HC Deb 04 November 1947 vol 443 cc1790-800

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Popplewell.]

4.10 a.m.

Mr. Zilliacus (Gateshead)

I want to raise the question of Britain's position in the United Nations, which is the point where defence policy and foreign policy coincide. The fundamental principle of the United Nations Charter is the principle that the permanent Security Council members must always appease and never fight each other. That principle is the result on the one hand of article 2, paragraphs 3 and 4, of the Charter, which binds all the members of the United Nations to settle all their disputes by peaceful means, and in no circumstances to resort to force or the threat of force in their mutual relations, and, on the other, it is the result of the unanimity rule, the so-called veto power, by which the Security Council can decide to take action to coerce a peace breaker only when the Great Powers, its permanent members, are unanimously agreed. The effect of this principle of the Charter has been described by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his first report to the General Assembly, as follows: The fact that the Charter gave the right of veto to each of these permanent members imposes upon them an obligation to seek agreement amongst themselves. I should be failing in my duty in presenting this report if I did not emphasise the absolute necessity that the powers should seek agreement amongst themselves in a spirit of mutual understanding and a will to compromise, and should not abandon their efforts until such agreement has been reached. This principle of mutual appeasement and non-fighting does not exclude disagreement or deadlocks arising out of disagreement. What it does exclude is the use of force or the threat of force as a means of breaking a deadlock and seeking to reach agreement.

The first question I want to ask His Majesty's Government, since they claim that our policy is based on the United Nations is, do they accept this fundamental principle in our relations, not only with the United Slates but also with the Soviet Union? As far as the Labour Party is concerned it has accepted that principle. The Party's report on The International Post-War Settlement states: We cannot dictate to the U.S.A. or to the U.S.S.R. nor they to us. We can only pool our ideas and hopes, and seek the widest possible measure of agreement. So far as the declarations of the Government are concerned they also accept the principle. In particular the Foreign Secretary on 21st February last year said: I cannot conceive any circumstances in which Britain and the Soviet Union should go to war. I cannot see about what we have to fight. And certainly it never enters my mind and I am certain it does not any of my colleagues in the Government. I approach America in the same spirit. I would never think of, and I never could see—and I am sure no party in this House ever sees—the possibility of war between us and America. I do not think of it in the other case either. I say this very emphatically that in considering in our minds all organisations or states there can be no policy or anything else which will lead to a conflict with either of these great Allies. On 6th March I asked the Prime Minister whether he would confirm that declaration, and he did so.

So far as declarations are concerned the situation is satisfactory. Most unfortunately the facts of the situation and the facts of the Government's policy point to a very different conclusion. They point to the conclusion that the Leader of the Opposition is quite right, when he claims, as he has done on several occasions, that the policy of the Government is, in essence, the policy he first outlined at Fulton, and which as he truly says, the United States Administration has since adopted, that is, the policy of an Anglo-American bloc prepared to use the threat of war as an instrument of policy in its relations with the Soviet Union.

Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)

On a point of Order, may I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether it is in order for the hon. Member to refer to the President of the United States in language which suggests that he is desirous of promoting war?

Mr. Speaker

I did not know that the hon. Member mentioned the President of the United States. I thought he referred to the administration of the United States.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, Central)

My hon. Friend did not say the President of the United States.

Mr. Zilliacus

The attempt of the hon. Member for King's Norton to emulate the noble Lord, the Member for Horsham, has fallen to the ground.

That policy has been described correctly by the Diplomatic Correspondent of the "Daily Herald," Mr. W. N. Ewer, in a pamphlet just published by the Fabian Society and entitled "Foreign Policy." It is described very ably, lucidly, and persuasively, and I will give a short quotation from it: The present world situation is not the result of a Soviet-American conflict in which Britain has no direct part or direct interest. On the contrary, the Soviet-American conflict is the result of a situation in which, initially, Britain has been more directly concerned than the United States. It is, except in the Far East, the result of Russian pressure, of suspected Russian expansionist tendencies in Europe, in the Eastern Mediterranean area, in Persia. And in the last two certainly, resistance to Russian expansion has been a canon of British policy for a century or more. Whether that policy is right or wrong is another matter. My point at the moment is that this is not a new American policy which Britain is being asked to support.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present.

House counted, and 40 Members being present

Mr. Zilliacus

The end of this quotation by Mr. Ewer is as follows: It is an old British policy which the United States has decided to support. The 'Truman doctrine' is no American invention. It is, in effect, simply the announcement that the United States is prepared to support, or even to take over material responsibility for, an already existing British policy. He then goes on to argue the necessity, in his view, for continuing a close defensive alliance between Britain and the United States, to resist Soviet alleged or hypothetical or putative aggressive and expansionist tendencies by means of armed force. That is the Fulton policy. It is a return to power politics. It is a repudiation of the fundamental principle of the Charter. The same doctrine is preached in that interesting pamphlet somewhat misleadingly called, "Cards on the Table", the origin and status of which are shrouded in mystery and ambiguity. When it was published it was announced as being an official and authoritative exposition of Labour policy, and as such it was splashed in the Press not only of this country but of the world. However, when questions were asked at the Margate conference the Chancellor of the Exchequer denied—if I may put it in this way—that intimacy had taken place between the Foreign Office and Transport House, and asserted that this pamphlet could not be regarded as the lawful brain child of the National Executive. Nevertheless this pamphlet is still circulating as an interpretation of the Government's foreign policy, although its central thesis is the repudiation of the Charter as the basis of relations between the Great Powers. Here is the quotation: Here we come to the crux of the problem. The United Nations Organisation is by its very constitution formally prevented from dealing with disagreements between the Big Three. … The Veto power does in fact commit the Big Three to appeasement of one another so long as action is confined to the United Nations—a situation which puts a premium on aggressive action. The pamphlet goes on to argue the suggestion that we should not line up with the Soviet Union in order to restrain any possible aggressive action by the United States, but that we should line up with the United States against any possible aggression by the Soviet Union. I am grateful that this first insanity of an Anglo-Soviet line-up against the U.S.A. is not proposed. But I regret that an exactly similar insanity is proposed, namely, that we should line up with the United States against the Soviet Union. That is a return to power politics. It is not the policy of the United Nations, not the policy of the Charter. It is the policy of Fulton.

I should like to know whether or not that does denote the fundamental principle of the foreign policy of the Government. I fear it does. I should be very grateful if I could, have a clear repudiation of the principle of power politics as applied to the relations between our country on the one hand and the Soviet Union on the other. I fear that what in fact has happened is that, as Mr. Ewer correctly pointed out in his pamphlet, when the Labour Government came in they never attempted to review the fundamental assumptions on which British foreign policy was founded. They took over unexamined the traditional Tory concepts of what are our interests throughout the world. Instead of applying Labour's view of our national interests, the Labour Government have followed the Tory policy, and as a consequence we find ourselves committed in the Middle East to what I call the Crimean War foreign policy, which assumes that Russia must be kept out of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, whereas the Labour Party is clearly and expressly pledged to the view that the U.S.S.R. as well as the U.S.A. shall be invited into partnership on the basis of the Charter, and that we should work for an international settlement of the Middle East problem, with international control of oil resources, international control of economic development, and international control of the Suez Canal as well as of the Dardanelles.

Similarly in Europe, again as Mr. Ewer points out, the Labour Government have accepted the Truman doctrine that capitalism must be restored in Europe as the basis for a revival of democracy The Labour Party believe and are officially pledged to the view that Socialism is essential as the basis for economic reconstruction and for the revival of democracy and political freedom in Europe. I think we need to go no further than this failure of the Labour Government to apply a Socialist foreign policy and their continuation of Tory foreign policy to find why it has been impossible hitherto to reach agreement with the Soviet Union. I am not suggesting that the diplomatic manners of the Soviet Union could not be improved. They could. I am not suggesting that Soviet official control of news and views is not a handicap in reaching international agreement. I believe it is. I believe our free democracy is not only superior as a system of government and a way of life, but also as a medium of international intercourse.

But I suggest there is urgent need, before we are faced with the splitting of the world into two, of abandoning this long-continued and ill-starred attempt to bash our way through with a Tory foreign policy by reverting to the methods of power politics and abandoning the Charter. On these lines we are being drawn further and further into vassalage and dependence on the United States, which today is ruled by men whose interests are not our interests, whose attitude towards civil liberties, trades unions and Socialism is certainly not our attitude, and who have made no secret of the fact that they want to make use of the threat of war as an instrument of national policy in their dealings with the Soviet Union. I hope that in the reply tonight we shall get some explicit repudiation of the principle of power politics, and a specific re-affirmation that the Labour Government base their relations with the Soviet Union, as well as with the United States, on the fundamental principles and provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. It is high time that the Labour Government tried to act on the Labour Party's election pledges and Socialist principles in world affairs, before disaster overwhelms us.

4.26 a.m.

Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)

The hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus)—I certainly do not describe him as my hon. Friend—has been to the Soviet Union and also to Warsaw and has represented himself throughout the world as a friend of what he calls the Eastern democracy. He is an individual, despite the fact that he is a member of the Labour Party, who has gone with his friends thousands of miles away from this country and tried to suggest that we in the Labour Party believe in a concept of democracy which includes concentration camps and the terrors of whole parties of secret police which we fought against in the war.

Mr. G. Thomas

I am quite sure, since I heard what my hon. Friend said when he was abroad, that there is not a shred of evidence to support what the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) has said. Perhaps he would like to withdraw his remark.

Mr. Blackburn

May I say that I have no desire to attack the hon. Member personally, or those hon. Members who went with the hon. Member for Gateshead, but I am perfectly prepared to do so if I am challenged. All I want to say is that on the very occasion on which the Cominform was formed, and when the Prime Minister of this country and the Foreign Secretary of this country were designated as traitors by men of the highest rank in the Soviet Union, I did not hear the voice of the hon. Member for Gateshead raised in protest in Warsaw. What I read was a statement purporting to emanate from the hon. Member for Gateshead which agreed with the Soviet statement. I also heard that they were forming what they called a Socinform, this being apparently to represent those who were prepared to suck up to the Soviet Union, and who represent themselves as Socialists when really they are Communists, like the hon. Member for Gateshead and his friends. It seems to me absolutely disgraceful that when M. Petkov was under sentence of death for being a friend of Britain and America and standing up for the democracies for which we have stood in this House of Commons for century after century—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills), who now makes a "yah"—

Mr. Platts-Mills (Finsbury)

May I draw attention to the fact that it was a "bah" and not a "yah."

Mr. Blackburn

It is characteristic of the hon. Member for Finsbury that it should be a "bah" and not a "yah." It is entirely in accordance with his traditions of having fought so gallantly against Fascism during the war, like the rest of his friends—who showed himself so active in the cause that we had to fight against Fascism—and having as a young man fought so gallantly in the air, or wherever else it was. It is characteristic that he should now talk about "bahs" and not "yahs." Let those who fought against Fascism fight against the next form of totalitarianism which arises, if it arises.

I say that there is no reason why there should be another war. We can stop another war provided that the freedom-loving democracies make it perfectly plain that the lesson which we had so bitterly to learn last time is learned this time, and that never again do we appease totalitarianism in any form. I have no desire whatever to suggest, as some people suggested, that we could offer any form of threat to the Soviet Union. On the contrary, I still believe that we can achieve peace with the Soviet Union. I quite believe that such a state of peace is possible with the Soviet Union—but it will not be possible if hon. Members come into this House as they have this morning at 4.30 and give Stalin the impression that he has a Captain Ramsay of the Left here today, as I believe the hon. Member for Finsbury certainly is—and the hon. Member for Gateshead, and some others are. I have nothing to gain by telling the truth.

Mr. Scollan (Renfrew Western)

Is it in Order to refer to any hon. Member of this House as a "Captain Ramsay"?

Mr. Speaker

I do not think it is out of Order, but I do not think it is a very pleasing remark.

Mr. Blackburn

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, Captain Ramsay has never been tried and nothing has ever been proved against him.—[Interruption.] I fought against him when you did not. I fought against the Germans when you did not.

Mr. Orbach (Willesden, East)

I think that the imputations of the hon. Member ought to be stopped at some stage.

Mr. Blackburn

I am referring to hon. Gentleman none of whom but one, fought against Fascism.

Mr. Platts-Mills

When the hon. Member indicates that he has nothing to lose in his reputation, should we worry in the least what imputations he choses to throw against others?

Mr. Blackburn

I do not consider this is the sort of case the Government ought to reply to at all. I believe that this is an occasion utterly unworthy of the House of Commons. It may be occurring at 4.30 in the morning, but that means nothing to me. I am glad at any rate that I prevented an answer being given to anyone who can put up a bogus crypto-Communist case in this House of Commons.

An Hon. Member


Mr. Blackburn

Certainly. Why did they let Petkov down? Why is Mikolaczyck our friend? Why is he in this country? Is it suggested that our Minister over there has invited these people, and had actuated them to produce a military conspiracy against their own Government? Can anyone seriously believe that nonsense? Do they believe that? They either think that or they believe these people have been either murdered or would have been murdered by judicial process. They can have it one way or the other—either my hon. Friends on the Front Bench have incited these people to war—or on the other hand these people are innocent. If you look at the history of it, if you look at Stalin, if you look at the people who were with him when he was starving, you will find that about 75 per cent. of the lot were murdered. What about Yagola, chief of the O.G.P.U. for ten years? What happened to him? Try to study the literature of Nazism itself and do not make the mistake we made with Hitler. The mistake there was that we did not study "Mein Kampf."

Mr. Tiffany (Peterborough)

May I raise a point of Order, Mr. Speaker? Is it not the practice and courtesy of the House to allow the Government to make its own case by answering statements which have been made? Should not there be a reply from the Front Bench?

Mr. Speaker

It is not for me to decide. Hon. Members speak when they are called and no one else rose.

Mr. Blackburn

All these people believe in the foreign revolution, and they say the Soviet state is the model for revolution all over the world.

Mr. Zilliacus

Will the hon. Member have the courage to say outright that he is encouraging preparation for a third world war against the Soviet Union?

Mr. Blackburn

No, I do not say that. What I say is that we should refrain from making the mistake we made with Hitler. Fascism, Nazism, and Communism all use the same methods; all use the secret police and the concentration camps, and all talk of reactionaries. I suppose I shall be called a reactionary. Let us remember that the third line of the "Horst Wessel" song is, Kamarader der rote front und reaction erscheerson—the Red front and reaction, and this fight is against "reactionaries." Whether one is a Fascist or a Communist makes no difference. Nothing would be more horrifying to me than another war of any kind, and one can stop a war with this country and the freedom-loving countries by doing as the Foreign Secretary has done, by telling the truth about the terror which strikes into every home and to say that Petkov did not die in vain. I remember the last time I talked about Petkov. The hon. Gentleman in- terrupted me to say that Petkov was not in danger. Now he has been killed. One might wonder if the hon. Gentleman expects rewards if Communism should come.

Mr. Zilliacus

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, may I ask if the hon. Member should not withdraw the suggestion that my political line is dictated by expectation of reward from Communism. That is a reflection on my honour.

Mr. Speaker

I think that, early in the morning, or late in the morning, whichever it is, there is difficulty in hearing exactly what hon. Members say or mean. I do not think that the hon. Member for King's Norton intended to injure the honour of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Blackburn

Petkov's death seems to mean so little. I am surprised to see that the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary is smiling. Let us remember that Petkov continued to—

The Question having been proposed after Ten o'Clock and the Debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty Minutes to Five o'Clock.