, if there be any, who do not join, for by creating a prosperous and integrated association of countries in Europe, we shall provide not only a message of hope, but a magnetic attraction for all. In any event, the door will always be open, and if any will not come in now, they may do so later.
In convincing all concerned that the European system is strong, that it is not going to fall apart, lies the best argument against the continuation of the present deadlock in European political affairs. No one will seek to minimise the difficulties which confront the right hon. Gentleman in reaching agreement on these issues, but at the same time the opportunities are immense, and, indeed, unparalleled. We must not let them slip. We have, here in our hands, the possibility of creating a new era for our tortured Continent. Here is an absolutely free choice for East as well as for West. Here is that second chance that so rarely comes, and when it does come, has the nature of a miracle.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
It may be for the convenience of the Committee if, at this stage, I make a very short statement—I shall, of course, be replying to the Debate later on. As the Committee will be aware, the French Foreign Minister and I have had preliminary contact on the subject of European reconstruction and the offer of the United States Government, set forth in the speech of the American Secretary of State at Harvard on 5th June. We decided last night in Paris to propose to the Soviet Government that a meeting of the British, French and Soviet Foreign Ministers should be held during the week beginning 23rd June, in order to discuss these problems as a whole. The reply of the Soviet Government is awaited, and the Committee will understand that until it is received there is nothing I can usefully say on the subject today. I know the great interest of the Committee in the United States' proposal, and wish very much that it were possible to say more about the position. All I can do now is to repeat that we regard Mr. Marshall's offer as a great opportunity for Europe. It is a chance that His Majesty's Government will not miss. I have promised that we, for our part, will seize this opportunity and try to turn it to the greatest possible account. I think that so far we have lost no time in getting things started. We shall continue pushing ahead with all possible energy.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Salter (Oxford University)
We have all been awaiting the Foreign Secretary's statement, but we all understand the reasons why he has not been able at this stage to give a fuller report. For the same reasons, many of us will feel that we have to be specially careful in what comments we now make on the situation. There are, however, a few comments I should like to make, arising partly out of what was said by the Foreign Secretary, and partly out of what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). I propose to confine myself entirely to the question of Mr. Marshall's proposal, and not to cover the wider ground which has been touched upon this afternoon. The point I want to urge is that the extreme urgency must be the dominating factor 2242 in determining the procedure, machinery and agenda for the forthcoming negotiations.
Let us, for a moment, look at what this urgency is. My right hon. Friend stated that last year there was a surplus in the American balance of payments of something like 5,000 million dollars. This year it is 8,000 million dollars, according to the recent official estimates of the United States Department of Commerce. Europe and ourselves are now importing the vital supplies we need from America only by the aid of gifts and credits, and loans of one kind and another, which must come to an end within a year, and are obviously not going to be renewed in the same form and on the same scale. If they are not replaced, there must be impoverishment in this country and in Europe on a vast scale. We have just had a slight but dramatic reminder of what it would mean to us if we really had to bridge the gap by sacrificing imports. The increase in the Tobacco Duty will mean a dollar saving of only £7½ million, which is less than one-sixtieth part of the dollar saving needed to bridge the gap. What is true of us is true in varying degrees of the greater part of Europe.
The first consideration should be that the procedure, machinery and agenda chosen should be such as will enable a sufficiently substantial scheme, for Congress to take action upon, to be prepared and presented by the end, and if possible by the autumn, of this year. Next year is the year of the Presidential election, and every day that passes will make it more difficult for Congress to take action. I think we shall greatly endanger the future unless we can present a plan by the autumn of this year. What does that mean? My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington suggested that in some way or another the new United Nations Organisation, the European Economic Commission, should be brought into the picture. I seriously suggest that it is of the utmost importance that the Foreign. Secretary should not so commit himself to it, or to any organ of a permanent world institution, that if there is delay or deadlock within that organisation, the whole of his progress is held up. He must keep his feet clear of any such very real and very obvious danger.
2243 I was associated with many of the efforts, through international negotiations, to restore Europe after the last war. There came a time when the permanent world organisation of that time, the League of Nations, was able to take a great and successful part. But that time only came after some years. The first efforts in relief and reconstruction had to be undertaken by the victorious belligerents of that war, associated with some of the neutrals, by improvised machinery outside the League of Nations itself. It was only at a later stage that they banded over the task to the League of Nations. Even then, this world institution proved to be much better able to deal with specific and concrete problems, like that of the reconstruction of Austria, than to deal with any problem as wide as Europe itself.
That is my first suggestion. My second is this: that the agenda of the conference should be so drawn as to cover what is essential for Congress to act upon and no more. That does not mean that we should attempt to ask for dollars in instalments. Anyone who knows anything about negotiations in America, as some Members here do, know that you have a much better chance if you present a bold and comprehensive scheme to cover the whole of what you anticipate you will ultimately want, instead of asking for half of what you require this year and the other half next year. But it is, in my view, completely impossible that within the space of a few months we shall be able to agree with the whole of Europe, or even such part of it as comes into this scheme, both on the total and on the precise allocation of every block of dollars for every kind of purpose to each country.
I suggest that the projected conference should aim, first of all, at making a global estimate of the total that will be required, but without precise allocation as between country and country and purpose and purpose. I think the conference can make this task relatively easier by taking as its basis the actual deficit in the European balance of payments, which is much the same thing as the actual surplus in the American balance of payments. I think it would to us be possible on this basis to give Congress a rather close global estimate of what is wanted. Next, the conference should I suggest aim, in this first stage, not at a precise allocation of the whole of this total, but at 2244 picking out certain productive requirements, let us say, coalmining machinery for specified areas in Europe, and machinery to assist food production or transport, and at securing safeguards that the money provided for these purposes will not be wasted or diverted to political uses. That, I suggest, would be a simplified but, at the same time, sufficiently comprehensive agenda sufficient for the first scheme.
The Foreign Secretary has told us that a communication has been made to Russia. He is attempting, as Mr. Marshall is attempting, to make this proposal a bridge between West and East. We should all like to see that bridge. But I think we shall do well, from the beginning and throughout, to make it quite clear that if this fails, not by our wish, decision, or default, the proposed aid shall be a bulwark and a buttress for those who do come into the scheme. Suppose it is impossible to combine in one scheme ourselves in the West with Russia and the countries in East Europe which are under her influence. Supposing that that, unhappily, proves to be the case. Is it not clear that, on balance, our relations with that part of the world will be better and not worse, if it is clear both to them, and to ourselves, that in the West at least we are replacing impoverishment and chaos by prosperity and order. I think we should make clear to the whole world, including Russia, that if, again not by our wish, decision, or default, there should be a continuing unfriendly competition between East and West there is no doubt on which side of the line we ourselves shall be. I am sure that by making this clear we shall increase our chances of achieving the best, and if we fail in that of at least mitigating the danger of the worst.
I would like to say a few words on another subject. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington referred to the very notable effort that Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg are now making to form a customs union. I hope they will succeed, but I think we shall make a mistake if we think that in the next few years that can be a model that will be successfully adopted for the greater part of Europe. We shall make a mistake if we think that a model of that kind must be included, or should even be attempted, in what I would call Chapter I of the scheme required in response to Mr. Marshall's initiative. I do not think it is 2245 always realised what is implied by a full customs union of the kind that now secures exemptions from the most-favoured-nation clause obligations. A customs union implies the creation of a new political authority which has to decide both the height and character of the common tariff of all the constituent States. But customs receipts are now so important a part of the total revenues of every country, and so largely determine its domestic policy, that such a political authority becomes the main governing authority of the whole union. The Governments of the constituent units are almost reduced to a status of State Governments in a Federal Union. That is a very difficult thing to achieve quickly.
My view is that if there is to be a system of regional economic associations in Europe this can only be achieved by extending the exceptions to the most-favoured-nation clause. There have been precedents for such exceptions in the case of the Scandinavian countries and some other countries. For hon. Members who are interested in this subject. I would refer them to the interesting series of rules drawn up in 1933 at Montevideo, with the United States participating, defining the conditions under which the most-favoured-nation exceptions system might be enlarged. I mention that now because I think it is desirable that we should not think that a complete customs union is at all a likely achievement within a measurable period of years. Still more should we make a mistake if we attempted to include any such plan in the first scheme.
Those are really the two points I wished to make. I would like to emphasise the extreme importance of urgency and its relevance to the machinery and agenda of the negotiations. It is commonly said that those who buy must also sell, and that those who sell must buy. That formula, however, is not precise enough, and is only true with qualifications and in the long run. It is not concrete enough to lead to definite conclusions. What is true, however, exactly to a pound and a dollar, is that every person, every group and every country must, not only in the long run but at every moment, buy and lend as much as they sell—or sell and borrow as much as they buy. If with that in mind we look at the European deficit and the American surplus, we see that we have looming over 2246 us a terrible and urgent danger of widespread impoverishment and chaos on this side of the Atlantic and a great economic depression due to an export slump on the other side—if that gap is not bridged and bridged quickly and this means, I suggest, action by Congress before the winter is over and action by Europe before this year is over.
The response to Mr. Marshall's initiative must be made to succeed; the alternative is the impoverishment of the whole of Europe including ourselves, a great economic depression in America, a grave threat to the whole of the free democracies, to their standards of life and their prospects for the future. I congratulate the Foreign Minister on the speed with which he has acted in this first stage. I trust he will do his best to see that the procedure adopted in the forthcoming negotiations is based upon the urgency of the time table I have described.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Pritt (Hammersmith, North)
One is tempted to deal with many subjects today, but I want to confine myself almost entirely to the Hungarian question, and even in doing that, I fear I may take a little longer time than I usually like to take in this Committee. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said that Hungary was the most flagrant example; I think it was the most flagrant example of the bees in the bonnet of the right hon. Gentleman. Let us see what happened there. There are, of course, two main accusations against the Soviet Union in this matter. One is that the whole thing is a scheme to put power into Communist hands before the Soviet Army leaves, and the other specific offence is a refusal to communicate documents to their Allies. The general impression given to the public that this is a thing which has flared up rapidly has no foundation. It is well to keep in mind that the situation has existed for the last six months.
§ Mr. Pritt
Eighteen months in a way, but six in regard to the immediate matter. The way to begin to examine it is this. The important point of the matter is that it is said that the duty to make cornmunications—to the British Government in particular—has been broken, so we 2247 need to see on what topics the Soviet.Union ought to have given information and is under the obligation to give information.
The obligation is that there is a right to receive—and that of course implies a right on the other side to deliver—copies of all communications, reports and other documents which might interest His Majesty's Government. In the language of diplomatic documents, which are very well drawn in this country because they are drawn in the Foreign Office by pupils of mine, that is a pretty tenuous obligation. What might interest His Majesty's Government? Some things would and some things would not, but who is to decide what will? Not His Majesty's Government, because they have not got the documents. It is, in fact, about the most tenuous diplomatic obligation that could be undertaken—but still, let it be fulfilled. It is not a right to have information about everything the office boy is doing, but to receive copies of communications, reports and other documents of interest. Of course when you come to apply it, a very great deal depends on what is going on, on what the facts and events are and what documents they are likely to create, because only in that light is it possible to decide what ought to be told. It has been suggested that there has been some great coup which is necessarily accompanied by documents—naturally, when you are arranging a coup, you always put it all down in writing—and that these documents ought to be delivered up.
I have collected various descriptions of the matter from various more or less responsible people. It has been called "a Communist seizure of power." It has been called, "making sure of Communist power before the Soviet Army goes." It has been called "imposing a new Prime Minister." It has been called, of course, a police state,"—everything is a police state nowadays. And by one particularly flowery gentleman it has been called a gradual, ruthless campaign to destroy an anti-Communist majority." It will be interesting to compare those descriptions with the facts when we get them. It is a story I have listened to hundreds of times. It used to come 'most often from the Right Wing in this country and from the-Fascists, but now it comes much more from the United States. I think, if I 2248 may say so, that I have never known it to be more than 30 per cent, true but, at any rate, let us get the facts and have a look at them.
It is said there was a conspiracy. It is at once assumed that, if it is said by someone somewhere east of Paris that there was a conspiracy, of course there was not one. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington has, I imagine, passed a happy life—and a strenuous and important one—free both of the impact of the law and of any detailed study or knowledge of it, but he will know that there have arisen occasions in many countries where persons accused of a crime have been proved to be guilty. It may be that there really was a conspiracy, and if so there is something to be dealt with. What is the evidence for a conspiracy? Of course I cannot go into great masses of detail, although all this has been published in the Press for weeks and for months. I should have thought that a start could have been made by the express declaration at a public meeting by Mr. Nagy himself that there was a conspiracy. That is four months old. Perhaps, too, other declarations could be considered, one by the political bureau—I am sorry to use such an unhappy phrase—of that rather Right Wing party, the Smallholders' Party, that there was a conspiracy, and that the evidence of it was crushing; and a similar statement by a somewhat wider organ of the same party.
Finally, perhaps, some gentlemen who would not accept anything from east of Deal, would like to hear what was said by the United States. The American gentleman who is in charge of matters there made a protest three months ago against the implication of certain persons in what he called "the recently revealed plot." I think, if the representative of the United States referred to the "recently revealed plot" in the language which is so nearly common to him and to us, he probably meant that a plot had been recently revealed. So there is no doubt that there is a conspiracy, but it is not a Soviet conspiracy. It is a conspiracy coming from places where one would expect a conspiracy in a country which is becoming more progressive, namely, from the most reactionary sections.
When that was discovered, ought the Soviet Union to have said, "The British 2249 cannot read the newspapers; it is our duty to tell them"? I need not deal with that point, because no one has suggested that the Soviet Union should have told us about it. One open trial in a Hungarian court of Hungarian citizens before Hungarian judges took place in February, and it was fully reported. Another took place in May, which was also fully reported. Another trial is taking place at the present moment—I think it started last Monday—and that is being fully reported. It is quite possible that the first two courts have arrived at a right decision by agreeing with those other authorities I have mentioned that there is a conspiracy. I must not anticipate what will happen on the third trial.
Then there comes a crisis. Everybody agrees that there was a crisis, but few trouble to ascertain exactly what it was about. I have studied the matter a little, and there seem to have been two or three possible causes of the crisis. One was a refusal by the Soviet authorities in Hungary to hand over to the Hungarian Government M. Kovacs whom the Hungarians wanted to prosecute, and whom the Soviet authorities also wanted to prosecute. Any lawyer, and a good many laymen, will know that when a proper investigating authority of a sovereign State is dealing with someone they wish to try, they cannot be persuaded to stop in the middle and to hand the man over to another sovereign State. Therefore, the Soviet Union could hardly be expected to hand over M. Kovacs.
§ Mr. Pritt
No, not at the moment. It has been suggested that the next possible cause of the crisis was that the Soviet authorities delivered certain documents to the Hungarian Government. If we look at that, we shall probably find that that was the real cause of the crisis, because the documents in question were part of the depositions of M. Kovacs. Not for the first time in history, someone accused of a crime of which he might be guilty has proceeded to give the names of other people who might also be guilty. After all, when a prime minister is discovered to be a traitor, it causes a little disturbance, and that may have been the cause of the crisis. As I understand it, one of the suggestions is —I think the right hon. Gentleman him- 2250 self put it that way, and the Foreign Secretary is reported in "The Times" of 6th June to have put it in the same way to the Soviet authorities—that they ought to have treated the documents in the dossier against M. Kovacs as documents which might interest His Majesty's Government.
It may be a question of argument, discussion or consideration whether His Majesty's Government can really claim to be "interested" in the prosecution of everybody prosecuted in Hungarian courts, but they may well be interested in those prosecuted, or even likely to be prosecuted if they do not run away, for very serious offences indeed. But has anybody ever heard of any investigating authorities in any country, however far West one goes in search of civilisation, as it is called, who are prepared to hand over to another sovereign State, over which they have no control, the whole of their dossier of a criminal case in the middle of the proceedings? What would have happened if we had been prosecuting some dangerous Nazi in the British zone and the Soviet authorities had asked to see the documents? The very least we would have said was that they were documents being used in the middle of an investigation, and that we were not going to have them made public until the case was completed and the man was brought to trial. If that sort of accusation is to be made against the Soviet authorities in, Hungary or the Soviet authorities in Moscow, I am very sorry.
The third suggested reason for the crisis was a move to purge the Smallholders' Party. I notice that everybody who sticks up for the Smallholders' Party says that there are a lot of bad people as well as a lot of good people in it. I say that there are some bad in it, and, quite frankly, very many good people too. I do not like the Right Wing, and I do not believe that the Soviet Union likes the Right Wing. But there was a strong Smallholders' Party in Hungary when elections were held under Soviet control. The elections were perfectly fair. Everybody knew that about 30 per cent. of the members of the Smallholders' Party were either Fascists or semi-Fascists who were hiding in the party. Very often they could claim a very good anti-German record, because there were plenty of anti German Fascists in Hungary. It was a' Fascist State for a long time. But it 2251 Fascists are proscribed, they do not sit at home and grieve; they put on a different hat and get into the Right Wing party if they can manage it. And they do manage it.
I think that everybody will agree that there are bad elements in the Smallholders' Party. There have been moves by the centre and left of the Smallholders' Party to get rid of them. It may be that the Americans hoped that would not happen, and that that provoked the crisis. At any rate, there was a crisis, although it is not easy to say exactly what caused it. The first point about it is that it was over by 3rd June. The Minister of State agrees with that. It was a most unhappy observation of his to compare the rapidity with which the crisis had been settled with the activities of the late Adolf Hitler. By 2nd or 3rd June it was all over, and the new Prime Minister was at work. There was no disorder, and, to quote the old classical phrase, all the trams continued to run. It is worth remembering that there was not even a prohibition of the repeated violent anti-Coalition meetings that were being held all over the country; and a semi-Fascist made a violent speech for half an hour in the Parliament. It is creditable that, in a country which has but lately emerged from great difficulties, even in a period of crisis, they do not find it necessary or useful to prohibit violent anti-Government propaganda all over the provinces. That is very significant indeed.
§ Major Poole
Would the hon. and learned Gentleman not agree that M. Sulyok has been very plainly informed that, if he has any respect for his own safety, that will be the last speech of that sort which he will make?
§ Mr. Pritt
I have no evidence whatever to that effect, and I have not the remotest idea where the hon. and gallant Member gets his gossip from. But I have managed to discover with some difficulty where the right hon. Member gets it from. He gets it from a comic little weekly sheet, the name of which we are not supposed to disclose. I can never make up my mind whether I am reading it or "Punch."
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
Does my hon. and learned Friend attach any importance to the fact that M. Sulyok's speech was not reported in the Hungarian Press?
§ Mr. Pritt
My information is that it was. Mr. Nagy on hearing the news duly goes to America. That is not surprising. America is rather fond of people who are very anti-Soviet and of people who are very anti-progressive, unfortunately at the moment—some Americans, not all. It is significant that we keep talking here about Communists, but there is a large Socialist Party in Hungary who count for something, and they agreed with the Communists that Mr. Nagy should come back, and resign. On this point it is rather interesting to note that the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington drew a parallel between ourselves and Italy. It strikes me that there is an interesting parallel between ourselves and Italy. Here we are clamouring violently against the Soviet authorities that they ought to give us documents about Hungary when there has been no change at all except for two Ministers. But in Italy, where it is obvious to the simplest intelligence that the U.S.A. have been able by force of dollars to make the Government of Italy clear out all the Communists, the Soviet Union does not even protest, so tolerant is it. It is interesting to quote on this topic a declaration by Count Michael Karolyi, who is not a Socialist. He was the leader of the Hungarian Parliamentary Delegation in Cairo at Easter and he made a speech in which he said:We Hungarians do not want to be American vassals, and we do not want to be vassals of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is not trying to make us vassals, but the U.S.A. is trying to isolate us from all our neigh bours.There we get a fairly liberal point of view. But let me get back to the crisis. This is supposed to be a tremendous Communist coup by the great, ruthless, Communist Soviet Union to plant Communism in Hungary. If they really wanted to do that, it would take about 24 hours—if they were foolish enough to want to do it. When the Prime Minister under charge of treason bolted to America and discredited to some extent the great party of which he was a member, that was the moment, if there was any truth in the story, for disorders and for crowds and perhaps for machine guns. That was the moment for putting thousands of people in prison and for the Soviet authorities to arrest all the various people whom the Hungarians are trying; but what happened? No one raised his voice, no trams stopped running, the 2253 whole thing was peaceful. No one suggested that anyone should be the new Prime Minister except someone nominated by the Smallholders' Party. He was nominated and he gets on with his work. Mr. Nagy was a Smallholders' nominee. He is replaced by another Smallholders' nominee. That is all that has happened on the surface, and indeed under the ground, so far as one can see. The whole thing goes on exactly as in the past.
The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington has spoken about elections, but the view in Hungary is that there are not going to be elections at all. [Interruption.] The general view is that there are not going to be elections at all at the moment, and as a result this leaves the majority position of the Smallholders' Party intact, although it is somewhat discredited. Everything will remain exactly as it was—the same Government, the same Parliament, the same Coalition, the same balance of forces, Communist and Socialist together, one of whom deserves very great credit for carrying through an excellent measure of land reform, and for getting the currency back on to the ground instead of in the skies. All I can say is that if that is the best the Communists can do by way of carrying out a coup, when I want anything of the sort done I will apply to the Primrose League.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman suggesting that this was a one-man revolution? According to the hon. and learned Gentleman, everybody there is happy and nothing has happened.
§ Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)
Is the hon. and learned Member aware that Kovacs was held incomunicado for four months during his investigation and also that "The Times" today refers to the sworn evidence of a Hungarian Member of Parliament now on trial, to the effect that he has been tortured for a week for the purpose of extracting a confession from him?
§ Mr. Pritt
I have heard such allegations hundreds of times and I have investigated them when I have been able to. I remember attending one of the most famous of such cases in which such allegations were widely made all over the place. I saw the prisoners from close to, and it was obvious that not one of them had had anything done to him at all, and they themselves did not even allege it. Of course, a traitor when he is trying to explain away why he has "shopped" his comrades and admitted his own guilt says that he has been tortured. That is the sort of thing that is said every day in courts all over the world, and even at times in our British police courts.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities) rose—
§ Mr. Pritt
There remains the demand by the British Government which asks Mr. Molotov to give documents. What do they ask for? If this is a genuine conspiracy, do they want Mr. Molotov to give them the prosecution's brief? If it were a fake, I suppose they would hardly expect Mr. Molotov to give them the documents in which the fake is arranged. Surely, Mr. Molotov was right when he said that this is an internal Hungarian matter. Every one of these people is being brought to trial in Hungarian courts and only one major and one or two minor ones have been arrested by the Soviet authorities. That one will presumably be brought to trial. We have been told that he has been waiting for a long time, but in my experience he has only waited half the time which my clients wait for a court martial.
I notice in "The Times" today that their correspondent in Vienna, which is a fairish way from Budapest, reports that certain people have been turned out of the Smallholders' Party. But some people were turned out of the Labour Party in 1931, and I can quite understand these things happening. The party itself has declared that there has been no alteration to its disadvantage 2255 from the events of the last three weeks. I think it would have been lucky if only minor disadvantages had happened to it in the circumstances. But I wish it well. It is still an important part of the coalition Government of the country which is doing its best with some success to get the country on its feet. I do not want to call three-quarters of the Smallholders' Party dishonest. "The Times" correspondent went on to suggest that the people turned out had been replaced by two persons who enjoyed more confidence among the two other parties of the Left. Traitors usually came from the extreme Right Wing and when they are turned out we do not expect to see them replaced by people of exactly the same colour. Perhaps hon. Members on the other side of the House do but we on this side of the House do not. The two men named in "The Times" held important positions to which they were appointed by Nagy and they are people who are thoroughly respectable.
I have taken much longer than I intended. I am sorely tempted to say something about Mr. Marshall's proposals, but that would take up too much time of the House. I want to say this, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington claimed an honourable record in the matter of relations with the Soviet Union. Undoubtedly he stood loyally by British-Soviet friendship not merely during the war but before the war, and quite rightly and properly he took credit for that but, he did really swallow the old Red scare in regard to this Hungarian business. He trotted out serious allegations against the Soviet Union in relation to several of the countries in Eastern Europe, and when be was asked by the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Warby) why he said that something or other had Communist initiative in Austria he said it was because the same Communist initiative was found in every other country. He had no evidence. And I suppose if he had been asked about each of the other countries he would have said the same, thus gradually working himself round to the position where he was not hoisting himself by his own boot straps but drowning himself with them.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
Is my hon. and learned Friend not aware that the 2256 right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) was very carefully coached by the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers).
§ Mr. Pritt
I am sorry to have an apparent quarrel with my old and hon. Friend, but the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington briefed himself, to some extent by imagination. I fear he did irreparable harm by his speech, though I acknowledge that throughout he was sincere in what he said. However, he was a really bad boy to swallow and repeat the old Red scare story in the way he did. I do not suppose he will take advice from me, young as he is, but I do suggest that he should not do it again.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)
I will not spend a great deal of my time replying to the detailed defence of Russia over the Hungarian incident, which has been given to the Committee by the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt). Whatever may happen in the Hungarian Parliament in the future, all sides of the case ought to be put in the House of Commons, and I think it is right that the hon. and learned Member should be able to put the case which he did. He put it in the best manner in which lawyers—and I myself am one—conduct the defence at assizes, for he told us there was no coup or if there was a coup it was, not prepared in writing; and if it was in writing it was in such writing as would not interest the British Government. I do not think I need spend much time in demolishing his case, because he so obviously fails to carry any sort of conviction to hon. Members who sit behind him, and I think that I will now leave the answer to them.
For my part I want to deal with the rather wider issue of Europe. Europe is the key to foreign policy at the present time, and for two reasons. The first is because European economy today is very nearly in ruins and that presents us—and I think it ought to be emphasised—with an immediate and short-term problem. Some answer has got to be found to the European economic situation, not so much in a matter of months as in a matter of weeks. There is also the long-term problem, for Europe is the meeting ground, and unless we can be successful in this matter, might one day become the battleground between East and West.
2257 I would approach the matter in this way. First, it behoves all of us who speak in the Debate to remember that the answer from Moscow has not yet formally been delivered. The second thing is that I do not think that discussions upon foreign policy are suitable occasions for party dialectics either in the House of Commons or on the hustings. It is no part of my plan tonight to launch any attack whatever upon the Foreign Secretary. No one is more conscious than I am of the very serious difficulties which confront him and I assure him that I share these remarks in "Cards on the Table"—We often forget that world affairs are not settled by the British Government alone, but by all Governments working together or in conflict, subject continually to the necessity of compromising to avoid breakdown.That is a perfectly fair statement of the situation. I might add that I wish the same view had been taken by some hon. Members at the General Election in 1945.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
They might have avoided some of the bitter onslaughts which they launched upon the record of Tory administrations in the past. [Interruption.] Hon. Members cannot have it both ways.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Hon. Members cannot hide behind the vast sweep of world events and their effect on foreign policy and at the same time ignore the influence of these things upon Tory administrations when they were in power. I think that is a perfectly fair argument. I will go somewhat further, and if hon. Members do not like it I cannot help it, but I must say it. I would exclude party politics a great deal more than they have been excluded in the past. I remember the line that has been put over so often in the country.
§ Mr. Warbey
Would it not be better to exclude discussions on foreign policy altogether, and then we would not have any bother about it?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I have no doubt whatever that if the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) had his way, a great many discussions on many subjects would 2258 not be allowed at all. The point I was making was that we should not fall under the illusion, which I think the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Hammersmith is under, that our relations with foreign Powers are going to differ according to the political party which happens to be in power for the moment in this country. There is a Socialist Government in power at the present time. It was often said, and is still sometimes said; that because there is a Socialist Government in power here, they will the more rapidly come to an accommodation with the Russians. I am afraid that the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith has now gone, but I have no doubt my remarks will be reported to him. There is nothing in common that I can see between the outlook in foreign affairs of the Communist Party in Russia and the outlook of the overwhelming majority of the Labour Party in this country, and I hope there will never be anything in common between the two.
The corollary to that argument is that it would be wholly wrong to think that if a Conservative administration were in power in this country it would get very much better and more satisfactory arrangements with the United States of America than a Labour administration. We should elect and remove Governments in this country for our own purposes. The day we start electing them to please or satisfy some foreign Power, whether it be the United States or the Soviet Union, on that day we shall cease to be a great nation and an Empire, and what is true of us is equally true of other countries. If we expect other countries to look upon us according to our own merits, and to judge us, not according to our political labels, but according to whether we honour our forign commitments abroad and make genuine efforts to put our own house in order, they can demand that of us, too.
Our approach to Russia should not be on the question of whether she is Communist, democratic, autocratic, monarchic, or anything else. What we should ask is, "What is her attitude with regard to her external policy?" It is the external policies of foreign Powers which should be the principal test and not their internal policies. The test should be: do they show a respect for the 2259 independence of their neighbours or do they not: do they submit to those rules of international law and conduct which were laid down and agreed by all the Allies towards the concluding stages of the last war?
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
Does not the whole history of the period from 1935 to 1939 prove that it was difficult not to see a very clear relation between the internal policy of a country—Germany, for example—and its external policy? How does the hon. Gentleman arrive at the difference.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I think I might illustrate it in this way. I understand that a well-known lady from the Argentine is to visit this country shortly, and I see attacks launched against her in the Press. It is quite immaterial to me whether her husband happens to salute with his arm extended or with his fist clenched. What I am concerned about is what is the external policy of a particular foreign Power. If they submit to the two tests I have given—one, that they respect the independence of their neighbours, and the other that they submit to the rules of international law and conduct—those are the things which count. I do not say that there may not arise occasions where concentration camps or some other particular situation in a country demands action by all Powers, but the principal tests should he the two I have stated.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Acocks Green) rose—
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I have already given way several times to answer a number of questions, and I am not prepared to do so now. What, then, should be our attitude to Russia? In the Far East the shooting war is actually going on. This Debate is limited to Europe, but it is important to see what is happening in the Far East, and as I say, the shooting war there is actually starting—
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
It may be that it has never stopped, but in any case troops supported by aircraft are actually at war in China, and Communist troops are coming down from Russian-controlled Mongolia. It is true that there are only six aircraft and that China is a large country, but 2260 supposing one aircraft appeared over London with Red stars upon it. We should not say, "It is only one aircraft—a slight indiscretion—and London is a large town." It is right to remember that these things are going on in the Far East.
§ Mr. Zilliacus (Gateshead)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Soviet Government have denied the reports of the Chinese Government on this matter, and on what grounds does he prefer the version of the Chinese Government, who are notoriously inaccurate in their communiqués?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
There are always varying reports on these matters, and as was said by the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith, we obtain our information from different sources, but it is reported widely, and not only from the Chinese Government, that actual shooting is going on in the Far East. I think that is a relevant matter for us to consider.
§ Mr. Pritt rose—
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I do not intend to give way to the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith now. In the West the ideological weapon is being used by every means—the fifth column, infiltration, and by putting chosen persons in charge of the Home Offices of those countries around the borders of Russia. Communist infiltration is going on by every means in Europe, and Europe today is torn in twain by the struggle between the Communist forces on the one side and the democratic forces on the other. That is a fact which we have to face, and whatever belief one holds I do not see how one can remain completely neutral in that struggle. What, therefore, should be the policy of His Majesty's Government? The Hungarian incident occurred the other day. I do not accept the view which was expressed by the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith, and even on his own evidence which he put forward I regard the Russian attitude in that incident as a cynical disregard of all the obligations not only of statutes but of the spirit of all the agreements entered into. I have no doubt about that whatever. When the matter was first raised in the House, the Minister of State made the following reply which I am sure he will not mind my quoting: 2261I can only say that we shall judge the new Government by its actions, and that His Majesty's Government hope that these changes in the structure of the Hungarian Government will not lead to any departure from the principles of parliamentary democracy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th June, 1947; Vol. 438, c. 68.]
§ Mr. Blackburn
May I correct the hon. Gentleman on this? That was not said in the House, but was produced in a written answer on the Monday. Many hon. Members will have noticed that there was a much stronger answer given on the Wednesday.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman, but I am quoting from HANSARD, whether or not it was a written answer. I do not want to put it stronger than this, but I think that it showed a gross under-appreciation of the true nature of events in Hungary at the present time. I think we must face up to what is happening in those countries and not shelter behind vague hopes that although a coup takes place parliamentary democracy will not be too much damaged. What are the choices open to His Majesty's Government in this matter? It seems to me that there are three courses which they can follow. The first course is one which is argued by Mr. Henry Wallace—to adopt the belief that we can live in one world. Mr. Wallace and, in this country, the Secretary of State for Air are the great proponents of that particular line.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said, all of us would like to see that sort of situation develop, but I think that the vast majority of us in Parliament know perfectly well that the chances of getting the kind of agreement which would be required between Russia, ourselves and the U.S.A. are very, very far away indeed. I think we have to face up to the history of the Russian situation and what is, in fact, going on at the present time. If we look at their record over the Baltic States, over Finland, and over what happened in Azerbaijan, and their record with regard to the Lublin Government and the elections which followed, with regard to Bulgaria, Hungary, the use of the veto, the recent statements which have appeared in "Pravda" with regard to the Marshall offer, and the interview of the British Ambassador in Moscow 2262 yesterday—it we follow those incidents it is a very faint hope indeed to think that any kind of agreement could be reached which would realise the kind of one-world system for which Mr. Henry Wallace genuinely and openly argues. But never let it be criticised that the B.B.C. permitted Mr. Wallace to make that case. It was a case which wanted putting, although I disagree with it and think that at the present time it is hopeless.
The second policy, which His Majesty's Government appear to me to be following, is this. They believe in what I might call "a three-world system." In their published statements they wish to hold a position somewhere midway between the East and the West. They want to be a kind of half-way house between what they regard as the rabid capitalism of the United States of America and the Communism of Soviet Russia. The argument is put forward that if there is a war these two great forces will eventually come together and we will stand back and assume an air of rather pained neutrality. I believe that such a policy of holding a halfway house between America on the one side and Soviet Russia on the other is doomed to failure. If we attempt it we shall inevitably become a weak outpost position of one or other of those Powers, and weak outpost positions always invite attack. We might start off by being an outpost position but end up by being a battleground. I reject it on that ground and also on another ground.
I reject it upon the economic ground. I maintain, looking at the situation of Europe's economy at the present time, that Great Britain alone is utterly incapable of assisting Europe back on to her feet. After all, there is nothing to be ashamed of in confessing that. We have ourselves spent a good deal in some noble causes. We are in great difficulties ourselves. We shall have great difficulties in carrying out the schemes of Colonial development which we desire to see. But the idea of Europe and Great Britain somehow or another acting as an economic entity and carrying out a policy independent of Russia and the United States of America is quite impracticable. I, therefore, reject the policy of the half-way house between the two. I hope, that His Majesty's Government will reject it, too, but if they do so they will have to say so pretty explicitly, because many 2263 of their statements over recent months seem to have tended towards that line.
That brings me to the third policy which lies open. It may be that we cannot live in one world, but that is no reason why we should not live at all. After all, outside Soviet Russia there are great areas of the world which really do want to co-operate. There is the idea of an Atlantic union propounded by many Americans. There is the idea of a united Europe. The idea is writ small in the customs union known as "Benelux" and writ large in the idea of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Three-quarters of the world really wants to co-operate more than they ever wanted to co-operate before. For a century or more—this line of thought has gone on longer than many people imagine—men of this and other countries have been trying to find some way whereby the nations of the world might live together and order their affairs more sensibly than they have done in the past. A large number of nations are prepared to do that at the present time. Only one thing stands between us and that conception, and that is the unwillingness at this moment in our history of the Russians to co-operate. That is the principal thing standing in the way.
In my view, we cannot wait longer upon Russian agreement in this matter. We have perhaps waited too long already. It was probably right to have waited—I am not criticising it. What I say is that we cannot wait longer for the sake of Europe and because of the general situation which is developing. We cannot go on arguing round the table when we know from the start that we are not going to reach any conclusion. If we get an unfavourable answer from Moscow, do not let us despond too much, because time is an important factor in foreign policy and it may be that in ten or 15 years from now other views will prevail. But, above all, do not let us be deterred from going on in our own way to build up as much of a free world as we possibly can.
We are not going.to defeat Communism in Europe just by dollars and preaching anti-Communism. Communism is an idea with the force of a religion. Men die for it, commit treason for it and sacrifice even their honour for it. If we are to defeat Communism, we have to provide an idea which is as powerful in its appeal. 2264 I think that can be found in the conception of the free nations of the world living together and ordering their affairs and building up a great area of prosperity. I think that can be found, but I do not underestimate what we have to face up to in the process. It is easy enough to talk about it, but it is much harder to put it into practice. Hard choices have to be made, and the sooner we realise how hard they are, the better. For a century Europe has given more of civilisation and culture to the world than perhaps anyone else. She has to choose today whether she shall become incapable of playing that role or sacrifice something of her individual sovereignty. If some sovereignty is not sacrificed, I do not see how Europe will be able to, recover.
The United States of America have some hard choices to make, too. Many there preach the value of a new world order, but that is not altogether in line with those who wish to depend for the protection of their economy upon such weapons as an increased wool tax. We have to say which way we are going in a matter of that kind. Britain herself has to choose. Quite frankly, I do not see how one can fit into this international framework a picture of Empire conceived in a context which is now out of date. We have to look somewhat wider than Imperial Preference and the Ottawa Agreement and think on somewhat bolder and bigger lines if we are to fit the future of the British Empire into the conception of a free world as I understand it. I am not saying that in such a process, the Empire has not, in the future, a role as important and as great as it had in the past, but we cannot stick to all the old shibboleths. We cannot be isolationists and internationalists at the same time. That lesson has to be learnt whether we live in Britain, Europe or the United States of America.
I have, therefore, outlined the policy which I hope His Majesty's Government will adopt in broad outline. I would only say, in conclusion, that the decisions which are going to be made should be made very quickly now. There is always quite a good case for not making too many decisions in foreign policy. Tally-rand once said that laziness was the principal qualification for a Foreign Secretary, but there are moments when decisions have to be taken. We are approaching such a moment now. So far as I am concerned, I wish the Foreign Secretary and 2265 the Minister of State good luck in the negotiations in which they are engaged. I want them to come to those decisions, but I want them not to delay and not to wait always for Russian agreement in this matter and not to argue from now on for months and months while no firm decision is reached, because, looking at Europe's economy as it is today, time is an enemy and not a friend.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. S. N. Evans (Wednesbury)
One thing I have learned since I came to this House is to envy the lawyers. Words trip off their tongues like water off Niagara Falls, and the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) is no exception. It seemed to me that the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) made one extraordinary statement. I do not quote him exactly but roughly. He said that the rights of the Allied Control do not include a right to hear about everything the office boy does. That seemed to me to be a triumph of understatement. We are not anxious to know what the office boy does; what we are anxious to know is what has happened to the Secretary of the Smallholders' Party who was whisked away in February last six hours from London—not in the wilds of Asia—and nobody knows where he is at this moment. That is the kind of thing about which we would like some information.
The right hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) gave the impression, to me at any rate, that he thought we ought to conduct this Debate on the basis of shadow boxing with eight ounce gloves. I could not disagree more. I think it is most important that we should all speak objectively, and that we should say precisely what we mean. It now becomes clear that the governing element in the Soviet hierarchy have no faith in permanent peace, no faith even in a prolonged peace and, as a consequence, of course they are basing their policies on textbooks which might have been dug from the tomb of Genghis Khan. Under the illusion that security can be found in a 20th century political and intellectual Wall of China running from Stettin to Trieste and manned by "stooge" regimes, the Politbureau rudely and crudely goes from one diplomatic gaffe to another. The old saying about a bull in a china shop has quite lost its potency.
2266 I want to say that these hermits of the Kremlin are ill-served by their genuflecting sycophants outside who happily tell them not what they ought to hear but what it is thought they want to hear. That seems to me to be most unfortunate. Nevertheless, some of the causes which have produced this terrible inferiority complex, out of which arises this truculence, can be guessed at. The Russian hierarchy are not completely unintelligent; for example, they know that there are not two great Powers in the world, there is only one. The largest air-force in the world, the biggest navy afloat, £9,000,000,000 of gold, the atom bomb, the largest productive capacity in the world concentrate in the United States, the greatest financial, military and economic power that has ever resided in one country. Of course this has to be said, and happily can be said, that of all people the Americans are the least warlike. Nobody in this country sleeps one whit the worse because of this ever-growing stock-pile of atom bombs. Let us face up to it. And as my Black Country constituents work very hard and need a lot of sleep, that is rather important. The gentleman of the Politbureau are also very conscious of the fact that without the £3,500 million worth of Lend-lease aid supplied by the Anglo-Americans, the Red Army could never have held out until the Anglo-American Armies brought them much needed aid. And, of course, the Soviet hierarchy will never forget that for every German soldier killed, the Red Army lost five.
In addition to the psychological effect of these weighty items from the international balance sheet, there is of course an internal problem. Speaking to two visiting European statesmen early last year, Molotov, in the presence of Stalin, said that millions of Russian soldiers had been into Europe for the first time and there they had seen a standard of life that they had never dreamed of; every agricultural worker's cottage with a table and a couple of chairs was to them a palace; now they were coming home, and Russian living standards had to be substantially and quickly improved, otherwise there would be serious political repercussions. I think we ought to take all these things into consideration.
§ Mr. Evans
The House always gets the truth from me. I may have serious faults, but lying is not one of them. It is quite true that these 13 men of the Politbureau are seriously apprehensive about the atom bomb, and it is understandable, but they are more apprehensive about the 250 million Europeans peering into this country who are hoping and praying that the great social and economic experiment upon which we are engaged shall succeed—the attempt to marry freedom from want to the rights of the individual. This is a concept which the Russians have, over and over again, proved they cannot accept. Bread, yes; civil liberty, no. However, even the Russian Foreign Secretary should be aware of the danger of creating conditions in which men high, honoured and influential in the affairs of their country are compelled to flee its frontiers or to remain behind those frontiers. They are, in embryo, a formidable resistance movement. It seems to me common sense that the Russian Foreign Secretary should have regard to this.
I want to say, from my own observation of and contact with M. Nagy, that he is a good man and a fine patriot. The hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith said that this affair had gone through with the trams still running—a most extraordinary observation. What does he expect with hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers still in the country. What is true of M. Nagy is even more valid when applied to Bela Varga, the Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament, and indeed of the whole of the Parliamentary delegation to Hungary would I am sure agree Varga is a grand man, a man of high intellectual and political capacity and integrity. He has had to go. I will not accept for one moment that men like that would be traitors to their country today. Varga was imprisoned by the Germans. He has 2268 always been a foremost advocate of drastic land reform in Hungary. He was a Hungarian progressive of progressives. It is nonsensical, and it is worse than that, to describe such a man as a traitor.
§ Mr. Evans
I understand that it is the custom of this House not to discuss in the Chamber matters that are discussed in the Smoke Room. That is an excellent custom, and I have no intention of departing from it.
The hypocrisy of all that is going on is nauseating at a time when Europeans are being lifted from their beds at night, and subjected to months of mental torture and nights of interrogation with the are lamp technique out of which comes mental collapse and phoney confessions. Fifty per cent. of the teachers in the Soviet zone of Germany are ex-members of the Nazi Party, and Social Democrats who refused to support unity in the Soviet zone of Germany have been put in concentration camps by the N.K.V.D.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
There have been several inaccuracies in my hon. Friend's remarks. First, the teachers' corps in the Soviet zone has been entirely renovated and formed out of people loyal to the present régime, not to Fascism. It is not true to say that the Soviet Union rejects the principles of civil liberty. I agree heartily that they have not got there yet, but those principles are in their Constitution, and they are trying to—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
I thought the hon. Gentleman had intervened to ask a question.
§ Mr. Evans
From the same place where I got the other information. There are so many travellers along here that it begins to look like a train. If, in the circumstances I have indicated, the Politbureau can be described as Socialist, then truly the Spanish Inquisition was Christianity. The return of Europe to the Dark Ages finds its roots in Stalin's claim to a special right to ensure governments loyal to Russia in the countries upon her borders. This right is claimed on the grounds that these countries were the high road of the Nazi invasion. The claim goes further than that. In fact, we are required to call another Munich, this time with the Turks as the thirty pieces of silver instead of the Czechs. Here is not an attempt to reconstruct Europe on the basis of peace and prosperity for all. Here is a fatalistic preparation for the next great struggle. Here, once more, is recourse to the out-moded power politics of 1914–1939. If this is the level at which international relationships are to be determined, Britain should demand governments loyal to us in Holland, Belgium and France, because this was the road that the Nazis followed when they came within sight of the cliffs of Dover.
But the world has heard all this before. It is the very argument that Napoleon used. When he marched into Spain and Austria and Italy, he said that he wanted governments loyal to him. There is the more recent example of Hitler. When he went into Vienna, Prague and Warsaw he wanted governments loyal to him. Admittedly, these gentlemen of the Politbureau are an enigma. I find it hard completely to make my mind up about them. The great French Revolution of 1789 started with Danton, Marat and Robespierre, and ended with Napoleon. History may be repeating itself; I do not know. Perhaps we shall know within another month. I said recently that the lamplighters were at work in Europe, and it is true, but the lights are not coming on; they are going out. It now becomes apparent that what Russia 2270 wants in Europe is not order but chaos, not happiness but misery, not prosperity but poverty, and out of these mountains of misery she hopes to secure for her political marionettes in all the countries, the keys of power. That is the tactic. It now becomes quite clear.
The people of Europe for far too long have been plagued by the -political whimsies of kings, princes and power-drunk political ideologists. The time has come for something quite different. The Committee will recall that in the early days of the 17th century Richelieu's Father Joseph kept Europe in ferment, poverty and degradation for 30 years, and what the Politbureau is trying to do today is to make of Europe a moral, economic and political desert in order that their police state concepts may have greater opportunity. I would say of Molotov that his crassness and malevolence have created more anti-Communists in 18 months than the Vatican has created in 30 years.
I wish to say something about this incredible and stupid belief that a man who was buried in Highgate Cemetery in 1883 could write a set of blue prints applicable to a period 100 years after the Communist manifesto was issued. It seems to me to be monstrously absurd. Yet it is upon this concept that there has some time got to be a clash between the policies which spring from this blue print, and the laissez faire capitalism of America. It is on this hypothesis that there is to be one great show-down—a sort of English Cup final. I hope they do not have it at Wembley. It is on this concept that the Politbureau is building its policy. I never knew such lunacy in the world.
The hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) spoke about the half-way position. He said he did not think we could occupy that position. I will be quite frank. I had been hoping that we could. I fully accept that it would have to be with the consent of the other two contracting parties, but I thought perhaps we were evolving a system which would indeed bridge the gap. As we remember, William the Silent held the balance between the Calvinists and the Roman Catholics for many years. Gradually the extremists on both sides were liquidated or converted, and there emerged Holland as we know it today. I thought that Britain's historic role in the next few years would be akin to that of William the Silent, but it now 2271 seems clear that the Politbureau is determined to push us into the arms of America. This is a tragedy. It is nothing to snigger about.
I do not accept this silly suggestion that we have become a political satellite of the United States. The British are fine people with the highest political sagacity in the world; they are kindly, tolerant people with a thousand years of history behind them. They are unfitted to act the role of political ventriloquists' dummies and they are not likely to accept that role. We ought to remember that in days gone by, in the days of our affluence, British Foreign Secretaries were able to approach the problem of foreign affairs with an air of detached benevolence. But times have changed and, in addition to the substantial material changes which have taken place, the present Foreign Secretary has the handicap of taking to the conference chamber—and this is a handicap common to all democracies—the conscience of a politically educated, kindly, tolerant people to whom he is answerable on call. It is important that we should remember that at all times.
The points of disagreement between Britain, the United States and France, on the one hand, and the Soviet Union, on the other, provide a formidable and dismal picture. Months before the Moscow Conference, the Politbureau had refused to attend the United Nations London conference on devastated areas. They fought the idea of an economic agreement for Europe and the allocation of European coal supplies. They shunned the World Food Conference and the conferences on world trade organisation. There can be no doubt that this series of deliberate refusals to co-operate internationally is due to the fact that the Politbureau wants America out of Europe. But I do not. In any case, it is nonsensical to think that the Americans, having lost much blood and treasure as the result of two wars emanating in Europe, are now going to dissociate themselves from the affairs of Europe, with all the risks of a third conflagration. That seems to me to be monstrously absurd. I waist to see the Yankees spreading themselves far and wide. Someone once said to me, "You are an awfully crude man." If I have that reputation, I might as well live up to it and say that I regard as much the most valuable muck 2272 in the world the £9,000 million of gold at Fort Knox, Kentucky. As money, like muck, is no good unless it is well spread, I want to see this gold liberally spread throughout devastated Europe. I do not mind telling the House that the Americans can pour dollars into this country until they run out of my constituents' ears.
We are now at the parting of the ways. As we have heard this afternoon, the invitation has gone to Moscow for a meeting between Molotov, Bidault and that oakiest of oaks, the present British Foreign Secretary. I hope, none more fervently, that out of this there will come agreement, but we cannot wait any longer. The Yalta and Potsdam Agreements have been ignored consistently, and Russia today is rapidly reducing countries like Bulgaria, Rumania and Hungary to mere satellites of the Kremlin. Russia is obstructing all measures for a sane policy of reconstruction in Europe. The time has come to ask the hermits of the Kremlin where they stand. If Russia wants an economic reconstruction of Europe, she can get together with the rest of Europe to seize this economic lifebelt—for it is an economic lifebelt—which is offered us by Mr. Marshall of the United States. Procrastination is the thief of opportunity.
Although we British would prefer to work through the United States Economic Commission for Europe, as every attempt at European co-operation has been sabotaged by Russia, economic revival may best be served by the setting up of another body which cannot be affected by delaying tactics. The Soviet Machiavellian tactics of impeding progress in the interests of disintegration, chaos and anarchy thus could be frustrated. We want no quarrel with Russia, but we do not intend to let the common people of Europe become permanent pawns in a permanent game of power politics. To appease, to blink at the truth, to let Western civilisation perish and our people, the British people, starve because 13 men in the Kremlin disapprove, is the same madness as that which led to the, tragedy of 1939.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilfrid Roberts (Cumberland, Northern)
I do not propose to follow the last speaker, the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) in the very cheerful prophecy of disaster which he 2273 gave us in a very British speech, partly because I do not want to take very long, and partly because I think that the discussion of our relations with the Soviet Union, the status of the Soviet Union and the crimes they are committing in Hungary and everywhere else, is a barren subject about which we can all express our views without taking the matter any further whatever. The only position into which it might possibly lead us eventually is the one about which people are increasingly talking—a war between the United States and the Soviet Union, and that, I hope, may be avoided at every possible cost. I want to talk about something which I think is a little more cheerful, and about another main subject of this Debate which also involves the Soviet Union. It seems to me to be a subject the importance of which it is impossible to over-estimate, namely the Marshall plan. I think it is the most constructive and valuable suggestion that has come out of America since the war, and I would like to add a word of congratulation to the Foreign Minister on going so quickly to France. I am quite sure that that was the right thing to do, and I think it was also right to issue the joint invitation to Mr. Molotov. I hope that that invitation will be accepted, but I would like to say more about that later.
It is encouraging to think, not in terms of these political differences which have prevented any settlement up to now, but in terms of the things we really do need, to think in terms of the economic reconstruction of Europe, the 45 million tons of coal which America is sending at the present time, and the food which we shall not get unless some arrangement is made for the possibility of reconstructing our industries and agriculture with American assistance. I think it is encouraging to think in these terms, and to try to get away, for a moment, from the other frustrating political differences which have prevented progress up to now. The war, of course, was a most unequal leveller, and, if we think of Europe in terms of need, there is no doubt that the East of Europe suffered most in physical destruction and in loss of life, but we in this country suffered more in a different way, and in a way which, as Mr. Marshall pointed out in his speech, was perhaps more serious than the physical damage done elsewhere. We suffered the dislocation of our whole economic system, which might very well 2274 have plunged us into a deadly state of poverty from which we would have had the greatest difficulty in extricating ourselves. Our position in the next few years, dependent as we are on dollars, is indeed precarious.
At the other end of the scale, he United States came out of the war d much more prosperous Power than when she entered it, much more powerful, with a vast armament and industrial capacity, and a higher standard of living. I think it is worth noting that the United States has not been ungenerous with what she has had, and in the fortunate position in which she found herself at the end of the war. Mr. Dean Acheson, speaking recently in the United States, summed up what the Americans have done for Europe and other parts of the world since the war ended, and it amount's to the enormous figure of 18 billion dollars, not all of which has been spent. It includes the British loan, of which there is still some left, and includes allocations to the International Bank and other organisations which have not used it all. The figure of 18 billion dollars, of course, seems to me an almost meaningless one, and I only mention it because it compares with what Mr. Marshall is now proposing should be made available to Europe in the shape of 6 billion dollars a year in the next three or four years. Considering that a good deal of the 18 billion dollars which has already been allocated has not yet been spent, one might say that the Marshall proposal means that American aid to Europe will continue on about the same level as it has done since the war ended. The help of U.N.R.R.A., which depended very largely, though not exclusively, upon America, has been of invaluable use to many European countries and to the world generally, and the Marshall proposals, therefore, seem to me to mean that that help will go on for the next three or four years on about the same scale as it has done in the past.
Earlier, I used the word "generous, but I am not quite sure whether it is the right word to use. I think the Americans are a generous people, but I think we ought to recognise the fact that this proposal of Mr. Marshall is one which, like all good bargains and proposals, benefits both the United States and Europe. The Americans, according to Mr. Dean 2275 Acheson, are having this year an excess of exports over imports into the United States, and the excess this year is likely to be about 8,000 million dollars. If we compare that figure with what Mr. Marshall proposes to lend Europe, it means that the most part of that excess of exports over imports is going to be lent to Europe. The dollars are going to be provided to Europe under the Marshall plan. Therefore, the danger of Europe being unable to buy American exports, and therefore of drying up the American export trade and causing a slump in America, will be avoided by the Marshall suggestion.
That seems to me to be very sound. We in Europe have not the goods to export to America, and America's export trade has developed so fast that now the Americans are exporting four times as much as they did before the war. I will have a word to say in a moment on the question of what is ultimately to happen. The one thing which must happen is that America should make it possible for us to pay for exports in the future by lowering her tariffs and in other ways being more willing to accept imports into the United States.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
May I ask what indication there is at the moment of American inclination to lower her tariffs?
§ Mr. Roberts
The most spectacular evidence of which I am aware is in the opposite direction. That is another reason why we should point out the plain fact that if America has an export trade of double her import trade, she must either lend money or make it possible for us to repay her by reducing the obstacles to our selling goods to America.
§ Mr. Roberts
Yes, or have a slump. I return to the question of whether the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe will play their part in connection with these proposals. I hope they will come in, but we must make it perfectly clear—and I have no doubt the Foreign Secretary will do so—that in this organisation there must be no veto and that if the Soviet Union is in she must be in on the basis of making 2276 the arrangement work. If she does not come in, I entirely agree with those who say that we must go ahead without her. We must make it clear now that the invitation has been sent to her, that if the rest of Europe are forced to co-operate more closely, it will be because the Soviet Union are unwilling to join with us. I hope they will come in. The need of the Soviet Union is very great. No country suffered more during the war in actual devastation than she did in the Ukraine. In his Harvard speech, Mr. Marshall said that the policy was directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. I believe that in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union poverty, desperation and hunger lead to dictatorship, to the loss of civil liberties and to an attempt to establish economic self-sufficiency. If the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe come in, there may be a possibility of breaking the present deadlock on the political level. It may be that through economic co-operation, it will be possible to find the means of re-establishing better relations between the East and the West.
Another reason why I hope Eastern Europe may come in is because the present accepted demarcation between Eastern and Western Europe—the line that runs through Germany, Austria and down to Trieste—leaves neither on the one side nor on the other side a reasonable economic unit. I hope that through the Marshall plan and European co-operation, we shall be able to begin to solve the German problem. The German economic problem cannot be solved without taking into account Eastern as well as Western Europe. We may fairly point out to the friends of the Soviet Union in all countries, and to the Soviet Union herself, that we shall suffer certain disadvantages if Russia comes in. We run the risk of delays due to the Soviet Union's difficulty on all occasions in making her mind up quickly and, what is more, the resources of America are not unlimited. If Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union are included in the arrangement, we shall have to spread the jam much more thinly for the whole of Europe. We in England stand to get less from this arrangement, the wider the participation there is in it. In spite of that, if the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, under her influence, were to come in, it would benefit Europe as a whole.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)
If the Soviet Union does come an, will the hon. Gentleman state whether or not that will lessen the influence and power which the Soviet Union has over the whole of Eastern Europe at present?
§ Mr. Roberts
I do not feel able to answer that question. It might increase the Soviet Union's influence; on the other hand, it might increase the influence of other countries, too.
§ Mr. Usborne
Does the hon. Gentleman think that if the Soviet Union were included, the Americans would be more or less likely to grant any aid?
§ Mr. Roberts
I think if the Soviet Union is in, there is a greater danger that Congress will turn down this proposal, and I think that is also a factor to be taken into consideration. But economically, and cutting out politics, the right thing to do is to have the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in. Political difficulties might retard progress, and I agree with those who have stated that it is vital to get on; but purely from the economic point of view, in order to re-establish Europe, and with the hope that through this economic co-operation eve may avoid the worst consequences to which some speakers have referred today, I hope the Soviet Union will be included. Whether they are or not, will, I suppose, depend largely on whether the European Economic Conference is used as a means of carrying out the scheme. One would hope that it would be so used, but if it were not we should go ahead with some other ad hoc organisation because I recognise the importance of speed.
We should not regard the organisation which is created in response to Mr. Marshall's suggestion as merely a sort of sharing-out club for surplus American production. If it were, it would fail completely to grasp the opportunity which is presented. The example of "Benelux," the Belgian, Netherlands and Luxembourg agreement, shows that once economic cooperation begins it very naturally develops. Starting as a customs union it has now, I understand, become an attempt really to integrate the economic life of those three countries. No doubt, on a small scale it is possible to go further than it is on a large scale. But, as I see it, we can use this opportunity of help 2278 from America to attempt to integrate the national plans of European countries.
We hear a great deal about the danger of Russia today. But the danger which beset Europe after the first World War was quite irrespective of the Russian or any other dictatorship at that time. It was that, by failure to co-operate, we developed national States, each attempting to create self-sufficiency, and failing to do it, and by tariffs, quotas, and other trade restrictions leading us on into the slump of 1929 and 1930, from which many other disasters followed. It had nothing to do with the danger of Communism, or of Stalin or of anyone else. I forsee that, unless we grasp this opportunity now, we may again take that bad and fatal road that we took after the first World War. Therefore, apart from any political considerations, this seems to me a very great opportunity, and I hope we shall have enough statesmanship in Europe to grasp if successfully.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Major Cecil Poole (Lichfield)
In view of the need for economy of time I am sure that the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) will understand if I do not follow him in the economic aspect of this foreign affairs Debate that he developed in his speech. I am more concerned with the political side of the question. I must confess that, in the nine and a half years that I have been in this House, this is the first time that I have ever ventured to intervene in a foreign affairs Debate. I have on all previous occasions felt inadequately armed with material which would justify any intervention on my part. If I say that of the past I do not want it to be assumed that I speak today because I feel I know all that there is to know, or even a part of what there is to know about the situation which is developing in South Eastern Europe.
But I do hope the Committee will believe me when I say that I really think I am not quite as gullible as the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) was in that delightful new edition of "Grimm's Fairy Tales" he presented to the Committee. I wonder if he really believes the things he said. Because if he does, he must be even more gullible than I imagined him to be, and his system of communications between North Hammersmith and Budapest must 2279 be the system of communications par excellence. One noticed that he was inclined to disregard and to disagree with "The Times" correspondent stationed in Vienna. He would not accept what "The Times" correspondent said about the situation in Budapest. Quite frankly, I should be prepared to agree with him; but if we cannot accept "The Times" correspondent in Vienna, we cannot also be expected to believe the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith in North Hammersmith.
I do not believe that any of my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee or of any other party can accuse me of having an anti-Russian bias. If I ever had any bias it was very much to the Left. Like so many of my colleagues on these benches, I have spent many days, when it was a very unpopular thing to do, defending the Soviet Union—in the twenties, when it was a courageous thing to defend that country. It is to us a profound sorrow today that we have tailed to achieve a larger measure of understanding with the Soviet Union. I am convinced that it is absolutely necessary that we should achieve understanding with the Soviet Union. I think that that is a fundamental necessity, and that there is no hope of lasting peace in Europe until we have reached a measure of understanding with the Soviet Union. But it will not be a policy of retrenchment and retreat and appeasement that will give us understanding with the Soviet. Therefore, I hope that from this Committee we shall send a very definite and positive message to the Soviet Union, that we in this British Parliament view with the very greatest possible concern the operations of the Soviet in South Eastern Europe. We have to go on endeavouring to achieve that understanding.
Here, if I may digress for a moment, I would pay my humble tribute, as most hon. Members would like to pay a tribute, I know, to the patient endeavours of our Foreign Secretary in this connection. It is always a matter of very great regret to me when some of those people who sit on these benches find it is their duty to indulge in criticism of him which is so ill-founded. If they only knew the great harm which they do to the cause of international peace by some of their complete irresponsibilities in the House. 2280 magnified and reported in distorted form, as they are, in the Press of South Eastern Europe, where these things assume enormous importance in the eyes of those people who desire them. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) will not mind my saying—perhaps, he will be honoured—that the question addressed to me most often in Budapest when I was there last month was the question from the Communist Party. "How large is the Zilliacus Party?" I was able to tell those who asked me that question, that the Zilliacus Party in Parliament was exactly one half as large as the Communist Party. But amongst many of those people there, who were hoping for and supporting Communist ideals in South Eastern Europe, there was a conviction that the hon. Member for Gateshead was leading some great movement in this Parliament, that sooner or later was going completely to overthrow this Government and the Foreign Secretary. Their hopes, their aspirations, their desires are fixed, nurtured and fed by the follies of some hon. Members who sit on these benches. I wonder if some hon. Members have any conception of what would happen to them if they indulged in the saline measures of criticism if they were domiciled in the country for which they have so much respect.
We have to go on with this job of trying to achieve an understanding with the Soviet Union. But you cannot build a house if, as fast as you build the front wall, some one comes round and knocks down the back wall. So you cannot reach international understanding if the undertakings and guarantees which are made are not observed. I left Hungary only a few days before the present situation developed. There are other hon. Members who have been there since. I did honestly endeavour to get a correct appraisal of the situation. I left full of fear and foreboding. I left that country also deeply impressed by the desire of the Hungarian people for the largest possible measure of friendship with Great Britain, the largest possible measure of friendship with the English, but also with this impression, that they had great fear lest it should be known that they were friends of the English. That is something this Committee ought to appreciate. If there are any hon Friends of mine who would dispute and challenge this statement—I am sorry that neither the hon. and learned Member for North 2281 Hammersmith nor either of the Communist Members of the House is here to challenge this statement—I would ask: do they not know that almost every Hungarian girl employed in the British Consulate in Budapest has been called for interrogation because she works for the British?
§ Major Poole
I ask hon. Members to believe this. These are not fairy tales. This was told me by the British Council representative in Budapest. I ask: Is this the act of an Ally? Is this the act of a friend? Is this conducive to an improvement in the relations between our two countries?
May I now he permitted a brief review of the political situation as it has developed in that unhappy country since its liberation? Tribute has already been paid by a number of hon. and right hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), to the magnificence of the Soviet feats of arms, and join in that tribute; though, I must say, it is a trifle disconcerting to read that apparently we played very little part in the victory, and that our efforts did not really count for very much. Nor can we deny that Russia, had she so chosen, after she had liberated Hungary, could have imposed and fastened upon that country a Communist dictatorship; for her troops alone were in the country, she alone was in complete possession, and she had been followed into the country by Moscow-trained political emigrés who had been driven out of Hungary since 1919. They came in, in the wake of the Army, and Russia had with her enough people to have started a Communist dictatorship in that country. This she did not do. I could advance many reasons why it was not done, but I do not want to take up the time of the Committee in so doing.
Russia governed the country in association with the Social Democrats and the Smallholders who were there, and had been there throughout the whole of the German occupation. And here let us remember this, that the resistance movement in Hungary during the war was a resistance movement of the Social Democrats and the Smallholders. It was no one else. On 4th November, 1945, it was decided to hold the elections. There is 2282 no one who will deny—it has already been said in this Committee—that they were the freest elections that had ever been held in that country, and most certainly the freest elections that had been held in South Eastern Europe. Nor can our Soviet or Communist friends grumble about the conduct of the elections, because they were conducted while the Soviet occupying troops were in the country. Nor was there any restriction in suffrage; suffrage was extended to everyone, to all persons over 20, including members of the Armed Forces, and to all citizens over 18 years of age who had fought against the Germans. The only people disfranchised in those elections were all war and political criminals. Each of the parties—the Smallholders, the Social Democrats, the Communists, the National Peasant Party and the other fractional parties—ran its own list of candidates.
The result of the elections was a surprise and a shock. We must get that result very clearly in our minds if we are correctly to appraise the situation. The result of the elections—conducted, as I say, in the freest possible manner, on the widest possible franchise—gave the Smallholders' Party 57 per cent. of the votes, the Social Democrats 17.6 per cent., the Communists 16.9 per cent., and the National Peasant Party 6.8 per cent. Therefore, the Smallholders' Party, the only anti-Communist party in the country, polled 57 per cent. of the votes. It polled those votes because it was the only anti-Communist party. That is the reason, and the only reason. It was not by virtue of its programme, nor by virtue of the sterling worth of the men that it has as its leaders. In fact, the Small-holders' Members of Parliament are—
§ Mr. Zilliacus rose—
§ Major Poole
Just one moment. Let me finish. The Smallholder Members of Parliament are political babes when compared with the highly trained Muscovites who have come into the Communist Party.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
Does not the hon. and gallant Member realise that his own statement condemns the Smallholders' Party, because it got all the votes of the former adherents of the Horthy régime and the Fascists?
§ Major Poole
No, it most certainly could not have got all those votes, because many adherents of the Horthy régime had, by then, signed the necessary document in prison, and had secured posts in the Communist political police. If the hon. Member would like proof of that, no doubt we can furnish him with it after the Debate is finished. I am going to deal with the Smallholders' Party frankly and, I hope, fairly. It is the only anti-Communist party in the country and, therefore, of necessity, they have attracted to themselves all classes and sections of society, all sorts of people who are anti-Communist, from the Left right over to the extreme Right. Of course, they have, if there are any left, some Fascists; although I imagine most of them are members of the so-called Freedom Party now. The Smallholders' Party was the only political party they could be in at the time of the election.
It was a great tragedy that there was no official opposition in the election. Had there been, the Smallholders' vote would have been very much smaller perhaps. But there being no official opposition, this was the only party to which the people could go. Therefore, we have no right to condemn the whole of this political party, because certain people who desire to be anti-Communists sought refuge in it during the election. It is, nevertheless, the fact that prior to the election all political parties had agreed that a Coalition Government should follow, and that there should be equal party ministerial representation in that Coalition Government. What was the ultimate result? I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, who will disagree with me on most of my premises, will agree with me on this. What was the result? We find that the Communist Party then had three ministerial appointments; the Social Democrats—who, I am sorry to say, are tied by their leader to the Communist party—also had three ministerial appointments; the National Peasant Party also had three; and the Smallholders Party, with 57 per cent. of the votes, also had three. So, in the Government which had charge of the affairs of the nation the party which polled 57 per cent. of the votes at the election had three representatives, against nine representatives of those who were supporting the Communist bloc in the 2284 country. If the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith wants to know how the Communists secured domination, political and economical, in the country, there is the answer in a nutshell.
§ Major Poole
I am referring to the date of the election, 4th November, 1945. The agreement was made before that, of course, and the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Tiffany), who came from Hungary only last night I believe, ought to be fully appraised of that situation.
§ Mr. Tiffany
Is it not a fact, however, that the representation in the Government just prior to the crisis was not on the basis mentioned by the hon. and gallant Gentleman?
§ Major Poole
The representation in the Council of Ministers responsible—for, of course, Parliament is, to some extent, a rubber stamp in Hungary at the present time—was on the basis I declared. It was at the time I left the country and is today; at least, it was in the last newspaper which reached me, which was only yesterday. I hope I shall not be interrupted again because, although I welcome interruptions. I do want to get on with my speech.
Up to this point very little fault can be found. The elections have been free and unfettered, and have given the wrong answer, unfortunately, from the Communist point of view. Now, what line of conduct began this crisis? It is a fallacy to suggest that this crisis is something which blew up a few weeks ago, or six months ago as someone suggested. I put it at 18 months ago. I was dating it from 4th November, 1945, the date of the election. The election having given the wrong answer, the crisis began. From that date began the Communist pressure to destroy the Smallholders' majority, and to achieve political and economic control in the country. Economic control has been easy to achieve. It is completely and fully achieved in Hungary at the present time, through the colossal folly—and I am afraid I have not time to go into it in detail—of Potsdam At the door of the Potsdam Agreement lies responsibility for the facilities given to Russia to achieve 2285 complete economic domination of Hungary, and she has done it wholly and completely.
The controlling interest in the affairs of the National Bank of Hungary is now in the hands of the Soviet Union, by their taking over of all German assets; and a Soviet representative now sits upon the board of the National Bank of Hungary. Anyone who knows the financial ramifications of the National Bank of Hungary knows that that gives complete and absolute control over the economic life of the country. Economic control was easy, but political control cannot be so easily accomplished if it is to appear respectable when there is an opposing party which has polled 57 per cent. of the votes at the election; there must be at any rate the appearance of respectability if confidence is not to he destroyed and undermined. Therefore, there has followed a quick succession of crises in an attempt to discredit the Smallholders' Party.
I have already spoken about the Smallholder's Party. I hold no brief for them—no brief at all. The only thing for which I hold a brief is fair play and honesty in these matters. This party has its Left wing, some of whose members are more progressive than those of us who sit on these benches, its Centre, and its Right wing, which is probably more Right than hon. Members opposite. It attracted to itself all those people who had no other party. The election results had given the Communists only 16 per cent. representation. The Social Democrats obtained 17 per cent., and the Peasant Party 6 per cent. The whole Communist bloc had achieved, therefore, only a 40 per cent. representation, and something had to be done about it. First of all, we find the original plot allegations. What happened first was that charges were made against members of the Smallholders' Party. Immediately the Smallholders' Party threw open its doors, and said: "If these people are guilty, and if you can produce any evidence, out they will go." They forthwith expelled every member who was implicated in the plot, but that was not sufficient, although it kept peace for a little while. I am not disputing the existence of a plot. I would be foolish to do so, because I have no evidence for or against it I can produce as much evidence against its existence, as any hon. Member can produce for it. I am pre- 2286 pared to accept that there were some foolish people—extreme Right Wing reactionaries—who were doing something which could be classified as subversive, but whatever they were doing, it was so ridiculously small that it could never have hoped to achieve any success. If they were guilty of anything like that, then they should, of course, be subject to arrest, to which the party made no objection.
Let us say that there was a plot. Then, surely, this was something which ought to have been brought to the notice of the Allied Control Commission. Surely, this was something in which we ought to have been taken into confidence. The Smallholders' Party, on every occasion when any charge was made against any of its people, has placed them unreservedly at the disposal of the courts of the country. When we come to the case of Bela Kovacs, the Secretary-General to the Party, the position assumes rather (Efferent proportions. His fellow members in the House refused to remove his immunity to arrest, because no case was made out and no evidence had been produced. The result was that the Russian commander promptly arrested Kovacs on a charge of espionage for Great Britain. If any hon. Member has heard of any other charge, I shall be happy to know about it. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Hammersmith was at pains to tell us that in asking for the papers on Kovacs, it was as if we were asking for particulars about something which had been done by the office boy. There is much more in it than that. What does the Yalta Agreement, signed by the Soviet Union, this country and the United States, say? Section 5 states:The three Governments will consult the other United Nations and provisional authorities or other Governments in Europe when matters of direct interest to them are under consideration.When, in the opinion of the three Governments, conditions in any European liberated State or any former Axis satellite State in Europe make such action necessary, they will immediately consult together on the measures necessary to discharge the joint responsibilities set forth in this declaration.Here, apparently, was a plot to destroy the Government and the country. Is not that a condition in a European state which makes action necessary? Is that not such a situation? Either there was a plot, and the papers should have been laid, or there 2287 was no plot, and there was no need to place any papers. The Communist Party cannot have it both ways. What happened in the case of Kovacs, who was arrested last February? No one knew where he was imprisoned. I asked the President, and he did not know. I asked the leader of the Social Democrats, and he did not know. I asked the Speaker of the House, and he said: "I do not know." There was a refusal to disclose his whereabouts to the British Minister. He was never tried, he was never charged, and there was no access to him for Allied representatives. There were no facilities for his defence, and no communication of papers with the British or the United States. If there were a good case against him, why hide him away? Why refuse to allow anyone to see him? Why disallow him any facilities for his defence, and why keep him for three months without bringing him to trial. It is indefensible.
In June, after three months, he makes his confession which implicates the Prime Minister and Varga, the Speaker. How strange it is that it took Kovacs over three months to remember this. I wonder what aides-memoires he was subjected to. I wish to God we knew the life of that man during those three months. How strange that he should remember that Nagy was guilty of a plot as soon as he had gone into Switzerland for a holiday. The day before he went on holiday, Nagy told me that the leaders of the other parties, the Social Democrats and the Communists, had pledged themselves that while he was away on holiday there would be no monkey tricks in the political field. How strange it was that M. Kovacs remembered all this about his former chief at this time. If anything was known against Nagy, then why was he allowed to leave the country? Why was he not arrested and brought to trial? He is a man for whom I have great admiration, and I shall be most surprised if anything is proved against him.
I have no desire to be dramatic in this Debate. I am satisfied that there exists in Hungary today, ways and means of making people say the things their opponents would wish them to say and I base that assertion not on anything anybody else has told me, but on personal conversation with those who have spent weeks in the dark dungeons of Andrassy 2288 Ut 60. Andrassy Ut 60 was the headquarters of the Fascist Arrow Cross Party and is now the headquarters of the Communist political police.
If there are some who scoff or would wish to prove me wrong perhaps they will tell me this: Where is M. Szente of Szekszard? This man was the headmaster of the local county school; he was also the lord lieutenant of the county. At the beginning of April he was called before the Home Secretary, and no one knows where he has gone since then. He has disappeared, leaving behind him a wife and three children. There is no one who can tell them where he is. I said that I would put a Question on the Order Paper in the British House of Commons, to see if we could not find out from our Russian friends where he was. The night before I left I received urgent representations to do no such thing, because the wife was afraid of what might happen to him, herself and her three children. This is the greatest blow at Parliamentary democracy. Every member of the Smallholders' Party has been requested to refrain from asking any questions on the fate of these people because it would embarass the coalition in Hungary.
Let those who will, deny these things. This is something which, to me, is unforgiveable. To me, in life the most precious thing is human freedom. Standards of living, more houses, do not matter if you take from human beings their freedom. My charge against the Communist Party, and the Soviet Union, is that they are taking freedom away. They are seeking to achieve by coercion what they are completely unable to accomplish by conviction. They seek to impose on these people a form of government which is alien to their desires. It is not our business to determine what form of government shall operate in any country, so long as that government is not a menace to the peace of the world, but we do ask that the government elected in any country shall be the freely elected government of a free people. We fought a long and costly war to prevent ourselves and others from being engulfed in the totalitarianism of Adolf Hitler, and we did not do that in order that we, or others, should be submerged by the new totalitarianism of the Kremlin.
Now we are to have new elections. There were free elections 18 months ago. 2289 The trouble is that at that time the people gave the wrong answer. Somebody challenged my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) on the point that it was to be on a rigged register. I asked responsible political leaders, whom I will not name, as they may be subject to repercussions, whether the elections would be conducted on the same register as the last. They said, "No, we shall remove all the Fascists and reactionaries." If His Majesty's Government, when it goes to the country, at the next Election, were to remove from the register all reactionaries, there would be no representative Members on the other side of the Committee on that register. If we were minded to interpret reactionaries in the broadest sense that would suit our own political needs. That is true Communist philosophy. I asked a supplementary question the other day, when the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) turned round and called me a "crypto-Tory." Well, we have had "cypto-Communists," and I did not mind that, although I did think it was not very complimentary to the Tory Party. That is Communism. If you disagree with them you are a Fascist reactionary.
§ Major Poole
I have been charged with being a reactionary by those who are sitting around me, but I am losing no sleep about that. I hope my words will go to Budapest. I make a fervent appeal to my comrades of the Social Democratic Party in Hungary, because I believe that they can save Hungary. But they will never save Hungary so long as they allow themselves to be tied to the apron strings of Rakosi and his Communists. I urge the rank and file to put before their leaders the realisation that that break must come. I urge them to throw over leaders such as Szakasits and his like, who are currying favour because they have sold their souls into bondage. Let them ally themselves with those of any party or no party who are prepared to fight for freedom. I ask the Communists to realise that political trickery, police domination, and terror can never form half so firm a basis of government as the free choice of a free people, freely expressed through the ballot box.
§ The Chairman
May I appeal to hon. Members to keep their speeches short? So far, we have not had one speech of less than 20 minutes' duration, and that has meant that some Members whom I hoped to call cannot be called.
§ 7.5 P.m.
§ Mr. Linstead (Putney)
I will certainly do my best, Major Milner, to fall into line with the request you have made. We have been discussing today the problems of a number of the smaller countries in Europe, but the background of most of the speeches we have heard so far has been the relationship between this country arid America and the Soviet Union. Whenever the relations between the great Powers become strained, we find that it is the small Powers, particularly those in the Balkans, which suffer. I have heard time after time from statesmen in those countries that it is only when the big Powers adjust their differences that there is a chance of the small Powers being able to lead something like a life of their own.
In the most moving speech by the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield (Major Poole), to which we have just listened, he referred to the leader of the Communist Party, Mr. Rakosi. I had several conversations with Mr. Rakosi last year, and in one of them he said something which, I think, provides a key to the difficulties in the relations between Russia, the United States, and ourselves. He was talking about the difference between our conception of democracy and Russia's conception of it, and he said, "You in the West regard democracy as a decision by counting heads; we, on the other hand, regard a democrat as somebody who accepts certain democratic principles and who, once he has accepted those principles, is entitled to use any means he likes to get them adopted. Then the question of counting heads does not come into the picture at all." That is the fundamental distinction between democracy as it is understood by the Russians and as it is understood by us. It is largely because of the misuse of that word, by its being given two separate meanings, that so many divergencies appear. We have to realise that Hungary to Russian eyes has appeared as a Fascist country, run by great landowners and industrialists, a country which collaborated with the Germans and, 2291 finally, fought beside the Germans. Through Russian eyes, anything that savours of Fascism in Hungary should be rooted out on the principle that to be a Fascist is to be anti-democratic, any means being justified.
Hungary tried to reach a compromise between the American and Russian points of view of democracy in the elections of 1945 and she failed. The elections which the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield referred to revealed the impossible situation which arises when a country tries to adopt both the Western and Eastern democratic points of view. What Hungary did was to fix the composition of the Cabinet to please the Russians, and then have free elections afterwards to please Great Britain and the United States. The result was a Communist-dominated Cabinet, with a House of Commons having a substantial Conservative majority. That was the result of the attempt to marry two things which are fundamentally divergent.
As the hon. and gallant Member has rightly said, from that time onwards it became the clear policy of the Russian authorities to see that the House of Commons in Budapest was gradually brought under Communist control. There was an alleged plot against the State in 1946. Then came the allegation of the more recent plot involving at least two of the senior members of the Smallholders' Party. Like him, I have met some of these men, and I have no hesitation whatever in saying that the Secretary of the Party and the late Prime Minister of Hungary are two Hungarian patriots whose only offence has been that they put their own country first. They have tried, in an impossible situation, to satisfy both the Western Powers and the Eastern Powers, and the penalty that they are paying is the penalty for being patriots.
The Russians have gone so far in their reply to the note recently sent to them as to say that any appointment of a committee of inquiry into the situation in Hungary at the present time would be "a gross interference in Hungarian domestic affairs which is impermissible." They choose to forget what they themselves did in 1945. At the time of the 1945 elections an attempt was made by the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party to agree on a joint list of 2292 candidates. The chairman of the committee which attempted to draw up a joint list of Left Wing candidates was Marshal Voroshilov, at that time chairman of the Allied Commission and Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army. So it is the country whose chairman presided over an attempt to draw up a joint list of Left Wing candidates which now says that a committee of inquiry by the countries responsible for Hungary as a whole is an interference with Hungarian internal affairs.
What does Russia want in Hungary? I think this question can be answered very simply. Russia wants two things, two things she has not got over the whole of her country—sunshine and warm water, or, if you put it in a more practical form, she wants access to Africa and to the Mediterranean. If Russia were seeking to justify the moves she is now making, she would say, and we must bear it m mind, that Great Britain herself in the past has wanted sunshine and warm water, and has gone to Africa and further a field to get them. But the background to all these problems is the same. The difficulty that we are faced with is that those two conceptions of democracy result in two teams playing the same game on the same field according to different rules. Fundamentally that seems to me to be the problem of European politics at the present time.
There appear to be only three roads along which the relations between Russia and the Western Powers can develop. They can be allowed to develop as they are developing now, and that means that the two teams will continue to play the game according to two separate sets of rules. If that happens we are heading for chaos, because when two great nations go blundering along sooner or later some-body puts his foot in the wrong place and the avalanche is precipitated. The next possibility is to play the game according to Western democratic rules. Our problem of statesmanship is to persuade Russia that she can get what she legitimately requires, let us say access to the raw materials of Africa, round the conference table by playing the international political game according to Western democratic rules. The third possibility is to play the game according to the Russian rules. It is quite clear that that is the way along which we are now 2293 moving—that is, to a regime of power politics, which Russia has asked for and which she will inevitably get from those who have to do business with her.
There is only one other thing I would say. This is a miserable future for the people of the world to face at the conclusion of a great world war for the freedom of individual peoples to lead their own lives in their own way. I am one of those who believe that the solution to this problem is not to be found by way of power politics or even by way of the conference table, but that ultimately it will only he found by bringing the ordinary folk of one country into relation with the ordinary folk of other countries. It has been said that the Kremlin made the mistake of showing the West to the Red Army. I am not at all sure that that really was a mistake. Let us hope that when the conditions of life in Russia improve, the iron curtain will be lifted. I believe they are afraid at the moment to let people outside see the conditions in Russia, just as they are afraid to let the people of Russia see conditions outside. Once conditions of life in Russia improve, let us hope that the iron curtain can be lifted, and that ordinary men of goodwill of the various countries can then come together. Then I believe we shall be able to look for understanding between West and East. Without that, Europe is faced with a gloomy and miserable future.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Mr. John E. Haire (Wycombe)
I am particularly happy to follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Putney (Mr. Linstead) because he and I had a most happy trip to Hungary together almost exactly a year ago. I find myself in more agreement with him than I am with a number of other hon. Members on my own side of the Committee. I regard him as a man who went over there, like myself, genuinely seeking the truth. We did manage to break down the iron curtain so far as it surrounded Hungary, and we did see there as much as we could, and we were given every freedom. It would be quite wrong for me to say, nevertheless, that I do not share the anxiety felt and expressed by so many hon. Members today with regard to the things that have occurred in Hungary during the last few months, and in the absence of all the facts—and I sincerely 2294 hope that all hon. Members are genuinely seeking the truth—I myself have deferred judgment, and I believe that the same attitude has been adopted by my right hon. Friends the Minister of State and the Foreign Secretary. I sincerely hope that we can get at those facts, and then all of us will be able to form a judgment on the Hungarian situation.
I regret to say that such a degree of restraint has not been shown by some hon. Members on this side of the Committee today. I believe I have never heard in this Chamber a more right-wing speech than that which we heard today from the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans), and that at a time when my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has invited Mr. Molotov to join with him in a second chance to recreate Europe. When the hon. Member for Wednesbury made that speech, every single Member of this House left of the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) became a fellow traveller. It seemed to me that he looked around for a good line to follow, that he thought he had got a popular one. He then trumpeted it out to the full. Having got hold of this opinion, he then looked round for a few facts and figures to fit it. Hon. Members will remember that when I interrupted him to ask for some of his sources of information, he brushed me aside and said, "I got that fact where I got the rest." I asked him about the "Arrow Cross" representation in the Hungarian political police. I believe it is quite high. He quoted the round figure of 50 per cent. We are asking for the truth, and we are entitled to know these things. What is the use of the hon. Member for Wednesbury standing up in this Committee today and giving figures if he is not prepared to give any information as to their source? Are we not in fact asking, rightly in my opinion, the Russian authorities in Hungary for their documentary evidence and is the hon. Member for Wednesbury not, in fact, refusing us his documentary evidence?
The hon. Member for Wednesbury was one of our delegation to Hungary last year. I remember that he came with a number of very grave doubts in his mind. I sympathise with him because the first time that I went to Hungary—six months after the end of the war—I went with 2295 exactly the same sort of doubts. I was doubtful about the political police. My last visit to Hungary was in November last year. On all the three visits I have paid to Hungary, I have endeavoured to be scrupulously fair on these matters by seeking information from all sides. My impression was that conditions there were improving, and that the Hungarian authorities realised that mistakes had been made in connection with the political police in the early days. But the hon. Member for Wednesbury came with us with these doubts in his mind and was free to ask all the questions he wished, which he did. He signed this document, the unanimous report of the Parliamentary delegation which, in fact, confutes a great deal of what he said today. What has happened in the meantime?
§ Mr. Linstead
I join with the hon. Member in the second part of what he said. With regard to the first part, obviously very great events have happened in the last few weeks which, in my opinion, throw our report of a year ago very much out of gear.
§ Mr. Haire
I share the anxiety of the Committee in respect to the reception given to the British Ambassador in Moscow when he asked for this information. I think that courtesy and diplomacy demand that he should have been told that the document would be made available. But I cannot agree that he should be told that this was an unwarrantable interference in Hungarian affairs. I believe, as do other hon. Members, that His Majesty's Government, as members of the Allied Control Commission in Hungary, are entitled to that information. It was a breach of the Yalta Agreement not to give it to us.
Let us examine this charge of British interference in Hungary I have tried to encourage some interference in Hungary. Out of our strained resources, we gave Hungary a credit of £500,000. Only a few months 2296 ago, the House voted Hungary £200,000 worth of machine tools free of charge, and, subsequently, made a further offer of £200,000 worth at a very reduced price. We entered into a trade agreement with Hungary. Their food is very essential to us, and our raw materials are very essential to their industries. There are a number of British firms in Hungary, like Coates and Dunlop, which are essential to the Hungarian economy. Is that interference? Through U.N.R.R.A., we have given Hungary £1,000,000 worth of aid. Is that interference? And the British Council, in my opinion, is doing a magnificent job there.
There have been as well, two notes. Hon. Members will remember that in October, 1945, we sent a note to the Soviet Union at the time of the Soviet economic pact with Hungary, whereby four joint companies were set up. I happened to be in Hungary at that time, and I remember the concern that was felt there. I shared it at the time, but, subsequently, I realised that it was not so bad as we had thought. When I was in Hungary a year later, I asked the President whether he considered that the economic pact had been disturbing to the Hungarian economy. He said that without it he did not think Hungarian recovery would have been so rapid. That was his opinion. In retrospect, I saw that the agreement was not so bad as I had at first thought. I had thought that some of the Hungarian oil resources were falling into Russian hands. The American oil interests in Hungary amounted to 75 per cent., and the joint company which has been set up to control the remaining oil resources share 25 per cent. Therefore, the Russians, in fact, have 12½ per cent, of the oil resources in Hungary. I was very happy to discover that, and it set my mind at ease, in view of my earlier doubts in this connection.
We sent a second note last February to the Russian authorities on the occasion of Bela Kovac's arrest, about which the Committee has heard so much this afternoon. I think that note was justified, and that we have a right to information of that kind. My anxiety with regard to Hungarian affairs of the last few weeks has been increased because I, personally, knew the people in question. Last June, I had the honour to preside at a luncheon given in the House of Commons to the visiting Hungarian Cabinet Mission led 2297 by M. Nagy at which some of my hon Friends, including some of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench were present.. I had a high regard for M. Nagy the ex-Prime Minister, whom I regarded as a moderate progressive, and who was very popular among the peasants in Hungary. He had been their organiser, and had been through the dark days of the earlier régimes before the war with them. I thought that he was a shrewd man. Nevertheless, I also thought that he was politically weak. It was obvious that in Hungary he was being torn one way and then the other, and it was said in Hungary by someone who did not belong to the Left Wing that the Prime Minister was strong enough to hold his own party together and weak enough to hold the Coalition. That is a profound remark. I believe that his failing in recent weeks was that he became a victim of the dollar myth, and was prepared to play American power politics. In this respect, he was indeed involved in a double game.
With regard to the other person in question, Varga Bela, I liked him also. He was a priest and an intellectual. When I last saw him in his office in Budapest, he had just come from burying his mother. In sympathising with him, he said to me, "My other mother, Hungary, is dying too." I think that he believed that. I believe he saw that there were forces at work which were attempting to overthrow the Coalition.
§ Mr. Blackburn
I hope that the hon. Member will remember—I do not want to raise this as a point of Order—that statements made in the Committee today may well be used in the trial of this man, and, therefore, we ought to observe the very greatest care in any utterances made; and, above all, no statement made in private conversation should be quoted.
§ Mr. Haire
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. But this particular man is out of Hungary. I want to come back to the question of Russian interference. I think that hon. Gentlemen, in trying to assess Russian interference in Hungary, should try to do so with complete fairness. I have inquired into this in Hungary, and have tried to determine the number of occasions when there was direct interference with the Hungarian Government. In our report last year, we came to the conclusion that we did not consider that 2298 there was day-to-day interference in Hungarian affairs. What are the examples of Russian interference? It is wrong to assume that there is much direct pressure exercised on Hungarian political life, because Russian influence is exercised through economic influence and through the Communist Party.
Let me give some examples of Russian interference. Soon after Russia entered Hungary as a liberating Army they set up a provisional Government. Did they select a Communist to be Prime Minister? No, they selected an Independent, General Miklos. Did they select a Communist Minister of the Interior? No, they selected Mr. Erdli, a member of the National Peasant Party. They attempted, at that time, to set up a Government which was fairly representative of the people of the country. After this Government came to Budapest there was very little direct interference. The land reform had been put through. The Russians wanted that carried out as quickly as possible because many of the feudal landlords had gone, the farms were not being cultivated, so the estates were carved up. It was a long-overdue reform, and it has been the whole basis of the social evolution of Hungary since.
What was the second example of interference. The hon. Member for Putney has already referred to it. It was just before the November, 1945, elections. On that occasion Marshal Voroshilov asked that the elections should be fought on a common list. He did not confine it to Communists or Socialists. He asked all parties to fight the election on a common list. The parties objected and at M. Tildy's suggestion—he was the then leader of the Smallholders Party—it was agreed to form a Coalition, whatever the result of the election. I personally believe that it was an extremely wise decision taken before the elections to form a coalition of the progressive parties in Hungary. The elections took place, and there were many hon. Members in the House, and many British people in Hungary, who believed that the elections would be "rigged."
These elections were free and fair. I spent a great deal of time studying them, and I believe that they were fought on a wider franchise than we have even in this country. In a country at that time occupied by a million Russians, no one thought that such a wide franchise as 2299 enabled men and women over the age of 20 to take part in the elections would be allowed with few political tests. The only political test at the time was whether a person had been an executive member of the Nazi organisation. In fact, those who could prove that they had fought against the Nazis in the Underground Movement got the vote at i8. Let us try to find all these facts and assess this matter with scrupulous fairness. The next bit of interference is the question of Press censorship. Some hon. Members think that there is a rigid Press censorship. There is no Press censorship in Hungary, but the Russians laid down that newspapers must not refer to occupation forces—our own, the Americans and the Russians.
§ Mr. Linstead
When the hon. Gentleman says that there is no Press censor- ship, I think that he will agree with me that an editor who slips up will find his paper is suppressed for a certain length of time. There is no official censorship, but every editor in Hungary is, in fact, acting as censor on behalf of the Government.
§ Mr. Haire
That is so, but no post-pub-lication suspension takes place. Not if he follows the conditions laid down by the Russians, which I have mentioned. I cannot believe that it would engender good relations between the Allies if every editor were allowed to play off the Allies one against the other. If hon. Gentlemen read the Hungarian newspapers, they would see that they are extremely critical of other things, and also of personalities, in a much more lively way than we are in this country.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
On this question of the Hungarian Press, I do not know if the hon. Member has seen the Hungarian Press during the last few days, but is he aware that there has been very little reference in the Hungarian Press to the speeches by His Majesty's Government on the coup we have been debating to- night? On the other hand, the widest publicity has been given to the questions of the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire), indicating that the House sup- ported the steps that have been taken.
§ Mr. Haire
In the Hungarian papers a full statement was given, (a) of the American protest; (b) of the Russian reply. I think that it was most unfair of my hon. Friend to make a remark of a 2300 personal nature because, in fact, if he has free access to these Hungarian papers he would see many references made to questions in the House by other hon. Gentlemen. I do not propose to detail the events which led up to this crisis. There are, however, two points which have not emerged in today's Debate. The crisis which arose in Hungarian affairs was not just a crisis based on the resignation of M. Nagy. The crisis developed on the question of whether to nationalise or not nationalise the banks. I can imagine that if some hon. Members opposite were in the Cabinet with some of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, it would be very difficult to come to an agreement on that matter. There was considerable difficulty.
On top of that, there has been the external pressure, and that is a point not brought out by any hon. Gentleman today. When President Truman made his speech in which he granted financial aid to Greece and Turkey, lion. Members will remember that he clothed his offer in a good deal of anti-Communist language. What do Communist Parties in other countries do when they hear, in fact, that dollar pressure is to be applied? President Truman said that after Greece and Turkey they proposed to give dollars to Hungary. Does anyone think that the Communist Party in Hungary are likely to react favourably to that suggestion? If they are politically acute, are they not likely to try and bar the way against that sort of thing? When President Truman offered dollars to Hungary he was creating a situation which inadvertently made difficulties in the Hungarian Coalition. These men have long memories. My hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) may not remember that after the first world war when there was a progressive Government in power in 1919, the Allies applied a food blockade. As a result the progressive Government was starved out and the way prepared for Admiral Horthy to enter the country and set up a counter-revolutionary Government, which was the first counterrevolutionary Government in Europe and which created the first political police force in that country. That was done because of the food blockade established by the Allies.
§ Mr. Blackburn
I suggest to my hon. Friend—and this is the last point I will 2301 put to him—that it is very unfair to compare the American dollar policy with the Russian policy because it is friendly to offer a man the loan of money and the contrary to throw him into a concentration camp.
§ Mr. Haire
I do not see how that reference arises out of what I have been saying about what happened to Hungary after the first world war. Some of the Smallholders were keen to accept this dollar loan, especially the Right Wing section. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington has pointed to the fact that there are a certain number of doubtful elements in the Smallholders' Party, and I agree. Many of these would have been only too glad to welcome, this dollar aid. It was at that stage that it appears that M. Nagy went over to the side of those who were supporting American aid for Hungary, whereas the Communists at that stage were anti-American aid. Then the crisis in the Cabinet became intense. How much Nagy's resignation was due to Communist pressure and how much to the knowledge of his own culpability regarding the overthrow of the Coalition I am not going to speculate. Time and facts will supply the answer. Those Members of the Committee who believe that a Communist coup took place must see the situation in this perspective. There is in Hungary a Right Wing and a Left Wing which hate each other. Each believes the other would deprive them of complete freedom if they got to power. The Communist Party, of course, enjoys at the moment the support of the Russian Army, and, therefore, its influence is very much felt.
§ Mr. Linstead
On a point of Order. An appeal was made to us to cut our speeches to 10 minutes. I did that with very great disruptive effect. The result was that the speech which I might have made would have taken a very different point of view from that put forward by the hon. Member for High Wycombe (Mr. Haire), but, in fact, it was not made. On the other hand, he, in succeeding me, speaks for nearly half an hour, and gives a point of view which demands a reply. I feel one is entitled to draw your attention, Major Milner, to the length of this speech.
§ The Chairman
That is not strictly a point of Order, but I rather agree with the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Linstead). It is up to hon. Members themselves to control the length of their speeches. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have to listen to them whether they are short or long, but it is important, I think, in the interests of the general body of Members that the speeches today should be short, because of the great many hon. Members who wish to speak.
§ Mr. Haire
I certainly accept your Ruling, Major Milner, and I will make the rest of my speech as short as I can. I am trying to make a point to the Committee which I believe is valid. Because of the balance of political forces in Hungary it is impossible, in my opinion, for a Communist party coup to take place. The Communists could not run the country without the support of the peasants, and the peasants do not, in fact, belong to the Communist party.
§ Mr. Haire
In reply to the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), if the Communists used armed force the peasants could immediately reply by refusing to-deliver produce and by setting up an internal food blockade. It has been done before. On the other hand, the Smallholders cannot form a Government of their own, because they do not have much working class support. They have very few workers in their ranks, and for that reason I believe that in Hungary—and all the political parties there agree—must be a continuation of Coalition Government.
What should Great Britain do in the present critical position? Might I suggest to the Foreign Secretary, arising out of the situation in Hungary and South Eastern Europe, that we must not allow Europe to split into East and West. I believe that spells war. Hungary, in my opinion, genuinely wants to be a bridge between East and West, not a battlefield. I believe we should support Hungary's application for admission to the United Nations Organisation. She is the first of the ex-satellites to apply. We should recognise that the present Hungarian Government is genuinely trying to raise the standard of life of the workers and the peasants by social reform, and I believe my right hon. Friend should encourage such a Government to participate in 2303 the Marshall plan with our guarantee that there will be no political conditions. Our prestige is still high in Hungary and most Hungarians regard us as the arbiter of their fate.
§ 7.47 P.m.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities)
I want to be very brief, though there are many things I want to say. In the long speech by the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire) to which we have just listened, the most remarkable fact that has to be noted is that nobody on either side of the Committee knows at this moment whether the hon. Member believes or does not believe that there has been a Communist coup d'etat in Hungary. I believe, with many hon. Members who have spoken on each side of the Committee, that the position we have to face today is of the utmost urgency. I do not believe that it could be better summarised than it was by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who a year ago said:It is better to have a world united than a world divided; but it is also better to have a world divided than a world destroyed.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th June, 1946; Vol. 423, C. 2031.]What we face now is the question of the survival of European civilisation and a great many other things. Two problems have been mentioned in many of the speeches today, the economic problem and the political problem. In both our survival depends on getting rid finally and forever of the attitude, "Let's pretend," and trying to face the facts. I believe the Foreign Secretary has every intention of doing that. I was distressed that the hon. Member for Wycombe spoke of one or two speeches made on his own side of the Committee in a manner which looked as though it was intended to be a condemnation of those speeches. He tried to show that one of them was a right wing speech. Everyone knows that the question he should ask is, Was what was said true? Let me repeat words of Bishop Butler in a famous passage in his Sermons:Things and actions are what they are, and the consequences of them will be what they will be; why then should we wish to be deceived?The most important fact which we have to face is the continuation of Russian and Communist aggression which has obliterated freedom in our sense in country after 2304 country. It does no good whatsoever blinding ourselves to those facts or pretending that they have not happened. On the contrary, our survival depends on realising that they have happened. There are two possible opinions about the Communist leaders of Russia. One is they are incompetent men somehow managing through their folly to annoy their would-be friends among Government supporters, while the opposite view is that they are extremely competent men achieving exactly what they wish to achieve. I take the latter view. I commend to the Committee the adoption of the perfectly simple rule of the English common law that men are presumed to intend the natural and probable consequences of their actions. When we observe Russian actions and their effect in the insecurity, the chaos and the hunger of Europe, let us at least believe that that may be precisely the intention. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, when he made his speech at Fulton, was criticised by some for the remedy he suggested, and by others for having made the speech at that time and place. I can follow, without accepting, both those criticisms, but I think that the one thing that nobody was able to challenge was the truth of the facts he then portrayed regarding the decline and passing of freedom in country after country.
May I now tell the Committee what has given me some pleasure and comfort in this Debate? I do not believe that on these vital issues of foreign politics and the survival of our civilisation and its values there must inevitably be division between members of the great parties in this country, apart from the one exception of the Communist Party. I, therefore, listened with great pleasure to the speeches both of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. 'Evans) and the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield (Major Poole). The hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield said that he had not previously intervened in discussions on foreign affairs. I think his speech today was of great value, and I hope that he will frequently intervene on matters which he has Obviously studied and on which he speaks with knowledge and courage. There need not be these great differences between men who face the facts and who believe—as I think we do believe on both sides, with a few exceptions—in the rule of law and not in tyranny. [Interrup- 2305 tion.] I do not know if the hon. Member who is making unintelligible noises disagrees, but I would prefer the articulate agreement of the hon. Member for Lichfield to the inarticulate noises of the hon. Member who is now interrupting.
I thought that it was noticeable that, while the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield was referring to the fact that in what were admittedly free elections in Hungary the party from whom power has now been progressively wrested were able to command 47 per cent. of the votes, he was interrupted by the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) who suggested that he had thereby admitted the weaknesses and the wickedness of that party. It is incomprehensible to the hon. Member for Gateshead that it is not a criminal offence to win an election in a free country by a free vote, but let me say this to him. I congratulate Mr. Molotov on the speed and closeness with which he follows the lead of the hon. Member for Gateshead.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
Does the hon. Member mean that Hungary should be allowed to vote herself back to Fascism, because the Allies have said that she shall not be allowed to do so, a fact which was also stated by the Leader of the Opposition.
§ Mr. Strauss
I do not think that it is any proof that Hungary or any other country is voting itself back to Fascism because it elects by a majority men of whom the hon. Member for Gateshead disapproves. In the few moments that are left to me I want to express my agreement with points made by the right hon. Gentleman the Senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) and others on the great urgency of the task that faces the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary. I think that in speeches he has made in the country, and in the short intervention that he has already made this afternoon, the Foreign Secretary has shown quite clearly that he 'realises that urgency and intends to make every effort—after all the patience he has shown in many matters—to take such chance as there now is. I do not think there is quite the separation between the political aspect and the economic aspect that some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have suggested. I do not believe that there is or ought to be the least chance of the American Government extending aid to Europe or to 2306 any countries in Europe, in any way that would conflict with their declared aim of supporting freedom and resisting the forcible suppression of popular Governments by minorities.
I think the vitally important thing to recognise about what has happened in the last two years is this. There have been two main methods: one is to rig elections in the countries behind the iron curtain, and here I do not ask any hon. Member opposite to accept the Tory view. Let him accept the views given by his own representatives on the Government Front Bench of the nature of the last Polish election. That was one method—to rig the election. The other was the method practised in Hungary of risking a free election and then, if it does not produce the result you want, taking no notice of it and progressively overriding the party that have a majority until finally you have a communist tyranny. My hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) spoke as though communism were a religion that could be met only by a religion. I agree that it has to be met by a real belief in freedom, but the risk in Europe is not that the communists will anywhere obtain a majority. The Communists are not even trying to obtain a majority in most countries; they are content with a minority and the capture of key posts by guile or the force of arms of an external power. It is quite useless to blind ourselves to those facts because on the timely realisation of them our survival depends.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, who has shown great patience for a long time—whatever charge may be brought against him he cannot be accused of impatience—will say at last, that we will not blind ourselves to the facts. We know that there has been a Russian and Communist coup d'etat in Hungary. In passing let me say of the ludicrous speech of the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) that if every word he said about the plot and conspiracy had been true that would not afford a single reason that would justify the Russian Government in refusing the demand to show the documents to the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary. Indeed, there were absolute obligations under numerous agreements to show those documents even without being asked.
§ 7.59 P.m.
§ Mr. Piratin (Mile End)
I understand that this Debate arises from a request by the Opposition who, of course, take advantage of their right to choose the subject of discussion on a Supply Day, but having listened to most of the speeches, and particularly to that of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), I have been wondering why the Opposition asked for this Debate at all. The right hon. Gentleman spoke for about half an hour and said nothing of any value. For three quarters of that time he made attacks on five or six European countries, telling us in all cases of the activity of the Communist Party who were carrying out machinations to undermine those countries. I did not rise merely to say this, but I had to say it because so many of the speeches to which I have listened have been completely destructive. At least we hear strains of optimism at times from the Foreign Secretary, both in the House and outside. He expresses optimism and sets about the job which he can see is right with energy. From most hon. Members on both sides of the House this afternoon there was not one constructive proposition and not one atom of optimism. That, I must say in the absence of the acting Leader of the Opposition, was unfortunately initiated by him. In the half hour in which he spoke he had nothing but mischief to speak of.
I want to address myself to one subject. Last week when the Leader of the House said that we should have a Debate on foreign affairs today, I thought that the matter I intend to speak on would be the main basis of discussion and not recriminations about the past. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington and others went back months and years ago to discover so-called Communist machinations. I thought we were going to discuss the Marshall plan. It is my opinion, and the opinion of many serious hon. Members, that that is probably the most important aspect of foreign affairs that we could now be discussing. I have listened carefully to those who have referred to the Hungarian problem, including the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire). In my opinion that matter would have blown over in a few months' time. In the past we have had vituperation against Poland, Yugoslavia, Albania, and so on, but those problems passed. 2308 However, our problem remains. The crisis is ahead. It is also a European crisis.
Therefore, the Marshall plan—I use the word "plan" for want of a more correct one—is the subject we ought to be discussing. We all know that Europe needs help. The United States undoubtedly took her part in the war, but we know that the battlefield was Europe. It would be a very great thing in the very best Roosevelt tradition if the United States now really helped in the reconstruction of Europe, but I have my doubts. I would very much like to believe the expression used in "The Times" leader today which says:By emphasising that every part of Europe falls within the scope of his present scheme he"—that is Marshall—has indicated that there is no longer any thought of exercising political pressure or of erecting barriers, even defensive barriers, against any one country or group of countries.I would very much like to believe what "The Times" leader says in that sentence, but I have my doubts. I recall that in March, President Truman made a statement and introduced his conception of assistance to Governments opposing Communism. Later, on 5th June, Marshall made his statement to which I am now referring. I would remind the Committee that it was a week or so after he made his original statement that the rather picturesque expression was then introduced in order to elaborate what he had in mind—that his statement "applied to all countries West of Asia"—an expression I have never heard before, but the American geographical point of view may be a factor. But that was one week after his original statement. Why was that not done in the first place? Was it because of progressive American opinion?
I would further remind the Committee, and this side in particular, that we should not forget that the Government of the United States—I am not now speaking of the American people but the dominant section which governs the United States—the Government of the United States is a big business Government which hates not only Socialism but any form of progress. While Marshall was two weeks ago making the statement which was so speedily taken up by our statesmen, his Government was at the 2309 same time introducing legislation against American organised trade unionists, legislation such as hon. Members of this House were happy to see ended in this country last year after 20 years. We must be careful what we are doing and saying. We must know the people with whom we are dealing. I am prepared to be objective and to make criticisms on all sides, but let us at least make an assessment of what is involved here in this American offer.
The Foreign Secretary has acted very rapidly, and on that alone he is to be congratulated. I likewise believe in speed. Now, as he said, we are waiting for the reply from Mr. Molotov for Moscow. Several hon. and right hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington and the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), seem already to have made up their minds that the Soviet Union will refuse to participate. Why should the Soviet Union refuse? They need help; no one will deny that. They need help as much as anyone, if not more so.
§ Mr. Piratin
That is where one reads the truth. The Soviet Union needs all the help it can get. The Board of Trade knows quite well what her dilemma is and why we cannot advance our trade arrangements with her more rapidly, as we should all like to do. The Soviet Union would only refuse this aid if there were political discriminations and economic provisos. In his statement Mr. Marshall distinctly included a remark to the effect that the United States would retain its right to decide who should be excluded—not the United Nations organisation or some such international body, but the United States. We already know from President Truman's statement in March on what basis such discrimination should take place. I would like the Foreign Secretary to say something on the matter, if he knows. If he does not, would he investigate? Are there to be tags attached to these proposals? Will there be any kind of political discrimination and economic provisos such as we have had, to our regret, in the loan we accepted a year or two ago?
§ Mr. Piratin
I voted for it and in the same circumstances I would vote for it again. I would elaborate that point if I were not trying to confine myself to a few minutes. I stand by what I have done, but I regret that we have allowed the thing to go as far as we have done. We are aware of the difficulties created for the French film and other industries which the American loan to France has made. Those industries are heading for calamity. These are the things of which we must be wary. If countries in Europe are compelled to seek the aid of the United States and to seek it by submitting to American Imperialist domination, that would be a calamity which would hold up progress and will not help us. There would be one Power dominant in the world and it would not be this country or the Soviet Union. Some hon. Members might like to see that dominant Power at work. My observations about such hon. Members had better be made outside the Committee.
I say to the Foreign Secretary that Great Britain can play a great part. The lead already taken by the Foreign Secretary in visiting France and in sending a message to Molotov can be furthered in order to ensure that aid is given on an unqualified basis and without any political discrimination. He knows, better than most of us no doubt, that the United States needs to export as much as we need to import from the United States. It is as much an economic problem for them to export as it is an economic need for us to import. Britain can say now—and the Foreign Secretary can say it this very evening—that so far as we are concerned there will be no political discrimination and no economic qualifications attached to these credits. The Foreign Secretary should stand firm on the point that existing organisations shall be used. There is the European Economic Commission of the United Nations, to which Mr. Marshall made no reference whatever. In fact it is hardly active. Only yesterday did we see some report of it. So far few have known of its activities. However, it is the kind of organisation by which these credits can be advanced. We believe—I hope I speak for all hon. Members here—that it is a more appropriate 2311 channel through which these credits can be advanced and a more appropriate organisation for deciding how the loans shall be allocated, than unilateral action or a restricted ad hoc body.
I believe the Foreign Secretary could make a gesture in the right direction by indicating that he will do his utmost to ensure that this organisation is used for the purpose for which it was established. I will conclude by saying that I hope the Foreign Secretary, in winding up, will disregard some of the destructive remarks made in the course of several speeches today, and devote his main attention—without, of course, treading on any of the delicate ground indicated in his few remarks earlier today—to solving this problem so that there shall be no split in Europe. That is what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition wants to see—
§ Mr. Piratin
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman also sick? [An HON. MEMBER: "Does he want a doctor?"] That is what, unfortunately, many others appear to be wanting. We can take this lead, as the Foreign Secretary has already shown he is prepared to do, but this lead must be such that no European country shall be in political subservience or economic debt as a result of it. The United States has a responsibility to the world. It is a continuity of its wartime responsibility, for it is in a unique position. We can stand firm and see to it that this responsibility is carried out so that the whole world progresses, but not under the domination of American Imperialism.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
I would say at the outset that I have given no pledge whatever with regard to time, but I recognise once again the deplorable necessity of telescoping, cutting and mutilating what I had hoped would be rather a good speech. That seems to be the fate of all of us who are called late in a Debate. I have tried for the last two years to get in earlier—[Interruption.] We have had an interesting Debate today. I think the speeches of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) and the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield 2312 (Major Poole) greatly impressed the Committee. They spoke with authority, they spoke with knowledge; and I was particularly interested in the reaction of the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield, to his contact with a thing that we had hoped had been done away with many years ago in Europe—the terror. The terror is a nasty thing. It was clear that the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield had come right up against the terror. He did not like it; and I think there are few hon. Members on either side who like it; but it is a fact in Europe today. [An HON. MEMBER: "It has been there a long time."] There was one quite spontaneous remark, in an aside of the speech of the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire), which absolutely fascinated me. He was defending the recent events in Hungary, and somebody made an interruption about some gentleman and said he had better be careful because what he said might be used in evidence against him. The hon. Member for Wycombe then said quite spontaneously, "He is out of Hungary now; he is safe."
§ Mr. Boothby
The speech that interested me more than any other was the speech of the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt). I must say that with every sentence that passed my sympathy with the Foreign Secretary grew, because this must be the sort of thing he has to hear from Vyshinsky day after day, night after night, at every conference that he has ever attended for the last two years. I suddenly realised the agony the right hon. Gentleman must have gone through; and I appreciated for the first time the enormous patience that he has displayed. That was the defence.
There is really no mystery about Russian objectives or the methods by which they intend to achieve them. I wish to lift the Debate a little above and beyond the specific case of Hungary. It was quite obvious to anyone who was at the San Francisco Conference, as I happened to be in the capacity of a journalist, what the Russian objectives were. They have not changed their mind since.
Their immediate objective was, and is, to cash in on victory by the widest prac- 2313 ticable extension of Russian power in regions which they believe to be essential to them. Their long-term objective was, and is, the establishment of totalitarian Communism, first in Europe, then in the world. I do not blame them for that; it is a legitimate objective. But we might as well face up to it. Much as I detest their political views, I have the greatest respect for the real Communists, for the genuine brand, "the real McKay" as we say in Scotland, the Kremlin boys, amongst whom I include the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin), who does not disguise his views and feelings. I wanted them as allies in 1937, 1938 and 1939. I am on the record about that. I still think that if we had got them as allies then the second World War would never have broken out. I was one of the hon. Members of this House who was friends with them, and who went to the Soviet Embassy, when it was not at all a popular thing to do in this country, long before the outbreak of the last war. Nor do I under-estimate the magnitude of the effort they made in the Kremlin, with some assistance from the valiant Russian people, when they found themselves, with some reluctance, driven into a war upon our side.
All the same, it would be a great pity, in my submission, to have any illusions about them. Communism is not only a creed, it is not only a religion, it is a very well thought out plan of campaign. The first step is infiltration. The second is the capture of the key point, which is, in almost every case, the Ministry of the Interior. Then comes the third, the purge; and then there is what hon. Members have referred to, the "rigged" election. Finally, there emerges, in all its full glory, the police State. That is the method they have used, and by that method they have established a firm grip on all Europe east of the Stettin-Trieste line. We had better face up to that. It is no great condemnation; that is the Communist tactic; that is the Communist objective. If I was a Communist I should be all in, favour of it, and doing these things.
They are now counting upon two things. First, the continuation of disruption, disunity and poverty in Western Europe. Hence their refusal for the last two years to make peace. They know that sooner or later economic integration 2314 in Europe is absolutely essential, it Europe is to survive. They hope that it will come from Moscow, just as the Nazis hoped before the war that it would come from Berlin. I think it is not untrue to say that if they had relied upon Schacht instead of the German General Staff, it would have come from Berlin, right through the Continent of Europe, without the firing of a single shot. The economic integration of Europe will certainly come from Moscow unless the Western democracies make up their minds to get together within a very short time.
The second thing that the Communists hope for is an American slump. Unless the Americans can somehow get rid of their surplus production in the form of exports, either by means of investments, or loans, or both, a slump will come sooner or later. All that can be said is that, during the last two years we have done everything we can to make the Kremlin dreams come true. We have not integrated Western Europe; and we have not made use, as we could have done, of the capital of the greatest creditor nation in the world.
Germany is the crux. I hate to say this in the presence of the Foreign Secretary, but I think that our record in Germany during the last two years has been one of steady and disastrous failure. We have there a sullen, starving bankrupt community, a fertile breeding-ground for Communism, and an area of desolation and decay from which an infection could easily rise that would spread and bring all Europe to ruin. I think that the present Government are in some measure responsible for this because for too long—until, in fact, only the other day, the right hon. Gentleman averted his eyes from the German tragedy. I would remind the Committee that we have got a direct and inescapable responsibility for Germany; and that so far we have failed to discharge it, as I think everybody in this country, whatever their feelings about Germans as such may be, would have wished to see us discharge it.
Let us face the facts before it is too late. The diversity of the elements which have gone to build up Western European civilisation have resulted in a genius for compromise, which is the practical expression of toleration. I want to emphasise that word, "toleration," because 2315 the Communists are quite uncompromising, and they do not believe in toleration. That is the measure of the division between us. As Lord Vansittart has said, they are hard masters. Nothing less than 100 per cent. subservience will do, as some of our fellow travellers will find if they venture upon a 5 per cent. reservation.
I said just now that we should try to face the facts. Here is the first fact we must face. Totalitarianism is the precise antithesis of everything we mean in this country by democracy. Therefore, there can be no spiritual or intellectual compromise between the two, without hypocrisy or something worse. By a policy of shameless appeasement, by abandoning a great many people to their fate, and a great many principles, we could doubtless do a political deal with the Soviet Union at present. I say it would be a dirty deal, and a temporary deal. It would not do us any good. You really cannot do a deal with slavery and terror which, in the long run, pays any very good dividends.
The second fact is that the political division of Europe exists. It is not of our making. God knows we have struggled to avoid it. Nor is it wholly of Russian making. It is implicit in the circumstances and conditions of our time. We cannot avoid it. By adopting an entirely different technique we can, I think, one day collaborate with the Soviet Union in an atttempt to achieve the economic reconstruction of Europe; but not if we persist in wilfully blinding ourselves to the true facts of the situation. I have quoted before, and I quote again, a very practical and interesting observation by a Frenchman, Professor Saurat, in "The Times" some months ago. He said:Those who profess to try to avoid this division close their eyes to the fact that it is now in being. Our problem is to make the two camps collaborate. In order to collaborate both must exist. Western Europe must be created. We have the elements of the solution, if we have the will.I myself am an unrepentant regionalist. So, in practice, are both the Americans and the Russians, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows. They have built their own regions already—the Americans on the continent of North and South America by the Act of Chapultepec, even before the San Francisco Conference was summoned, and the Russians in Eastern 2316 Europe. Hitherto, both the Americans and the Russians have combined to prevent or hinder the regional economic organisation of Western Europe—the, Russians by uncompromising political hostility, such as has been expressed just now by the hon. Member for Mile End; and the Americans by a short-sighted insistence upon non-discrimination in trade, which I believe they are now rapidly abandoning. In the modern world there are two great forces at work. One is the force of economic nationalism, which is very strong indeed. At the same time, running parallel with it is the force—I should not say the force but the necessity—of economic integration.
There will not be any solution, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, along the lines of multilateral free trade between capitalist countries all over the world, with the Soviet Union as an eager participant. That is not likely. The Soviet Union is a closed economy; and the United States are not so wide open as all that. I believe that, on this economic aspect, perhaps the wisest thing of all has been said by a very senior politician in this country, who, I think, sees further on many subjects and issues than most of us in this House, and whose absence from this House I deplore. I refer to Mr. Amery; and I would like to quote this passage:The solution of the paradox lie5, not in flying in the face of the whole tendency of modern thought in order to restore a 19th century internationalism, nor in acquiescing in the stifling of progress by existing national boundaries. It lies in groups large enough to satisfy the technical requirements of modern production, and yet also sufficiently held together by some common ideal, some permanent co-operative purpose, to enlist the forces of economic nationalism on their behalf.I believe that to be profoundly true; and I believe that it applies, above every other region, to Western Europe.
Two crises of unexampled magnitude are now coming rapidly upon us. The first is a political crisis, caused by the shock political tactics of the Russians in Central Europe; and the second is an economic crisis, caused by the continuing economic collapse of Western Europe and the shortage of dollars. If I am convinced of anything in this world, it is that the first crisis will not be solved by a policy of appeasement; and I think Mr. Marshall has now pointed a way to a solution of the second. I presume that he has n mind a revival of the combined planning mechan- 2317 ism which worked so well in the war, accompanied by a kind of Monnet plan for Western Europe.
I beg the Foreign Secretary to believe that there is no stronger case on earth than there is for the economic integration of Western Europe at the present time. All the countries of Europe are committed, to a greater or less degree, to a policy of planned economic expansion; and we are all dependent, to a high degree not only upon foreign trade, but upon trade with one another. It would be difficult to conceive of a stronger case for purposive economic integration.
Speed is the essence of this contract; and it is for this reason, amongst others, that I regret the invitation sent out, at this stage, to Mr. Molotov. Why do we want to put Mr. Molotov on the spot at the present time? He does not like being put on the spot; and he kicks when he is placed on the spot. If he refuses this invitation, it is bound to exacerbate feelings on both sides still more; and, if he accepts it, he is bound to resist what he must regard as the encroachment of dollar imperialism upon Western Europe, and indeed upon the whole of Europe. That is the real meaning of the observation of the hon. Member who spoke before me when he said that we must revive the European Economic Commission—that classic weapon of delay. There we have the whole bag of tricks; and if Mr. Molotov and Mr. Vyshinsky have the chance of using this instrument, we shall be no further on in June, 1948, than we are now. That is why I am afraid of it; and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will say something on this point when he replies. I believe this invitation is premature, because I believe passionately that we shall never come to terms with the Soviet Union until Western Europe has been created; the United States of Western Europe, and nothing less. As long as the Kremlin thinks the whole continent of Europe is about to fall into their grip like a ripe plum, the struggle for power between Communism and democracy in Europe will continue. Meanwhile the invitation has been issued, and we await the reply. Perhaps we shall get it from the right hon. Gentleman. I will content myself with making one appeal—that the chosen place of meeting shall not be Munich.
I do not believe that the emphasis that I have placed upon the desirability of the 2318 economic integration of Western Europe means that we should ever lose sight of the ultimate goal of European unity. Many sneers lately have been slung at the United Europe Committee; but I suggest that it has given to the peoples of Europe an ideal which will not fade with the passage of time, and that from the impetus given by the committee derives the Fulbright resolution in Congress and also the Marshall proposals. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has not been conspicuously wrong over the past decade in his diagnosis of the ills of Europe. Whatever we may think of him here, millions of people on the continent of Europe regard him as the man who, above all others, rescued them from slavery. He carries great influence. Many epithets have been applied to my right hon. Friend at different stages of his career, but there is one which cannot by any stretch of the imagination be made to fit, and that is the word "collaborationist," intended in a derogatory sense. When at Margate the Chancellor of the Exchequer described those members of his own party who are members of the United Europe Committee as "collaborationists," he was guilty not merely of what, I think, is a narrow, partisan, prejudiced, political view; he was also guilty, if I may say so, of a piece of damned impertinence. Whatever we may say, neither my right hon. Friend nor the members of that committee are collaborationists or ever have been or ever will be.
I believe the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, and, through him, the country have a chance, and perhaps the last chance, to take the lead in saving the whole of Europe from the abyss upon the brink of which she now trembles. We ought to have taken that lead before. I say to the Government: "Go forward with courage and determination, and prove, as you have proved in the case of India, that Britain can still dare to be Great."
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Acock's Green)
I am extremely grateful for having been given this opportunity of following the speech of the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby). I have been awaiting such an opportunity for a long time. Before I deal with the points which he has made, I would like first to make an apology to the Committee 2319 because I find myself very confused. It seems to me that I have approached these problems on an entirely different plane from that upon which all the other speakers in this Debate have approached them, and I cannot easily make contact. For example, almost every speech I have heard has contained a certain amount of what I believe to be accurate analysis, together with a substantial proportion of complete woolliness. The truth of the matter today is that we are already at war with Russia. It seems completely alb-surd to take the point of view that we ought, as it were, to address a diplomatic note indicating our grave concern at some action which may have taken place in Hungary. During the war, when Rommel was advancing in North Africa, I cannot conceive that any Member would have got up and, in the tone of voice which I have recently heard, expressed indignation and requested that a note be sent to Berlin expressing grave concern. The fact is that we are at war. Further, that war has continued ever since the beginning of recorded history. It is our job now to end that war and to make peace.
I believe the confusion arises out of the definition of the nature of peace and, by contrast, the recognition of the nature of war. It seems to me that most hon. Members speak of war or think of war as the incident where the shooting takes place. But one thing we should surely have learned is that war takes place in a great many different ways, that the shooting is only the last phase of it, and that all the preceding stages are designed to avoid that last phase, if possible. I believe that, at the present moment, we are witnessing in the world today several phases going on at the same time. One side may be playing the economic war; another side the political war; but the fact is that we are all playing the war game in one phase or another, precisely because there is no peace.
What is peace? Unless we know what is peace, I do not see how we can expect to get it. I believe that there has been a profound muddle in the minds of most people for very many years as to the nature of peace. It seems to me that the nature of peace is quite easy to define, and that if we know it, we shall know precisely what is to be done to 2320 attain it. Surely, peace, in fact, is that state of affairs which obtains in a community where law prevails. Where law prevails peace obtains. When law breaks down war breaks out. In the past, down the long years of history, the world has been such a large place that it has never been possible to have world law; but there has always been world anarchy. We have been so used to it for centuries that we believe that it must continue; but science, in the last 50 years, has now so shrunk the world out of all recognition, precisely for that reason, and because science has made the art of war so devastatingly horrible, we must now learn the lesson—the lesson that we have always known in a small way—and apply it without delay to the whole world. Always, in all communities, it has been proven, over and over again, that we can get peace only on the basis of keeping the peace, keeping law and order; and then there is peace. We can keep peace only on the basis of law and order. Without law, we cannot keep peace. There is no peace where there is no law. For that reason internationally today, there being no law, there can be no peace.
It is not the slightest bit of good pretending that we can come to an arrangement with Russia, or with America, or with any one else. No alliance in history has ever lasted; nor will one ever last. This time we cannot afford to make any alliance which fails, because the next failure, so far as we are concerned, must be the last failure. Therefore, it seems to me absolutely urgent that we discover now what must be done—there is only one thing that must be done—and then get around to finding the way by which it can be done. I want now to turn from that—the recognition that what must be done to get peace is to make law, the recognition that peace is not something that we can keep like a pet monkey, that it is not static, that it is the dynamic by-product of stable government—and having recognised that fact, which, I believe, is incontrovertible, I want to pass on to the argument for a United States of Europe.
It is proposed that we should get federal integration. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen wants the political integration of Western Europe. It would indeed be a great step, but would it then be possible, 2321 to use his words, to make a form of collaboration with Russia? I take him to mean by this, that we could then get peace. Because surely, what is in all our minds today is the finding of some method of keeping peace. Is that collaboration possible. I believe it was possible a little while ago. I do not believe it is possible any longer today. I believe there is now only one solution, namely, the global solution, and if we cannot take it we face complete annihilation and disaster. I do not think anything else than the whole step is possible. We face a chasm, and we have to jump right over it. We cannot put one foot forward, for that does not produce the answer.
Why is that? First, the actual war, the real basis of the war, is between the only two big sovereign States existing in the world today. There is the power complex, on the one side of the U.S.S.R., and upon the other side of the U.S.A. Those are the two centres of gravity, as it were, which produce the polarism which is now pulling the rest of the welted in half in their respective camps. They are the only two sovereignties that count, and unless we can resolve those two sovereignties into one single world sovereignty we will not find a solution to the problem of peace. That is what has to be done. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen has suggested that it is possible to place a large block, as it were, in between those two polarisms, and that that would be a step in the right direction. I deny that that is now possible; and I want to point out that I do not think it is even advisable for the following reason. Two big power complexes are now supreme in the world. If we could get a United States of Europe, for some years it would be dependent upon financial resources which must come from one or other of those two. As a result of the Marshall statement, it is evident that it would come from the United States of America. The fact is, the United States of Europe would be dependent economically upon an outside source. It would, therefore, be recognised in that United States of Europe that the people there were dependent upon an alien hegemony at least for a certain length of time.
Let hon. Members bear that in mind. Let them recollect that we should have a community which would recognise that it 2322 was dependent upon an alien hegemony. Social Democracy, or Socialism, all that we stand for, is incompatible with the recognition of an outside alien hegemony. For example, there is Greece. The British Foreign Secretary nobly tried to develop democracy in Greece; but the fact is, as every Greek knows, and knew then, that Greece was not independent; that its destiny was not in the hands of the Greeks. The net result is, that in those communities which recognise that they no longer have the freedom which we in this country still think we have, but which they know they have not, the social democrat who believes in democracy just pulls out of politics; the middle way ceases to exist, and the field is left in the hands of the extremists.
In Europe, again, if we get a United States of Europe the middle way politically will die out, and we will get politically two extremes: the one of the Right and the other of the Left in control of the field. Is that a price we are prepared to pay for the temporary revivement of the economic loan which may come? Secondly, the amount of money put into Europe by the Americans will always be, to a large extent, constantly siphoned off by the strategic fears which will be produced by the result. I deny, therefore, that it is politically possible to get a United States of Europe because of the polarisms of the two big Powers. I believe, also, that were it possible to get it, it would spell the death knell of Social Democracy and Socialism. I state that, not because I would not have liked to see a United States of Europe, economically and politically. I should have liked to see it; but I believe it is now too late to get, except at a price which I deny that mankind can now afford to pay.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
I intend to make the shortest speech of the day, so that I shall not encroach on the time for the concluding speeches. Therefore, I feel, with some confidence, that the Committee will forgive me if I do not follow the very interesting but rather abstract speech delivered by the hon. Member for Acock's Green (Mr. Usborne). We have heard, of course, a great deal about the special problem of Hungary in today's Debate, but the problem of Hungary simply typifies the greater problem in the minds of people all over the world 2323 when they consider questions of foreign policy today. The question is this: is the world, after the sweat and agony of war, to reach a state of freedom, democracy and the politics of plenty? Or is it to lapse into a seige economy, leading to the inevitable and catastrophic conclusion of war? That, surely, is the problem with which foreign affairs is concerned today.
We can be quite clear that the problem is not one of liberty with scarcity, on the one hand, against tyranny with plenty, on the other. If that were so, it might, for some people, be a harder choice; but the history of this century has shown conclusively that the totalitarian or managerial state, though it may mean abundance in the short run for the Herrenvolk, inevitably means poverty as well as serfdom for both satellites and victims. The position is really this: you can, if you are unlucky or incompetent, have freedom and democracy without necessarily having prosperity, but you cannot, in the long run, have prosperity without a measure of freedom and democracy, and the initiative and enterprise to which they give rise. The issue, therefore, is a straight one; and the challenge to prosperity and to liberty is the same, and comes from the same quarter. We have been asked not to blink the facts, and it is clear that the challenge of these things today comes from Russia. If we look at the facts, it is clear that in the last two years there has been far greater Russian expansion than was achieved by Germany in the whole of the 1930's. The Baltic States, Yugoslavia, Poland, Bulgaria, Rumania and now Hungary have all been drawn within the Russian zone of influence. Czechoslovakia is in the balance. Greece and Turkey are threatened; and even France and the Low Countries live rather precariously under the lengthening shadows of the descendants of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great. The advance of German expansion before the war was called by the man who did most to overcome it a policy of "step by step": but this is surely expansion at the gallop.
It is not only in Hungary that we can see evidence of these things. In Bulgaria, for example, there is a steady increase in the number of the State police and of the army; and many officers are trained in Soviet establishments. Turkey, 2324 which is determined to retain its independence and integrity, is forced to keep an army on a war footing with a legal state of seige in the neighbourhood of the Straits. The pressure behind all these events is the Russian urge—for whatever reason—to expansion. We found, in the case of Napoleon and Hitler, thatNew Presbyter was old Priest writ large.They followed the expansionist policy of their monarchical predecessors. We hope that history will not have to record, as now seems likely, that the Government of Stalin is following the policy of expansion of Peter the Great. I should like, in this connection, to refer to a passage from the January number of the "Quarterly Review," which says:Their policy of expansion is ever accompanied by an ennobling catchword which deceives even themselves. With Alexander I the idea was Messianic; it found expression in the famous Holy Alliance; but it carried the Dominion of Russia Westward and Eastward. The Tsars after him invoked the racial theory of Pan-slavism, which gave them an excellent reason for intervening most actively in the affairs of the Slav nations of the Balkans. The tenets of Communism and the championship of all the 'downtrodden' races today give the pretext for Russian agents to get to work both inside foreign nations and among the races dependent upon them. It need not be assumed that these reasons for interference in the affairs of other countries are all pretext and humbug.Nevertheless, I think it is clear that the ideological influence of Communism in Russia is now irrelevant, though it gives them a very good advance base in other countries for the purposes of expansion or infiltration. I consider that at this juncture we must try and avoid the mistakes which we have made in the past. In particular, I think that it is wrong that we should attribute to a totalitarian regime—because it is totalitarian—an efficiency and, unanimity beyond that which we claim for democratic Governments. We made that mistake about Germany and Italy before the war, and we were quite wrong. We know now that beneath the smooth and glittering surface of totalitarian Governments there are cross-currents and sometimes violent maelstroms, none the less real for being unseen. I believe that in Russia, not only among the mass of the people, but in the Politibureau and the Orgbureau there are elements counselling prudence and moderation, as well perhaps as elements who claim that the 2325 irresolution of the democratic Powers is a justification for pressing on. We should so conduct ourselves as to strengthen the counsels and arguments of the moderate elements within the totalitarian Governments. We should do that by being resolute in matters of international politics, by making it clear beyond a peradventure that on the great questions of liberty, democracy, and self-determination of peoples we shall not palter. We should do it also by associating ourselves freely and fully in all the measures, of which Mr. Marshall's proposal is the latest and the most hopeful, which give a chance of raising the economic standards of Europe.
We are told that disease and revolution know no boundaries. That is true. But the converse of that is that prosperity also knows no boundaries. In no country will the common people be willing to accept an unnecessarily low standard of life if they see, over the border, a higher standard of life due to greater freedom and more liberal institutions. I echo the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), who said that Mr. Marshall's offer would act as a great magnet of attraction. I think it can do much to put Europe on the broad highway of prosperity and social harmony, and save it from plunging back into the dark and forbidding cul de sac of carnage and war.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)
I think the Debate today has been extremely good on the whole, and has been marked by two main factors. The first is that apart from one or two speeches made by Members who, in effect, were stating the point of view of the Soviet Union, almost all speakers have been wholly behind my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in his attempts to achieve a pacification of the world. I am absolutely convinced that the Labour Party as a whole, as was proved at Margate, are even more behind the Foreign Secretary than Labour Members of Parliament, and that the country is more behind my right hon. Friend than members of the Labour Party proved at Margate. I do not believe that there was ever a Foreign Secretary who commanded such support from all sections of the people.
2326 I am glad that those Members who have been critical of my right hon. Friend, not at all from the purely Communist or semi-Communist angle, have been silent today. I hope they are thinking things over. The Foreign Secretary has said that he was stabbed in the back by some of his colleagues. I think there has been some stealthy treading in stockinged feet, and I was glad to note that when the Foreign Secretary half turned round they ran away. I am sure we shall all compose our differences, and I shall be very glad to hear them realise their great mistake, which has been to pursue a policy of anti-Americanism and advocate a policy of neutrality as between America and Russia. Our duty is to make up our own minds on the merits of the particular issue as it presents itself to us today.
Very shortly, there are three great dangers which threaten us today. In the last foreign affairs Debate I said two, and now I say three. The first is the economic collapse of Europe, the second is the advance of totalitarianism or the police State across Europe, and the third is the danger of the atomic rocket and other weapons of mass destruction. All those three dangers are inter-related one with the other. The Marshall initiative is, of course, an answer to all three, and here I would disagree with the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby). I believe that the Foreign Secretary is quite right to get Molotov to Paris, if he accepts our invitation, at the earliest possible moment. I believe urgency is the most important factor of all in relation to all this. Here may I say that I put a thought which is not out of my own mind but which must quite clearly be at the back of the mind of many close students of international affairs, and I believe it to be one of the great realities underlying the next two or three years—and I shall be proved right or wrong by events. It is this. If it be true that the police States threaten to envelop civilisation, certain people will ask themselves whether or no we can afford to wait until the police States themselves have developed atomic rockets and other weapons of mass destruction.
I am not drawing any inferences, but I am making the point that I believe it is vitally important during the next three years to get a final determination of those three dangers. We cannot afford to wait. The note of urgency must be struck again 2327 and again. Although I agree that on the face of it it looks a little odd, when Molotov has treated our Ambassador in the way he has, when events in Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary and all the rest of Europe give evidence of the sickening technique of terror which appears to be just as bad as it ever was with Fascism, that we should be desperately anxious to get somebody to Paris in order to persuade our friends the Americans to lend him money. It looks as if we are appeasing. I do not take that view. I do not believe that the great reservoir of good will for Russia is in any way exhausted in this country. I believe we are all profoundly anxious to enter into terms of permanent friendship with the Russian people, and I take the point of view that I am pro-Russian and anti-Communist—just as I took the point of view that I was pro-German but anti-Fascist. I think that is the point of view of most people in this country. We are prepared to live at peace with Russia as a Communist country provided that Russia does not intend to dominate the world by fear.
Personally, I think the danger is not Russia. As I see it, it is the second of the dangers, the danger of the spirit of totalitarianism which is almost inherent, if the truth be told, in the very structure of the modern State. Modern scientific and technological advance puts more and more power into the hands of fewer and fewer people. We have talked about a Western Union; well, the larger these regional groups get, the bigger the factories, the larger the cities and the greater the organisation, the more power in the hands of fewer and fewer men. Therefore, I say as a Socialist, as one who believes in a planned economy—and one or two absurd taunts have been levelled against me by some people on my own side, but I shall be with the Labour Party for the rest of my life; I say that quite sincerely, and I shall stay with the Labour Party when some of my hon. Friends who have made those taunts will have had to go their way, either towards Communism or somewhere else—that it is essential for those who believe in Socialism to recognise the dangers to freedom which are implicit in any planned economy. Just as we recognise that here at home, we must recognise it in foreign affairs. We must be prepared in foreign affairs, as no previous Government have been, to raise the 2328 standard of liberty, and to fight for liberty in every conceivable way we can. I am glad that the record of my right hon. Friend in relation to appeasement compares so favourably with that of Lord Halifax and indeed of other people in the party opposite. Therefore, I think it is unfortunate that the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) should have raised the issue of party politics.
I remember, in August or September, 1939, thinking what a tragic thing it was that we had become involved in yet another war which we could have stopped six years earlier. The main charge levelled in 1937 and 1938 was that the 1914–18 war came about because Germany did not really know that we meant business. This time it was said, we must let them know in advance just how far they can go. Mr. Chamberlain proudly said that we had done that to Germany, but had we? When one reads Ciano's diary, it becomes perfectly plain that Ribbentrop advised Hitler, and that Mussolini believed, that they could go into Poland, and that eventually it would not mean war with Britain. We must never make that mistake again. We must make it quite plain that it is impossible for us to allow the whole of Europe to be dominated by any ideology or by any Power. Therefore, we must place a clear-cut limit on such activities. As I said a year ago, our policy must be conciliatory and certain, instead of tough but vain. I have always advocated a policy of conciliation. We must be quite certain, and we must say exactly how far we regard matters as being legitimate. It is vitally important for us to be practical.
I have only time to deal with the spread of the police State. I read the sworn statement of Koev saying how he had been tortured for several months. How are we to deal with this matter? I say that the way to deal with it is to get the facts, to prove the facts, to let our own people and the people of France, Italy, Austria and others know the facts where their freedom is in danger. It has been said that we are now fighting a war. I do not like to refer to it as a war. I do not think the ordinary man asks for much. He only asks to toil from dawn to dusk on five and a half or six days a week. He is a decent patient chap, but he is entitled, at any rate, to know the truth. The more rapidly we get the facts, so that people may be warned in advance, the 2329 greater are the chances of our living up to what we believe has been our heritage, our standing for the principles of freedom and enabling the working man, the middle-class person, in any country to know that there is no fear of the policeman knocking on his door at five o'clock in the morning and his being hauled away to a concentration camp, with all its sickening terrors. I hope that in the conversations that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has, he will succeed in inaugurating that new era of co-operation which all sections of this Committee so ardently desire.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Law (Kensington, South)
I find myself in agreement with a very great deal that the hon. Member' for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) has said. That, indeed, gives point to his remark that this Debate has been remarkable for the unanimity of opinion which it has evoked of all sides of the Committee, although I think that he put it in another way. He said that the unanimity for the support of the Foreign Secretary was remarkable. However, I will not quarrel with him over that. The fact remains that there has been a remarkable degree of unanimity on all sides, a greater degree of community of purpose and vision than I can remember in any other foreign affairs Debate. Indeed, in recent years we have not tended to quarrel very much as between one side and another on these matters.
The Debate, of course, has also been notable for the fact that so much of the attention of hon. Members has been devoted to the enigma of Russian policy—if indeed "enigma" is the right word, and if Russian policy is not, as some hon. Members have suggested, as clear as daylight. There was, first of all, the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), a speech which, I think, the Committee will agree was careful, measured and fair-minded to an exceptional degree, and a speech which will carry the more weight not only in this Committee but in this country and throughout the world because it came from one who has specially devoted himself to the betterment of relations between Russia and this country.
I cannot understand what the acting leader of the Communist Party meant by describing my right hon. Friend's 2330 speech as destructive, but as he described it as that I looked to the Communist Party to provide something constructive itself; but all we got from the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) was a violent diatribe against the U.S.A. and an expression of violent suspicion against Mr. Marshall and the offer he made in his Harvard speech. Then there was the speech of the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt). I think that was fairly dealt with in the absolutely conclusive speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield (Major Poole). There is one comment I would like to make on the speech of the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith. He told us, several times, that he was speaking as a lawyer. That was quite evident. There was something else that was evident, too, because one would have thought from the manner and substance of his speech that he was speaking as a lawyer who was arguing a bad case for an extremely disreputable client.
Then there was the fascinating speech of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans). It was fascinating for its good-humour, wit and broad common sense which covered but did not conceal, if he will allow me to say so, the passionate devotion to those causes which, thank God, we still hold in common on both sides of the Committee. There has been a great deal in the speeches today about our relations with Russia. I must say that I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts). He is not in his place—the Liberal Party is so often absent—[Interruption.] I was sympathising with the Liberal Party.
§ Mr. Law
I had some sympathy with the hon. Member when he said that we had paid too much attention to Russia. In one sense, I think he was right, because I believe that Russian policy is largely irrelevant to the problems that face us today. That must seem to be such an outrageous statement that perhaps I had better explain what I mean. It can be said of Russia that by her use or abuse of the veto she has paralysed the United Nations. I believe that to be true. It can be said of Russia that by her cynical 2331 disregard of the Potsdam Agreement she has made redemption of Germany, and the leading back of Germany into the main stream of European life, infinitely more difficult than it need have been. It can be said of Russia that she has flouted, or caused to be flouted, all those values which we fought for in the war, and which we believed she was fighting for, too.
Nevertheless, I would maintain that Russian policy is not as important as most of us believe it to be, and I feel that by concentrating too much upon Russia and by considering too much what is her attitude towards us and what should be cur attitude towards her, we are in danger of missing the real crux of the problem which faces us today throughout the world—the problem of chaos. If we get order out of the chaos, which was the aftermath of the war, and which has hideously deepened since the war ended, Russia and Russian policy will fall into the right perspective, a perspection which will be very different from that in which we see it today. If we cannot get order out of chaos, then we are doomed here in Europe, in the new world, and indeed all over the world. A future Gibbon, writing of the decline and fall of Western Christian civilisation, will not have to spend a dozen volumes on it. I think he will be able to do it in one, because the period hardly covers your life, Mr. Beaumont, or mine.
Throughout history we have overestimated the strength of Russia. She has always been the formidable menace on the Eastern frontiers of Europe, but when the event has come that menace has not, in fact, materialised. If it is true that Russia does exert an immense power for evil today—and I agree with the hon. Member for Wednesbury that it is the case, that Russia does exert an immense power for evil—that power does not come through Russian strength; it comes through our weakness. I do not mean the weakness of His Majesty's Government or the weakness of this country, but the weakness of western civilisation and the fact that Europe is distracted and divided almost to the point of extinction. That seems to be the real importance of the speech which Mr. Marshall made at Harvard, because he did lay his finger on exactly that point.
2332 The question that concerns us today is not whether Mr. Marshall was wise in his diagnosis or not. I think he was infinitely wise and I think that most of the House agree. The question is how the Marshall statement can be made effective. There is an Economic Commission for Europe. The hon. Member for Mile End said that Mr. Marshall's proposals should be implemented through the Economic Commission for Europe. I must say frankly to the Committee that, coming from that source, it seems to me a very strong argument for not using the Economic Commission for Europe. Nevertheless, there may be something to be said for using it. It does have the advantages that, in the first place, it has already covered much of the ground which has to be covered, as hon. Members will realise if they read the brief statement in the newspapers today of the report of the secretary to the Commission. In the second place, it covers the whole of Europe and not only a part. Finally, the United States Government is a member of the Economic Commission. Those are the great advantages. The right hon. Gentleman the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter), in a very interesting speech earlier this afternoon warned us against the Foreign Secretary making use of the Economic Commission for a number of reasons which he gave and which no doubt are very sound.
§ Sir A. Salter
I did not say that we should not make any use of the Commission, but what I did say was that the Foreign Secretary should guard against committing himself to that or any other form of permanent world institution, for if there was deadlock and delay in that organisation he would be necessarily deadlocked, too.
§ Mr. Law
I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend for making that point clear to me, and I am glad that he has said so because he has saved me saying the same thing. With all the advantages that the European Economic Commission may have for this purpose, there is a great danger that it might be used by Russia, as she has used every other organ of the United Nations, in order to block progress. Therefore, I agree with my right hon. Friend and I hope that whatever policy is decided upon the Foreign Secretary will not commit himself so irrevocably to the Economic Commission for Europe that withdrawal becomes impos- 2333 sible even if progress in the Economic Commission should break down.
More than one hon. Member has said—and I am sure the Foreign Secretary realises it, judging from his actions in the past few days—that what we want now is not so much patience but decision. The Foreign Secretary has shown over the past two years the most exemplary, and, indeed, the most heroic patience. He has been, if I may use the simile, rather like the family doctor, a doctor whose bedside manner may be a little gruff and sometimes abrupt, but still content to rely upon the good sense and courage of his patient. Above all, I think it would be fair to say that the right hon. Gentleman has done everything he possibly could to keep the surgeons at bay. He was determined, unless it could not be avoided, not to call in the surgeons for the amputation of a limb, which was apparently gangrenous. The right hon. Gentleman has been determined throughout his career as Foreign Secretary to do nothing that would detach the distant parts of Europe from the main body, and up to now that that has been a wise policy.
But I would remind the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee that it is possible to save a limb and lose a life, and there would be great danger of that if we went too far in trying to draw Russia into the Marshall plan, in trying to draw Russia into the economic reconstruction of Europe. By so doing we might only be achieving the death of Europe. All of us on this side of the Committee have sincerely hoped for the collaboration of Russia in the postwar world, and I still like to believe that we can get it. But if we cannot, I suggest that we need not be unduly disheartened. We must do the best we can without Russia. In fact, I sometimes wonder whether perhaps the best way to secure Russian collaboration and create a totally united Europe is to get to work as quickly as we can on that part of Europe which we can influence and which shares with us a common standard of values.
That is one of the remarkable things that has developed since Mr. Marshall made his statement at Harvard. A united Europe, if it has not become an accomplished fact, has become an accepted necessity. And it is not for the first time, I think, that one can say that my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) has been right in his in- 2334 terpretation of the course of international affairs. Nor is it the first time that the Prime Minister has been wrong, if reports are true that he instructed the faithful at the Margate Conference to have nothing to do with the unholy thing. If it was not the Prime Minister, then it was one of his distinguished colleagues. Certainly, it is not the first time that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been wrong on this, and on other matters.
The whole Committee is agreed now that Europe must unite. I do not believe that there is any difference between any hon. Member of the Committee on that. And I believe that there is general agreement—though not complete agreement—that if we cannot unite the whole of Europe, then we must do what we can to bring together the greater part of Europe. I believe that once again, as so often happens, the course which seems to be the longest way round might in the end be the shortest way home. A Western bloc, to put it at its least desirable, certainly will not disarm Russian suspicion. In fact, so far as there is any reality in Russian suspicions it would increase them. But a Western bloc which was effective not in a military sense but in an economic sense might disabuse the Soviet mind of that contempt for the Western world which I am sure is as great a factor in Soviet foreign policy as any fear of Western aggression that they may have. I am convinced that contempt of the West, contempt of freedom, is a far greater factor in Russian policy than fear of the West or fear of what is called "capitalist aggression."
There is one other point upon which I should like to touch. We must revive European economy, or Europe will perish. But it will not be sufficient just to revive European economy. We must revive the economy of Europe at a level infinitely higher than anything it has known in the past. If I had any criticism to make of the communique which was issued in Paris after the meeting of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary and M. Bidault it is that it did not seem to me to lay enough stress on the long-term policy for Europe and the fact that if we get Europe going again, we have still to get it going on a very much higher level that anything we had even before the war. The necessity for that is shown by a consideration of the American export 2335 position and our own export position, to take only two examples. It is a fact that at the present time the American exports are running at a rate which, in terms of value, is five times that of American exports in 1938. We know what our own export position is, and how we have to raise our exports in terms of volume by 75 to 100 per cent. to maintain for us the standard of life we had before the war. If we have this enormously increased export trade on the part of the United States and if we have to increase our export trade, it is obvious that it can only be done through a tremendous expansion of international trade.
That brings me to the meeting of the Preparatory Commission on Trade Organisation at Geneva. I do not believe that the country is yet fully aware of the enormous importance of those conversations and that unless we get some kind of freeing of international trade it will be quite impossible—Marshall plan or no Marshall plan—for us to solve the long-term problem of European economic life. My hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) who made, if he will allow me to say so, a most interesting and stimulating speech, seemed to me to be under some misapprehension, for he seemed to be under the impression—and I think he told the Committee as much—that it was impossible for us to get a European economy developed on the lines that I have been suggesting unless projects such as "Benelux," or conceptions such as Imperial Preference, were forthwith abandoned. I do not agree with him. I do not think that either "Benelux" or Imperial Preference will be enough to get the world out of its difficulties without a far greater expansion of trade, but I do not see that either of those projects —either the development of the economic life of the Commonwealth or the development of the economic life of Europe—are inconsistent with the development of a far wider range of international, and multilateral, trade than anything we have had before.
From what I have said, it is clear that I, at any rate, regard these problems that face us today as being of their nature far more economic than they are political. I would say this in conclusion: The problem is a moral problem even more than it is a political problem. Unless 2336 we can re-establish in international dealings respect for the word of governments, unless we can recover confidence in our own way of life, in our own purposes, a confidence which I think we have to some extent all over Western Europe lost in the past few years—unless we can do that—then I do not think any measures, either political or economic will be of great avail.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
I want to express my gratitude to the Committee for the very helpful Debate today. Anyone who is carrying the responsibility that rests on my shoulders at the moment welcomes criticism, suggestions and proposals. The matter which is evidently in the main occupying the minds of the Committee during this Debate, is the question of Mr. Marshall's proposals, or, shall I say, Mr. Marshall's speech, because it has not been reduced to actual plans or proposals but is rather in keeping with that historical expression of American views; it is an idea which translates the problem from one of individual countries to one of a continent, and only a country that is a continent could look at another continent in that way. On this matter I must confess that I am handicapped in replying to the Debate because of the invitation we have extended to Russia to join. We have ideas as to how to approach her, and there has been a good deal of mention of the United States of Europe, a European Federation, and European unity.
May I make this confession, which appears to be unknown, that, in 1927, at the Trade Union Congress, at Edinburgh, I carried a resolution for the United States of Europe, against ferocious opposition, which came, I may say to the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin), from the same source from which it comes today. Since then, I am not unmindful of the change in the world position. Then, I suppose, one's eyes only looked to Europe. Travel, communication and all the other things that have made the world look so much smaller than it did then, make one wonder now whether we can limit ourselves to the rather narrow conception which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) seems to have discovered later on in his life. I have to look at the 2337 situation from the rather wider viewpoint of whether one's policy has not got to take the whole world into consideration rather than the narrow limits of Europe.
I have also been asked today, particularly by the hon. Member for Mile End, about the division of Europe. Will there be political conditions, will there be economic conditions, will there be stipulations? May I remind the hon. Member with emphasis that the beginning of all that trouble was Russia. It was not Great Britain, it was not the United States. The proposal that special arrangements should be made for neighbouring countries in the discussion of the treaties was made by Soviet Russia. I pleaded with them, and urged them in the interests of the reconstruction of the world that that policy should not be followed. May I suggest, then, that before they lecture me on the division of Europe, they should ask their own friends why they have been dividing Europe?
No one can accuse me of taking one single step to divide Europe since I have been in office. In fact, I sat for six weeks in Moscow, trying to secure the economic unity of Germany, so that when it was produced, it could be woven into the economic unity of Europe. I proposed that the great industries of Germany, together with others, should become, in concept and direction, European industries, in order that the European conception should be developed, and not a narrow nationalistic conception of these great raw material or productive industries, and this subject only to one thing, that we should take all precautions that, in so doing, we did not endanger the future security of Europe, or create a war potential that would endanger peace or cause another war. I failed to get a satisfactory answer or agreement, and I have been asked whether or not we are going to pursue the same course again. My answer to the Committee and to the country is No. I feel that in the two years I have been in my present office I have done my best to try to understand. His Majesty's Government have proposed everything they could propose.
The principles which I laid on the table at Moscow on 31st March were carefully studied. They have been circulated to the House. If accepted they would produce the beginning of an agreed unity in Germany and in Europe itself. When 2338 the Marshall proposals were announced, I grabbed them with both hands. It has been said by some hon. Members that we ought to have organised this business before. But what did I have to organise it with? What could I offer? I had neither coal, goods, nor credit, I was not in the same position as my predecessors at the end of the Napoleonic wars, who devised the policy, for nearly 20 years, of spending our surplus exports to rehabilitate the world. It was a case of our exports then. I did not have them. Therefore, I cannot be accused now of not taking a line to help Western Europe. I have nothing with which to do it. I have not had one ton of spare coal to ship to Western Europe to help in rehabilitation. I have had nothing with which to negotiate.
When Mr. Marshall came along with his speech at Harvard and said he was willing to consider a European plan, I welcomed it for three reasons. First, I felt that it was the first chance that we had been given since the end of the war to look at European economy as a whole. The right hon. Gentleman the. Member for Woodford will, I think, give me credit that, in the Government in which I was very happy to serve—and I do not apologise for the Coalition Government; at least we saw the country through a difficult time—I inaugurated the Transport Advisory Organisation for the whole of Europe, as a result of my experience as a transport worker. I helped with my colleagues to inaugurate several other European organisations at that time. When we get down to the European problems today, they are not summarised in any political ideology. What are they? They are food, coal, transport, houses—opportunities for people to have a decent life. That is what they are. We do not need a political philosopher or ideologist to discover that. That is what the people want, and that is what we must give them.
Therefore, when Mr. Marshall came along and said, "Give me a European plan," I must confess to the House that I never asked him for particulars. I think it would have been foolish to do that. I said to myself at once—and the Cabinet agreed immediately—"It is up to us to tell them what we want; it is up to us to produce the plan." The offer has been made. I have accepted the offer and, therefore, accepting the offer, we apply our brains to set to work on 2339 our conceptions for the reorganisation and development of Europe. That is all I desire to say on that matter today. I have been asked questions about E.C.E. and other organisations. The guiding principle that I shall follow in any talks on this matter will be speed. I spent six weeks in Moscow trying to get a settlement. I shall not be a party to holding up the economic recovery of Europe by the finesse of procedure, or terms of reference, or all the paraphernalia which may go with it. There is too much involved.
This Debate arose largely on the events that happened before my right hon. Friend the Minister of State gave the answers to Questions raised about Hungary. I do not know whether it is worth while going into great detail on this matter, but what I do say is this. If there is to be a conflict between ideologies, if shall regret it, but, if it is forced upon us, we must face it. I accept the position of the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby); I do not believe the Western world in the long run will be the sufferers if it is fought. I have seen and have studied so many efforts of dictators to suppress liberty in the world, and, in the end, it is always the dictators who fall. I am quite certain that, if there is a desire to interfere with free expression and all the other indefinable things that go to make up the soul of man, that desire will fail again. I know all the theorists; I have read all of them. After I had read them and studied them, in the end, I relied on the awkward squad who did not obey.
In Hungary, I tried, honestly and earnestly to get the facts. I did not send a Note. I did not adopt an aggressive attitude. I did not even 'know whether Soviet Russia had been in it or not except for what I read in the Press. I think it was a perfectly proper thing, as the public are concerned, that, when Press information indicated that actual communications had passed from the Soviet Commander-in-Chief to the Hungarian Government, I should have asked to have a copy. Is there anything unreasonable in that? Suppose it had been in another country, where Britain had a major interest, and supposing, if we reversed the positions, the Soviet Government had said to me, "Will you give us a copy of these communications?" I should not have hesi- 2340 tated; I should have given them one. If you are doing right, no one worries you. Why should you not do things like that if your hands are clean? Therefore, it was a great regret to me that, when our Ambassador saw Mr. Molotov, he got very annoyed and countered—which I may say in passing I have grown very accustomed to—with charges against Great Britain. I have never, as the Foreign Secretary of this country, interfered with the Hungarian Government in a single matter. When their election took place and the Government was set up, I think that, as everyone who has been to Hungary will agree, we sent one of our best representatives in the Foreign Office to that post. Everyone will agree that Mr. Helm has carried out his duties in a perfectly proper manner. I have not met a single person who has been to Hungary and who has not paid tribute to Mr. Helm for the way in which they have been treated and for the work he is doing in that country.
I am a little concerned that some people should be anxious to defend this action. As the hon. Member for East Aberdeen said, we have lived through all this sort of thing—Poland, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria. Why blind our eyes to it? Why should we blind our eyes to it when we will not stand for it in the local Labour Party? We ought not to make excuses for it; it is better to be frank and honest. When people know that we understand what they are doing, they are less likely to do it next time. I have no delusion about it at all. The difficulty in negotiating with this kind of thing, however, is this: When I meet the representative of a State, no matter what State it may be, I assume that that ambassador has been sent on the instructions of his government; the same applies if I go to a conference to discuss a policy with the representative of that government. But when, at the same time, coupled with that, there is a kind of political ideology which that ambassador wants to pursue, agreement is almost impossible. It is extremely difficult to settle with that kind of mentality.
In the case of Bulgaria, when I was in Moscow about 18 months ago, dealing with the American proposal to try to settle the problem, we sent three ambassadors to Bulgaria. We arranged for the Opposition to take part in the government, we arranged the elections, we did everything we could to try to clear the 2341 matter up, and having done that, we had tremendous difficulties afterwards in dealing with the then Bulgarian Government in connection with the conduct of the elections. But I must confess that when the parliament was elected, I thought that at least the members of that parliament would enjoy immunity and that this kind of persecution would stop. It has not stopped. I am convinced, I am sorry to say, that there is a determination to wipe out every opposition in those countries. That is most unfortunate. As Bernard Shaw once said, if we all agreed, we should all be sane, but if we were all sane we should go mad. If there is no free expression given to difference of opinion and criticism, it is a very poor State indeed, and I am against a one-party State. I have always been against it. It is developing over a wide area of Eastern Europe. Not by desire—if it came about by desire, then I could say nothing about it—but by force; and that, I think, is a wrong approach to the whole problem. I cannot help feeling, with regard to Rumania, Bulgaria and all those Eastern European countries, that if this kind of thing were dropped we should make so much better progress.
And so, too, even in Greece, we all know—why disguise it?—that with a lift of the finger the civil war would stop tomorrow. The Communists are carrying on a policy there of disrupting that poor little country; and that, I think, is a tragedy. If the tip were given—if only the tip were given—that it had to stop, then Greece could settle down, and carry out her own political settlement without interference. I am as certain of it as I am of standing here. Why should the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt), with his great legal ability, conjure up such a case as he did today? He knows better. He really knows better. He has I better, more humane outlook. Therefore, I do say that this attempt to defend—
§ Mr. Bevin
I did not call the hon. and learned Gentleman a liar. I used perfect court language—that I could not believe that the hon. and learned Gentleman really believed, or, shall I say, rather, was firmly convinced of what he said today. Therefore, without going through all the cases of all those countries, I plead for the cessation—in the interests of the unity of Europe—of this kind of persecution. I am asked every day to intervene in Spain. I hate what is going on in Spain. I detest it. But political persecution is political persecution, and wherever it rears its head, whether on the one side or the other, I do feel it is the duty of democrats to stand by the persecuted. If people are expressing their views they ought not to be put into prison, and the expression and moulding of views ought not to be called conspiracy. If I had had to go into gaol fur such "conspiracy" I should never have been out of gaol, for I have been engaged in it all my life in some form or another.
I want to pay my tribute to, and express my gratitude for, the contributions of hon. Members—for instance, those of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans), the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield (Major Poole) and the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire). It is right that in this Committee all these views should be aired. That is what I want everywhere. I do not mind criticisms at all; I have no objection to them; and people must not object when I answer them. For what does the world want? I must confess, that, in this Debate today, there has been one slightly disappointing feature. I have been a little disturbed to find a certain readiness to defend political persecution. This defence of political persecution comes strangely to my ears, because, after all, the party I represent at this Box today emerged from days of political oppression and persecution. We have had our Tolpuddle Martyrs, and they were victims of an unfair trial; they were 2343 victims of persecution; they were victims of torture; I know how the confessions were obtained. And why was it done? Not by the judge; not by the local magistrates; but by the interference of what was then the Minister of Interior in this country—the Home Secretary—who sent his orders to the local magistrates about what they should do. One of the great things in that business was that, illiterate as so many people were at that time—working men, the middle class and others —they expressed their resentment at that trial, and the persecution which followed it. I am glad that in this country we have long left behind the days when the Minister of Interior or the Home Secretary could interfere with the process of free trial. I want that principle to apply in every country of the world. That is what I mean by human rights; that is what I mean by bringing out these difficulties into the open. Popular indignation at that time—for example that which followed the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, and many other great labour upheavals where our people suffered—has established for all time, I hope, the liberties of the individual in this country.
When you strip all these things which produce these same political ideologies, and get down to the masses, what do they want? They want to live. They want to be free, to have social justice; to have individual security; to be able to go home, turn the key in the lock, and not be troubled by a secret police. They want to have a good shelter in which to meditate. I find no differences in the hopes of the fathers or the loves of the mothers for their children. We used to use an old phrase: "Whatever country you are born in, they croon over the baby in the same old way." They have the same kind of dreams and aspirations. Why not let them live? Why set them at each other's throats? That is the basis of my approach to the problems of a war-scarred Europe and world.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—[Mr. Snow.]
§ Put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.