HC Deb 26 October 1949 vol 468 cc1474-86

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

11.1 p.m.

Mr. Zilliacus (Gateshead)

I raise my voice amidst the thunder of the departing feet of the captains and the kings to draw attention to the growth of intolerance and authoritarianism in the United States, and the danger that these developments carry with them for our country and the peace of the world. I draw attention to these facts from the point of view of one—

Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)

On a point of Order. I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that he was raising the question of the growth of authoritarian practices in the United States. No Minister in this House can be responsible for that. Is it in Order to raise such a question?

Mr. Zilliacus

I added—and of the danger these developments carry with them for this country and the peace of the world.

Mr. Ivor Thomas

I submit that is not a matter which should be raised in this House.

Mr. Speaker

I do not see any point of Order.

Mr. Zilliacus

The hon. Member should not be so zealous in trying to win favour with the party to which he has deserted, because they think nothing of him anyhow—the rat apeing the clown. I was saying that I approach this subject from the point of view of one who sees the world divided into two great armed camps. On the one side are the States that have passed through a social revolution, mostly countries that have never known democracy, nearly all countries that have had their social revolution aggravated by war, civil war, and enemy occupation; and which in these circumstances are passing through the stage that all revolutions pass through, of more or less dictatorial and authoritarian forms of government. These countries have not got political freedom in the sense that we rightly prize. But they have got Socialist economies that anchor them securely to the need for peace.

On the other side are States with political freedom and capitalist economies that diminish and distort political freedom, by the pull exercised by vested interests, as in the lobbies of Congress, through the private ownership by big vested interests of the Press and radio; and which also, through capitalism, harbour powerful forces that live by massive rearmament and by economic expansion into foreign markets.

As regards the United States, I speak as one who has some of the roots of his life in that country. My mother was an American. I graduated at Yale University. I lived in the United States for years, and have visited it frequently since I was five. I profoundly disagree with the present Anglo-American foreign policy, and view with dismay the coming together of the two Governments for the purposes of that policy; but I believe that the growing together of our two peoples could be, and should be, a great power for good in the world. That is why I was pleased when Mr. Henry Wallace, a former Vice-President, invited me to join him and other members of the Progressive Party last spring in a speaking tour.

I was less pleased when I found I had become an exile from that country, for I was refused a visa. There was a long controversy between the State Department and the Department of Justice, culminating in a public statement by Mr. Dean Acheson, that under American law, I was in the category of persons debarred from entering the United States—it took them a long time to discover that, for I have been entering the United States for over 40 years—unless I had special dispensation from the Department of Justice, which they regarded as not being necessary in the national interest. At the same time the State Department replied to the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives that they could not reveal the reasons why this decision had been taken without jeopardising the confidential character of communications with other Governments.

That was regarded by my friends in the United States as strongly suggesting that there had been correspondence between His Majesty's Government and the State Department on that subject. If so, I should be glad to know what was the nature of that correspondence. Either the Government were apprised beforehand of this exclusion of an hon. Member of this House and said nothing, or they were treated with such contempt by the United Staten that they were not even informed before the decision was taken. This treatment of elected representatives of the people of this country and of France—the same fate was meted out to a former French Minister, Pierre Cot—is a symptom of the alarming growth of hysteria in the United States. Twenty years ago action of this sort would have been unheard of and unthinkable, and if it had occurred there would have been a first-class scandal on both sides of the Atlantic and a vigorous protest by the Government of this country.

Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities)

Is the hon. Member aware that many hon. Friends of mine have been refused visas by the Soviet Union? I do not say whether that is right or wrong, but does the hon. Member suggest that there is anything unique in this?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) ought to make it clear—at the moment I am not clear—that there is some responsibility in this matter on His Majesty's Government. Hitherto be seems to have addressed his remarks to the action taken by another Government.

Mr. Zilliacus

I have already mentioned the question of my exclusion and the suggestion that there had been correspondence between our Government and the State Department on the subject, and I have already asked for information on this, and at the end I shall make a proposal on that very subject. I am going to talk a great deal about the situation in the United States as affecting our relations with that country. There are precedents. We have often discussed the position in various countries on Adjournment Debates here. Bulgaria comes to mind, among others.

Mr. Ivor Thomas

Were there not treaty relations?

Mr. Zilliacus

Yes, but even when there were not treaty relations. The Soviet Union is a case in point. These developments in the United States, including the aggravation of the treatment of the coloured population, the shocking frame-up of—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. That is not a matter for which His Majesty's Government can be held responsible. The purpose of our discussions here, must be related to a matter for which in some form or another His Majesty's Government can be held responsible. The hon. Member must relate his remarks in some form to that point.

Mr. Driberg (Maldon)

On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it not the case that the matter to which the hon. Member for Gateshead has just referred, the treatment of the Negro population in the United States, could well be raised by His Majesty's Government in the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

If the hon. Member is proposing to put the matter in that form and to put some responsibility on. His Majesty's Government, there may be something in his remarks; but hitherto he has not done so.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

You had not the advantage of being present when the Debate began, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, when the hon. Member for Keighley in an attempt to gag the hon. Member for Gateshead, raised the same question with Mr. Speaker, who ruled that the hon. Member for Gateshead was in Order.

Mr. Zilliacus

Further to that point of Order, I am going to make—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. At the moment I am in possession of the Chair and it is my Ruling which must affect the conduct of the Debate as it now proceeds.

Mr. Ivor Thomas

On a further point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it not out of Order for an hon. Member, in raising that point of Order, to attribute to me the motive of wishing to gag another hon. Member. My desire was solely that the Rules of Order were observed.

Mr. Zilliacus

It is my intention to request the Government to make representations, either through the Human Rights Commission or whatever means they consider desirable, on certain aspects of these matters which I am raising. Apart from this frame-up of the Trenton trial of the six Negro boys, as exposed in "Reynolds News," which first broke the Press boycott, there is the political witch hunt started by the Anti-American Activities Committee which has spawned a swarm of State Committees that are smearing, blasting the careers and blighting the reputations of tens of thousands of people. Then there was the Peek's kill riot, where the veterans organisations, organised by a Press campaign were mobilised to smash up an open-air concert by Paul Robeson, where books and musical records were burned and the police either stood by or beat up those who tried to defend themselves against the attackers. On top of that, Governor Dewey refused to take any action until there was so much indignation that he had to start an investigation.

Mr. H. Strauss


Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. I am listening very carefully to the hon. Gentleman, and hoping that he will more closely relate his remarks to the responsibility of His Majesty's Government in these matters. I do not think it is necessary to raise any point of Order.

Mr. Zilliacus

These are the points upon which I ask for inquiry and wish for views to be expressed by His Majesty's Government. These are points which affect us because of our total dependence on the U.S. today. Next are the thought-control or gag laws introduced in 34 States, which create new offences—

Mr. Ivor Thomas

I feel obliged to raise a point of Order. I understand that the hon. Gentleman is being allowed to proceed on the assumption that these matters could be raised in the Human Rights Commission. We have only so far the evidence of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) for that. My own belief is that they could not.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Gentleman must not interrupt. I think that it would have been better if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gateshead had stated clearly what he has in his mind to request the Government to do. I assume he takes responsibility for what he is saying, and has knowledge of these matters. I must accept the hon. Gentleman's view on that.

Mr. Zilliacus

These gag or thought-control laws are based upon President Truman's loyalty order. There is the Attorney-General's list of subversive organisations numbering 150, the Mundt-Ferguson Bill which creates again the offence of holding politically subversive thoughts, and other developments. They have been given a tremendous impetus by the trial of the eleven Communists. The trial was one of doctrines and ideas. All the defendants were sentenced to five years' imprisonment, with one exception, a war-decorated hero, who got only three years, because they were Communists.

These men were sentenced, not because of anything, they had done that was against the law, but for holding certain political opinions. And for good measure the lawyers for the defence were then given six months each for contempt of court by Judge Harold Medina, who conducted himself rather on the lines of the warning given by the pantomime policeman that, "Everything you say will be taken down, altered and used against you."

Mr. H. Strauss

On a point of Order. Even in the case of judicial proceedings in this country there are only limited ways in which the matter can be raised, if at all, in this House. I suggest that there is no conceivable responsibility in the hon. Member who is to reply to this Debate for a judicial trial in the United States.

Mr. Platts-Mills (Finsbury)

It was not a judicial trial.

Mr. H. Strauss

I am not saying whether in another form of debate this could be raised, but in the present form, which seeks to put the responsibility on the hon. Member who is to reply for the Foreign Office, it is out of Order. It cannot conceivably be his responsibility.

Mr. J. Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

Are we to understand, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that your previous Ruling means that any hon. Member can make use of this House to make unqualified criticisms of the administration of a foreign Government on the ground that our Foreign Secretary might repeat those criticisms in another place?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The position is not altogether clear. The Minister does not intervene and I understand that the position is that a request is being made to him to take certain action which is within his power. I certainly deprecate a good many of the references the hon. Gentleman has made to a friendly foreign country, but unless the Minister tells me otherwise, I assume that he is in a position to make representations on these matters, if it were so decided. I may perhaps say that I think the hon. Member might have put his argument in a different form, less offensive to a friendly foreign country.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

Surely this is not a question of deprecating: it is either in Order or not. If you rule that this is in Order, then the responsibility for the statements rests with the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. H. Strauss

While I agree with the point just made by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) about this question being in Order or not in Order, it is within the knowledge of many hon. Members of this House that, whatever we may think of this particular trial in a foreign country, these men have been found guilty on a charge of conspiring to overthrow by force the Government of the United States. [Interruption.] Well, that was the charge. I do not think the hon. Member denies that that was the charge and that that was the charge on which they were found guilty. The hon. Member is concerned, no doubt with sincerity, with that charge, but how can the representative of the Foreign Office deal with that matter in any shape or form?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am bound to say that I cannot conceive how the Foreign Office can take any action on that point, where presumably a properly constituted court in another country has come to a certain verdict, not affecting a British citizen. That matter, therefore, of itself must be out of Order. However, time is short and if the hon. Gentleman will conclude his remarks, we shall hear what the Minister has to say.

11.18 p.m.

Mr. Driberg (Maldon)

However short the time is, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I think—with all due respect—that it is extremely important that the Rules of Order should be maintained and clearly established. I submit that there are precedents for what the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) has been talking about, within the last year or two, in respect of trials held in Greece and Spain, for example. Although the Foreign Office in more recent months has repudiated any power of intervention or of making representations in those countries, the responsibility has been accepted within the last year or two.

Mr. Scollan

Cardinal Mindszenty!

Mr. Driberg

Cardinal Mindszenty's is not a parallel case, because Hungary is one of the three countries covered by peace treaties. There are also precedents, in these Adjournment Debates, for the Minister's getting up at quite an early point in an hon. Member's speech and saying, "I cannot say anything about this in reply. I am not responsible." But my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is neither irresponsible nor inarticulate, and I am sure that he would have got up before now if he had felt that he could not answer the Debate.

11.19 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Mayhew)

I would have risen before if my mind had been completely clear on the issues at stake. I think I can state the position as I understand it. I suppose that there is no reason why the administration of human rights, or the existence of human rights in a certain country, should not be discussed by United Kingdom delegates on the Human Rights Commission. But at the same time I cannot help feeling that this question has been raised as a legal and procedural device for making an hysterical attack upon the American people and administration. Further, I would submit that whatever the legal position is, or is not, it is clearly impracticable for the future that a Minister should be put in the position of having to defend a matter which is clearly the internal affair of another country. Clearly, whatever the precise legal position, it is quite impracticable to carry it out.

Mr. Platts-Mills

Further to that point of Order. Is it not clear that if these barbarities were allowed to continue long enough in the United States, this House would be calling upon the hon. Gentleman to withdraw His Majesty's representatives from the United States as a mark of the dissatisfaction felt by the people of this country?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That may or may not be, but clearly a procedural device cannot be used as a cover for making an attack upon a friendly country. That is the course which the hon. Member's remarks would appear to be taking, and I hope he will conclude.

11.22 p.m.

Mr. Zilliacus

I will omit the rest of the remarks I intended to make on this point—and I had some fairly hefty ones—and come to the conclusion. That conclusion is that these sinister and hideous developments in the United States have set in motion powerful forces that may sweep the United States all the way into Fascism and a third world war. There are minorities fighting against this development, but those minorities are not helped by the silence and cowardice of people in this country, or by the moving of points of Order from the Tory benches.

I am going to ask my hon. Friend to do two things. The first is to propose that there should be reciprocity and equality of treatment for elected representatives of the people of our two countries to visit each other's countries without let or hindrance. The fact that someone is adjudged worthy to be a Member of this House should be judged sufficient credential for a visit to the United States, just as we do not question the granting of that status to a Member of the United States Congress. As my hon. Friend more often indulges in violent diatribes than anyone else against the countries in Eastern Europe, will he do the same about the horrors and barbarities in the United States? Otherwise we will write off his transports of splendid moral indignation as being merely a diplomatic weapon to be laid on by the Foreign Office in the cold war being carried on against the Socialist States.

11.24 p.m.

Mr. Mayhew

The difficulty in which I find myself is that difficult questions of Order have been raised and I have no time to answer them, nor have I been given notice of the questions which were to be raised in the Debate. I suppose it can be said, perhaps, that in the Western world there has been a growing tendency to restrict the activities of Communists and Fascists. Indeed, in certain countries, the opposition to Communism might be said to be, by British standards, hysterical; but not so hysterical as the opposition to Tito-ism in Soviet countries. My one point would be that often complaints about Communist hysteria come from people who are themselves blind to the realities of Communism; people who will welcome the Communist triumphs in Eastern Europe as the beginning of new democracies; people who, as serious and painstaking social scientists, cannot see the difference between a working class on the one side and a fifth column on the other. If I were a Communist I would rather be tried by a court in the United States than by one in Hungary.

So far as the exchange of legislators is concerned, I do not know what the hon. Member has in mind. I can tell him that there are more exchanges of visits now than ever before through the Inter-Parliamentary Group, and, in fact, streams of legislators come here; but the one legislator who, he says, should be given facilities is himself. An hon. Member opposite mentioned that there were hon. Members of this House who had been refused visas to visit Soviet Russia; now we have an hon. Member who has been refused a visa to the United States. We have a slightly more liberal approach to this question, but the issuing of visas is a matter for the United States Government, on the one hand, and the Soviet Union on the other. If we were to protest, as he seemed to imply we should, the United States Government would not be the first to which we have protested, because that Government is more liberal than most in this respect.

We want more visits of legislators, but I hope that by that we mean visits by more men with a good record of work in defence of democracy, men whose efforts in the cause of truth and peace are undoubted. The hon. Gentleman would be accepted more as a bulwark of Western democracy if he had done more to help it and had done less in recent years to undermine it. Unwittingly, for years and years he has sung the praises of Communist doctrines; he has praised the French Communists; he sent good wishes to the fellow traveller Nenni. For years he has been telling the democratic world that he is selling freedom down the river. But now, he is not only denied entry to the United States; he has even now been attacked by Radio Moscow; he is denied the columns of the "Daily Worker." No longer is he useful to the Stalinists, and he has been cast aside like a soiled glove—[An HON. MEMBER: "A deviationist."] Yes, a deviationist. But he should remember what he has done in the past. If he were in Eastern Europe now, he would be in the dock, in the shadow of the gallows.

I cannot go into the sloppy sentiments and references he made in what was a ridiculous dichotomy, leaving the House confused as to where one should place Palestine, or Eire, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and others. He divided them arbitrarily into totally meaningless divisions. He had something to say about what he termed "Socialist economies." He then decided that the one division, with what he called "Socialist economies," were tied to peace. He suggested that the Soviet Government and the satellite countries had Socialist economies and furthermore that their international and economic policies were therefore of a peaceful nature. Anyone looking at facts instead of words, sees what the international economic policy of the Soviet Union and the satellite countries has been. All know of the non-co-operation in the organs of the United Nations of the Soviet Union and the satellite countries, of sabotage in the Marshall Plan, of economic sanctions against Yugoslavia, and of economic exploitation in Eastern Europe and Manchuria. He says these countries have economies which any democratic Socialist would recognise as Socialism and they are therefore wedded to peace.

I am afraid that in the time at my disposal I have been unable to deal with many of the points the hon. Member raised. I hope the House will forgive me and bear in mind the exceptional difficulties of replying to a Debate of this character.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-nine Minutes past Eleven o'Clock.