§ LORD EMMOTT rose to call attention to certain recent public pronouncements made by M. Zinoviev and others in Russia, and to their bearing on the forthcoming Anglo-Russian Conference in London. The noble Lord said My Lords, one of the first acts of the present Government on taking office was to make the announcement that they intended to give de jure recognition to the Soviet Government and to invite delegates of that Government to a Conference to be held in London to deal with the many questions outstanding between that country 1040 and ourselves. The grant was made without any sort of conditions, in the hope that it might produce an atmosphere favourable to the settlement of those questions which were to be dealt with at the Conference. The contemptuous and even insulting reception that the Government's well-meant gesture had at the hands of M. Zinoviev, who is among the most powerful political personages in Russia to-day, and others who follow him, make me feel that our relations with Russia and this question of an Anglo-Russian Conference are well worthy of your Lordships' attention for a short time.
§ I do not think that people in this country have given half the attention that it deserves to the Russian Revolution. The rush of startling events in the world in the last seven or eight years has been such that a revolution more or less hardly seems to count. And yet the break-up of a civilisation that has grown and developed for hundreds of years amidst scenes of horror and suffering almost, if not quite, unprecedented in modern times, and followed by a sudden and I think unparalleled lowering of the general standard of living of a population of 130,000,000 people, is an event of outstanding importance. When the history of these times comes to be written I think one feature on which great stress will be laid will be that this is the first-great revolution in history in which political action has been based on an economic theory.
§ There is another remarkable thing, but of a more than passing interest, which I want to mention. The economic theory on which this revolution was based has proved in practice a dismal failure. The Soviet Government avowedly repudiates the democracy of which we hear so much to-day; it is not even, as it pretends to be, a dictatorship of the proletariat; it is a self-appointed oligarchy. And yet, in spite of all these things, the men who seized power in the autumn of 1917 have retained power to this day whilst the Governments of every other great country in the world have fallen in the meantime. There is no question that it is a de facto Government. What is agitating the world to-day is whether, and, if so, when and how, de jure recognition should be given to it. America and France are resolutely opposed to anything of the kind. Great 1041 Britain and Italy have granted recognition. It is perhaps an idle speculation, but I wonder what the author of the "Letters on a Regicide Peace" would say were he, alive to-day at the spectacle of a Republican France refusing recognition to a regicide Russia when Great Britain, which still retains to the full the monarchical principle, has granted recognition.
§ Opinion is divided here as in the rest of the world. The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition referred very briefly to this question in his speech on February 12, and said that on some future occasion he would develop his hostility to the idea of de jure recognition at greater length. Perhaps this Motion of mine may give him an opportunity of doing so. My noble friend Lord Grey of Fallodon pointed out in the same debate, with great truth, that recognition in itself would do little for the reconstruction of Russia, or for the restoration of trade between Russia and ourselves, but he thought that it was impossible to settle all outstanding questions without granting recognition. He did not think recognition was a very powerful lever in itself, and he hoped that this grant of de jure recognition might produce the favourable atmosphere that the Government desired. My own view, in the face of such authorities as those I have mentioned, is of no importance, but I must give it for the sake of the argument that follows.
I have no objection in principle to de jure recognition. It seems to me to be inevitable Sooner or later in all cases like this. But, having followed Russian events somewhat closely for the last four years and tried to obtain some kind of sense of the realities there, I was very sceptical of any good resulting from unconditional recognition, although I should have been very glad had my doubts proved ill-founded. I should explain that I am speaking entirely for myself to-day. I put down this Notice without consulting anybody. Of course, it, can always be said that it is easy to be wise after the event, but I do wish the Government had taken a careful survey of the situation beforehand and had explored the ground before they took this action so quickly. So far as I can see, their generous gesture has been thrown away, if it has not done more harm than good. Perhaps it was not quite so generous as it appeared for the ways of the new
diplomacy are a little quaint. The Prime Minister of this country said, in effect: "Oh yes, we will recognise you, but remember none of your monkey tricks, and we have got a long score to settle; "to which Zinoviev replied, also in effect, "You are nothing but the mouthpiece of a lot of capitalist sharks. When you present your claim for debts, we shall meet you with a thundering ' No.' "He added—and here I am quoting—
To make that effective we have only one argument, the Red Army and Fleet.
That is not exactly a very encouraging atmosphere to begin with.
§ The reason the Government's gesture has failed, if it has failed, and I am afraid it has, is this the extremists are again in the ascendant in Russia. Rykov, the Chief Commissar, who took Lenin's place, is away ill, and Kamenev is acting in his place. Russia is governed by a triumvirate of Zinoviev, who is, of course, an extremist, Stalin, who is a rigid, orthodox Communist, a man of great determination but no breadth or vision, and an extremist likewise; and Kamenev. How to class Kamenev I do not quite know. He certainly was considered a moderate in the old days, but some of his recent speeches have shown anything but moderation. Perhaps he is just swimming with the tide, and that would, again, show that the extremists are in the ascendant in Russia to-day. Zinoviev is head of the Communist International. In a Report of the Committee appointed by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition when he was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—a Committee to report on political and economic conditions in Russia—there is a paragraph dealing with this International. We mention in that paragraph the Note from the Soviet Government of February 5, 1921, to His Majesty's Government of that day, denying any connection between the Communist International and the Soviet Government. We gave our reasons in our Report for not placing any credence in that denial.
The connection between the Soviet Government and the Communist International is now proved absolutely up to the hilt. Here is an extract from a speech of Zinoviev given in The Times of February 6:
While Lenin was in a state to direct our work we, the members of the Communist
International, came to him for advice, and the whole Central Committee agreed that his views were to be put into practice with-out further debate.
That, at any rate, is proof positive as to the past. But he went on to say—
When this became impossible Lenin's guidance had to be replaced by that of a collective body.
He explains that the collective body was the Political Bureau. The Political Bureau is now replaced by the triumvirate of whom I have told your Lordships. If any further proof were needed, I should be able to find it in another speech of Zinoviev to the Communist International, early in March, in which he says—
We know we ourselves are the Soviet Government in Moscow and in Leningrad.our home.
The important point in this is not that the Soviet Government lied when it denied all connection between itself and the Communist International in 1921. It is that the Communist International, the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and the Triumvirate that rules Russia are all intimately associated one with the other in pursuit of an identical aim.
§ One cannot be separated from the other. The All-Russia Congress of Soviets merely registers their decrees, but they are the real force in Russia to-day. There is one thing certain, and that is that no conclusion of any Anglo-Russian Conference will be of any avail at all unless the Communist International are a party to it. The attitude of the Communist International becomes therefore a matter of great importance. The Communist International exists, as your Lordships know, to propagate Bolshevism, to bring about Bolshevist revolutions everywhere, to discredit Parliamentary institutions, to suppress the capitalist and to confiscate capital. Zinoviev, its head, has in recent months, day after day, week after week, been denouncing in most violent language foreign capitalists and foreign bourgeois and explaining with the utmost cynicism the sinister methods employed by the Communist International to stir up revolution in other countries.
§ At the end of February, or early in March, he presented a report of the present activities of the Communist International, in which he said that the first great object was to bring about a proletarian revolution in Germany, and that the 1044 second urgent task was to create a powerful Communist Party in Great Britain. Early in March, in another speech, he said that Communists now swayed one-sixth of the world and in five years they would sway one-half of it. Both before and since recognition he has carried out a campaign of insult against His Majesty's Government and, with what perhaps passes for humour in Communist circles, he said, that they "should support British Labour Party, MacDonald's party, as the rope ' supports ' the man who hangs himself." Since then he has prophesied a short life for the Government and spoken of the Prime Minister with the utmost contempt. His jackals, men like Bukharin and Rothstein, have followed suit.
Here is a gem from Mr. Rothstein, the gentleman whose anti-British machinations in Persia were so extreme that the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition demanded his removal from that country. This is how he regards the grant of recognition by His Majesty's Government:—
The bourgeois world has confessed its helplessness in face of our revolution and now finds itself constrained to adopt an attitude towards us which it hitherto only accorded to respectable States recognising the sacred institutions of territorial and capital institutions, the bourgeois electoral law "—
I pause to note that the electoral law "is freedom of election, which does not exist in Russia to-day, but is the safeguard of our liberties. He goes on—
the bourgeois freedom of the Press "—
again I point out that there is no freedom of the Press in Russia—
religious profession "—
that is, freedom to worship God as a man may desire—
legal conscience and other exploiting and high-sounding institutions.
Now I am credibly informed, and I do not think there is any doubt, that Mr. Rothstein, who is announced as the Secretary of the Delegation that is to come from Russia for this Anglo-Russian conference, is the same gentleman who made the speech, an extract from which I have just read to your Lordships.
§ I think there is no doubt that he is the same person. If so, I do not know what His Majesty's Government think about it and if the noble and learned Lord, the Lord President of the Council, 1045 has not had time to go into the matter, I will not press him now for any answer in regard to it, but all I can say is that to send such a man here is nothing less than an insult to this country. I hope that the Government will let us know in duo course whether they mean to allow him to come here or not.
I must trouble your Lordships with one other extract to show that there is no hope from those whom we have hitherto regarded as moderates. I have already spoken of Kamenev and I think I have said that he has either been captured by the extremists or goes with the tide. He is reported in the Pravda of March 6 as saying at the session of the Communist International and Moscow Soviet:—
We must swear loyally and steadfastly to bear up the Red Standard in our proletarian hands. We must swear to carry this Standard to victory, to be merciless enemies, energetic, stubborn, inflexible in the attainment of our aims, striving with all our forces towards them and achieving them as quickly as possible for the general good of humanity.
That means stirring up Bolshevist revolution everywhere, revolutions opposed to religion, against freedom and without pity. Then he goes on to say:—
Our single hope, our steadfast faith lies in this—that in the iron embrace of the Communist International capitalism will be crushed, and that by the cordial endeavours of the toilers of the whole world the workers' cause will triumph and triumph without end under the Red Standard of the Communist International.
I attach great importance to Kamenev standing so firmly for the Communist International. It is, surely, as plain as daylight that this organisation will never give up propaganda, because Bolshevist propaganda is its one aim and the one purpose of its existence. To ask the Communist International to cease its efforts to spread Bolshevism is not to ask the monkey to stop its tricks, but to ask the leopard to change its spots.
§ Now I come to the bearing of this on the London Conference. M. Rakovsky has gone to Moscow, I presume, with an exhaustive list of the questions which are to be settled. Just before he left he wrote an article in the Russian Information and Review of March 15. In that he refers to the question of credits, and my noble friend Lord Grey may be interested to hear that he is quoted as saying that there was need for credits. I was not able to find that in his speech 1046 myself. M. Rakovsky refers to two memoranda, one presented to the Board of Trade and one presented to a financial group in the City of London. I have not seen the former, but I have seen the latter and it strikes me as a very remarkable and sinister document.
§ It makes the recognition of debt and the return of confiscated property dependent on a loan for twenty years of from £20,000,000 to £30,000,000, one-third of which is to be handed over to the Soviet Government for it to spend as it likes in Russia. It talks further of a much larger loan of, £320,000,000, and so on, which is to be spent for Government purposes in Russia. In regard to the larger figures, I need not point out that no such sum is available here for Russia or anywhere else. But the amount is much less important than the principle. Loans or credits are, surely, a matter of business, and the lines on which they are made have been settled for generations; I might say for centuries. First of all, the lender must feel sure that the borrower intends to repay, and, secondly, if a large credit is asked for, or a credit involving great risk, the lender asks either for a high interest or for some realisable security which can be turned into money in case of default on the part of the debtor. I dare say that some Socialists call that "bourgeois morality." With Russia as an example of what is not bourgeois morality, I am inclined to think that bourgeois morality has still something to say for itself.
§ I say, in the first place, that British traders who have lost hundreds of millions of money, and more particularly British citizens who have lost their posts in Russia, and all their property and their incomes, and are living in conditions of great indigence and poverty in this country at the present time because of Bolshevist confiscation, consider the action of the Soviet Government a breach of the Eighth Commandment. I know that does not appeal to the Soviet-Government. They have no use for Commandments of any kind, but I am talking now to Englishmen. In the second place, it is immoral, according to any code of morality recognised here, to make the condition of the restoration of stolen property depend upon the advance of a further loan. I say, in the third place, that any British Government that dreams of lending money to the Soviet Govern- 1047 ment must be satisfied of their intention to repay it. In the fourth place, I say that the close connection between the Soviet Government and the Communist International makes it impossible to believe that they intend to repay, because all the Communist International lives for is to stir up revolution, and if they were successful in bringing about a Bolshevist revolution here there would be no call for repayment at all. There is nothing in the past or present of the Soviet Government that holds out any hope that the Soviet Government is honest as we understand honesty. So much for Mr. Rakovsky and his idea of credits.
§ Recently, however, I saw in one paper—I think it was the Observer of last Sunday week—that an entirely novel note has emanated from some quarters in Moscow. Messages coming from that city are either connived at or prompted by the Soviet Government. I mean telegraphic messages, because they all go through Government quarters. These messages state that the Russians no longer want credits. If there has been a change it must be due either to their feeling that His Majesty's Government are unlikely to sanction credits on any-moral or material security that is available, or else it is simply another proof of the extremists being in the ascendant. The "old guard "of Communism always opposed even Lenin's new economic policy. They are out to break this Conference, as they broke the Conferences at Genoa and The Hague. Our own Prime Minister has said, as I understand it, that he has no intention of suggesting credits as from country to country, but that what he had in mind was much more the use of the export credits scheme or the trade facilities scheme.
§ With regard to those two schemes I do not say it is impossible, but it is unusual to grant facilities under them to foreigners. As I understand, the facilities that so far have been granted have been given entirely to Britishers or to members of the British Empire, and they are given on the recommendation of a Committee presided over, I think, by my noble friend Viscount St. Davids. They are given, after careful investigation by a Committee, to people of ample credit to enable them to borrow more cheaply. All the money must be spent here. Obviously, those conditions do not apply to a 1048 Government with so little credit as the Soviet Government, and to a country that wants to spend a large part of the loan in its own country. As regards export credits there is, I think, a guarantee of 42 per cent. of debts owed by foreign customers who have exported English goods. In Russia the foreign trade is completely controlled by the Soviet Government, and unless the usual precautions are going to be relaxed in regard to export credits I do not think a great deal can be available to Russia from them.
§ Of course, a little trade is being done with Russia—a little trade will be done with Russia—but the stream of credit that is ready to flow to Russia if private channels of trade were once more open cannot flow as things are to-day. The people most ready to do business with Russia are the people who were there before, the people whose property has been confiscated. They are still ready to go back if only confidence were restored and their property given back to them. Yet these are the very people who are assailed with these calumnious epithets, and who are called capitalist sharks.
§ The campaign of abuse that has been set on foot treats the Prime Minister as their tool because he dares to mention that debts and the restoration of property are among the things that require settlement. I am pretty well accustomed to the liberty of language that the Communists allow themselves, but even I am amazed with the recent outburst. Although I am no supporter of His Majesty's Government, I have watched this campaign of abuse with rising indignation. I dislike to see the well-meant gesture of any British Government treated with contempt and virulent abuse. Perhaps, however, one may lay too much stress on virulence of language on the part of violent and ill-mannered people.
§ More important are the facts that He behind, and they seem to me to be these. In attempting to rebuild the world on the new lines of the economic theories which analysis has proved to be so doubtful, and which practice has shown to be unsound, the Soviet Government has brought. Russia to a pitch of misery unexampled even in the war-stricken world to-day. By a policy of confiscation they have beggared the rich, and lowered the standard of the living of the poor. Unemployment exists to-day on a colossal 1049 scale. In spite of their Communism I am told that only one-sixth of the unemployed there are obtaining any unemployment benefit. Their nationalised industries—although the land, buildings, plant and machinery were confiscated, and no interest is being paid for them—are producing at a cost so high that there is a break-down of exchange as between town and country. I need not remind your Lordships that in a country like Russia, where over 80 per cent. of the population are interested in agriculture, it is internal rather than external trade that matters, and a break-down of internal trade is almost the end of all things. Yet, in spite of the high prices charged for these manufactures, the factories are all working at a loss. In this sorry plight the Soviet Government of "Russia come to seek two things. They seek for loans from Great Britain, and Great Britain is only in a position to lend because so far she has avoided Bolshevism. They seek, at the same time, to spread Bolshevism everywhere. Their first special effort is to be with Germany, and their second with Great Britain. Truly humour is not a strong point in Bolshevist circles.
§ I have tried to give a plain and un-exaggerated statement of the position as I see it. I am sure His Majesty's Government are anxious to maintain the prestige of this country. I am sure it is a generous impulse on their part which made them recognise the Soviet Government, but their excellent motives have led to a sorry response. I fear a fiasco at this Conference, and in these circumstances I ask the noble and learned Lord, The Lord President of the Council, to give us as full information as possible as to how His Majesty's Government regard the sinister reception which their generous gesture has received. In particular, I venture to ask for information as to the present state of the negotiations preliminary to the Conference, and what has become of the exhaustive list of questions that Mr. Rakovsky took with him to Russia. And—this is not a matter of urgent importance—is it intended that Ambassadors should be mutually appointed before or after the Conference? If the Conference is a failure are they still to be appointed? In the third place, is the Soviet Government still seeking credits? If so, is it intended to give any and what sort of credits? Alternatively 1050 I shall be glad to know if there is any truth in the rumour I mentioned just now that Russia is not now seeking credits, and, if so, whether there is any chance of their recognising debt.
§ I apologise to your Lordships for having detained you so long; I have only a few-words to add in conclusion. I hope I have not given any idea that I am out of sympathy with the Russian people. There is nothing I desire to see more than their return to prosperity. They are living under a Communist oligarchy, but the mass of them are not Communist at all. The peasants, who exceed eighty per cent. of the population, have defeated Communism, and Communism can never last in a country where the agriculturists have already defeated it. In industry military Communism broke down; it meant forced labour. Private trading was made illegal. It was called speculation. Speculation was made a crime punishable by death, and many people were shot for doing private trading. But that military Communism broke down, and in the autumn of 1921 Lenin was compelled, much against his wishes and inclination, to introduce a new economic policy under which a certain amount of petty private trading is allowed.
§ Some improvement has resulted but not a great deal. All the foreign trade and the whole of the heavy industries and manufactures remain in the hands of the Government, and the result is that crisis follows crisis. Last autumn it was a crisis owing to the excessive prices of manufactures and the relatively low prices of agricultural produce. A little later agricultural prices went up very sharply and that brought about a wage crisis, because those engaged in industries demanded that their wages should be increased. Many of them wore, and the advances led to enormous losses in contracts running at the time. That was another crisis. Now there are two crises running at the same time. One is a shortage of food. I do not know whether there is going to be another famine or not. It is too soon to know, but I hope there will not be another famine. There is, however, a shortage of food and the export of grain has been stopped. There is also a currency crisis due to the want of small change. It arises out of currency reforms which I have no time now to describe. These recurring crises are met by makeshift remedies, but makeshift remedies do not cure the disease.1051
§ Here I am going to express my own opinion that there is only one cure for this disease, and that is to open trade again to private enterprise. I am told that in Russia, to-day, political and economic conditions are quite as unsettled as they ever have been, and so far as I can see this great Marxian experiment is marching quickly to its inevitable doom. I am not going to make any prophecy when the end will come. All I say is that I feel sure it will come, and that Russia, which has great natural resources, will quickly recover when Communism disappears and nationalised industry is replaced by a system more in accordance with the genius of the Russian people.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (LORD PARMOOR)
My Lords, the noble Lord with great consideration sent me beforehand a note of some of the topics to which he has referred and also a summary of the questions with which he ended his notable speech—a speech which shows an intimate knowledge of Russian topics which I, at least, can in no wise claim to equal. Towards the end of his speech he referred to his keen desire for improved and better conditions for the Russian people. I sympathise with him in that expression, having been very closely in touch with the terrible conditions in Russia through the Famine Relief Fund. I was very desirous of going to Russia myself but was prevented from doing so. No doubt the condition of famine in Russia, in one sense almost constant, is due to the fact that the transport facilities as between different districts are so difficult. There is an old Russian proverb which says that no man ought ever to see the floor of his own granary, and it expresses the view that intercommunication is so difficult that each peasant has to depend largely on his own resources. If those resources fail you have the consequent misery to which the noble Lord has called attention.
On the general principle of granting de jure recognition, whether wisely or not in the opinion of your Lordships—I think wisely—His Majesty's Government came to the conclusion that the best chance of initiating a better spirit between Russia and this country was to give in the first place de jure recognition and leave matters in discussion and argument to a later date. The noble Lord has no doubt very potent reasons, from his point of 1052 view, for seeing failure in that policy. It was a policy, necessarily, of an experimental character, but I believe that in all the conditions the best chance, by far, was in the policy which the Government adopted, although no one can foresee whether it will be successful or not.
The next matter to which the noble Lord called attention was a series of speeches, or extracts from speeches, made by Zinoviev. Of course, every civilised person must deprecate the extracts to which he has referred. I am not here to defend them, I do not think anybody can defend them. I do not wish to use any harsh terms because the position between the British Government and the Soviet Government is one in which we hope for a better spirit of reconciliation and friendship, but nothing can be more harmful, as regards the policy which the British Government hope will be successful, than speeches of the character to which the noble Lord has referred. Let me make one other point in connection with these extracts. I think most of the speeches were made, according to my information, to the Third International. The Third International embodies the extreme revolutionary spirit in Russia and speeches made to it are always most extreme in form and character. It is the platform on which the more revolutionary members of the Soviet Government express in extreme terms their extreme views in order that they may palliate the extreme side of their Party in the Soviet Government. All the speeches are not, of course, made in one tone. I have had to read through a good many in order to see what their general character is, and I cannot deny that, generally speaking, they have the tone of the speeches from which the noble Lord himself has read extracts.
But let me give one illustration of a speech in somewhat contrary terms which was made by M. Zinoviev himself. I will read only one short extract. M. Zinoviev was making a great speech in the direction which the noble Lord has indicated against capitalists, capital and ordinary trade ideas in the extreme form of Soviet denunciation. But then I come to a passage in which he is reported to have said that among the opposition—that, of course, is the opposition to himself—were comrades who thought that "Nep," which, as the noble Lord knows, is the new economic policy, "should be circumcised." 1053 That is the expression he used. But he added that—There were also amongst them influential people who said that it was necessary to hasten the attraction of foreign capital and concede more to it.It is a mistake, therefore, to suppose, when one comes to read through even these inflammatory speeches, that they are all in one tone and of one character. You find amongst them, even from such extreme speakers—and I think the noble Lord is quite right in taking Zinoviev as a type of the extreme politician of the present time in Russia—passages such as that to which I have referred. I do not think it would be of any use for me to go further into these speeches except to deprecate them, as I have already done, because the question of success in the future does not depend on calling attention to these extreme speeches. We are in the hope of bringing to the front more conciliatory statements, an illustration of which I have given to your Lordships in the quotation which I have made.
A reference was made—and I thank the noble Lord for the way in which he dealt with it—to Rothstein. The noble Lord, as I have said, kindly sent me the questions which he was to ask me at the end of his speech to your Lordships this afternoon, but though this name was brought to my notice, it was only just as I was coming into the House. I believe it was sent by the noble Lord to the Foreign Office, but a rather busy day prevented its coming to me until I was entering the House. All that I desire to say is that what the noble Lord has said will be conveyed to the Foreign Office and to the Prime Minister. Beyond that I cannot go at the present time, and, of course, it would not be right for mo to attempt to deal with a matter of that kind without having full information.
Another part of the noble Lord's speech dealt with a point upon which he is an authority, and upon which his remarks were well worthy of the attention of your Lordships. It dealt with loans and export and other credits. I am told that at the present time all matters of this kind are in abeyance, but I should like to deal with the point rather more specifically when I come to the particular questions which the noble Lord asked me, which are four in number, and to which I hope to give him specific answers. 1054 I cannot say more at the present time, because one of the matters, and one of the most important, coming on for discussion between the representatives of the Soviet Government and the representatives of His Majesty's Government will be this very class of question. I hope, as I am sure the noble Lord hopes equally, that a solution may be found, but it certainly would not help a solution to attempt to discuss in any detail matters of this kind which have to be discussed between the two parties, I hope in a friendly way, in the near future. Your Lordships would not expect that I should attempt to give any further answer on the point. The noble Lord has also referred to what he called the colossal scale of unemployment among the working classes in Russia, and I think he suggested the not improbable incidence of famine. I am afraid I have nothing to say to take away the gloom of the picture which the noble Lord has painted. We all desire and hope that better conditions may prevail, but there is nothing at the present time within my instructions which enable me in any way to alleviate the gloom of that picture.
Having said all that I can upon the general subject, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to deal with the four questions which he has specifically asked me. He kindly sent me these four questions in order that they might be studied by the authorities who are really instructing me. The first question asks His Majesty's Government for information as to the present state of negotiations preliminary to the London Conference, and enquires what has happened in reference to the list of questions between ourselves and Russia which Mr. Rakovsky took to Moscow with him. I think I have the noble Lord's question correctly. I have taken it from a letter which the noble Lord wrote to me, and I think he put the question in the same way when he was addressing your Lordships this afternoon.
The answer to that question is that it is not correct to speak of "negotiations" preliminary to the Conference. A provisional agenda was communicated to Mr. Rakovsky, and in general accepted by him, and since that time the British Delegation has been engaged in studying the questions appearing on the agenda, in preparation for the opening of the negotiations. I am aware that the noble 1055 Lord may think that an answer of that kind does not give him all the information which he desires, but it does give him all the information at my command and all the information that can really be given under conditions as they exist at the present time.
The noble Lord's second question is this. He asks if the Russians have appointed an Ambassador here, and if we have suggested an Ambassador to them. Answers have already been given on this subject in the House of Commons to the effect that no British Ambassador to Moscow has yet been appointed, and we have not yet received from the Soviet Government the name of its proposed Ambassador in London. Accordingly, the answer is in the, negative on both points.
The two next questions may, I think, be answered together. The third question asks if the Russian Government still talk of demanding credits as a condition precedent to acknowledging debts, and the fourth adds "Or is it true that they are no longer thinking of demanding credits; and if so, is there reason to suppose that they are likely to recognise debts?" Here, again, I have the advantage of reading the actual words with which the noble Lord supplied me. The answer is that we cannot tell what the desires and intentions of the Soviet Government are until we hear them from the Soviet Delegation at the Conference, pending which time their discussion cannot profitably be undertaken.
I do not think that the noble Lord could have expected any other answer than that at the present time. He knows perfectly well, and, indeed, has stated, that, whether the policy was right or wrong, the British Government elected to give de jure recognition and to leave all these matters over for future conference. Since that course has been followed, it is impossible to say what the demands of Russia may be or to forecast the general result of that Conference before the Conference has been held. All I can say is that His Majesty's Government earnestly hope that these matters may be settled at the outstanding Conference. No one is more cognisant than they are of the unfortunate conditions which prevail in great parts of Russia at present. It was the object of our de jure recognition that matters of this kind should be approached in a conciliatory and businesslike spirit, 1056 and to attempt to prophesy in any way what the result may be, would be a most unfortunate suggestion to make before the Conference itself is over. Those are the answers which I can give to the noble Lord, and I think they deal with the four specific questions which he asked me. On the wider point, as I have staged, I have no doubt the extracts which he has made from speeches are perfectly accurate, and certainly, if I express our view, they are extremely regrettable both for their extravagance of language and also as creating difficulties with regard to future Conferences.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, although the discussion in which we are taking part has so far consisted only of two speeches, it will, I think, be the view of your Lordships that it has not been without its value. In the first place, we have had from Lord Emmott what I am sure your Lordships will agree in regarding as a singularly well-informed, authoritative and well-balanced statement of the case. The noble Lord referred to the activities of a Committee which I had the honour to appoint, three or four years ago, to inquire into the political and economic conditions prevailing in Russia shortly after the termination of the war. He alluded in one passage to something which occurred in the Report of that Committee. His modesty prevented him from reminding your Lordships that he was Chairman of that Committee, and I can truthfully say that among the many war services gratuitously performed by noble Lords, and other public persons in England, none were more beneficial than the devoted industry and activity which were shown by the noble Lord and his colleagues in that inquiry.
In the course of his remarks Lord Emmott referred to something that I had said in the debate on the Address in reply to the King's Speech, on which occasion I dealt quite cursorily with the topic of the recognition by His Majesty's Government of the Soviet authorities, and my noble friend invited me this afternoon, if it seemed desirable, to add something as to the view which I entertained of this action on the part of His Majesty's advisers, and of the steps that His Majesty's late Government, had they remained in office, would in all probability have taken with regard to the further solution of the 1057 Russian difficulties. I will, to some extent, reply to that invitation in the observations I am about to make. Since the noble Lord spoke we have had the utterance of the noble and learned Lord, the Lord President of the Council. That speech was delivered with the noble and learned Lord's customary courtesy of manner and tone, but I am bound to say that an emptier speech, a speech that contributed less to the information of your Lordships' House, or that less answered the searching questions put by my noble friend Lord Emmott, in a somewhat considerable experience of debates in this House I have never heard. It will be my duty, in the course of the few observations that I shall make, to point out to your Lordships the respects in which the speech to which I have referred seemed to me to have been conspicuously deficient.
The first point is this. Where did we start this afternoon? The noble Lord, Lord Emmott, commenced by reminding us that in the opening days of the present Administration—I think it was before they had been in office a week—they gave this recognition to the Soviet Government. They rushed into this recognition in the most precipitate manner, bound, I suppose, in their own opinion, by the foolish assurances that they had given at an earlier date. They made no inquiry. They never paused to go into the offices of Government which they were just entering, in order to find out what information there was, and what was the exact stage of our relations with the Russian Government at the moment. They demanded no conditions. They asked for no quid pro quo. They gave full de jure recognition straightaway, unaccompanied by anything in the nature of inquiry or stipulation. What does the noble and learned Lord say about that? He says it was an experimental act. What he calls an experiment other people call a rash and foolish leap in the dark. That is what it was, and I shall show to what extent it was a leap in the dark.
Upon one point I need waste no words. It is, of course, quite true—and both speakers have tacitly acknowledged it—that de jure recognition of a Government which is already de facto Government of a country does not, in itself, constitute a very great difference in the immediate position of affairs. All it means is the use of a diplomatic phrase—the despatch 1058 of a Paper, of a document, and the substitution, as the title of your representative, of the designation chargé d'affaires for trade agent or whatever might be the name by which he was previously known. Mr. Rakovsky became chargé d'affaires in London, and Mr. Hodges became in the same hour chargé d'affaires in Moscow. If you look a little wider than that, what did it mean, and why was so much importance attached to it? It meant, in the first place, the sacrifice, without any equivalent, by His Majesty's Government, of the most potent means of pressure that it would have been possible to apply at a later date when they came to examine the question. Secondly, it was naturally regarded by the Russian Government as an evidence of weakness, amounting almost to surrender, on the part of His Majesty's Government. In the third place, it gave an enormous and, in my judgment, an uncalled-for accession of prestige and authority to the most despotic, most cruel, and in some respects the most barbarous Government existing in the world.
This experimenal act on the part of His Majesty's Government was accompanied by the Prime Minister, when he took over the Foreign Office, by a denunciation of those Governments who took a different view which I cannot help thinking was unwise. He talked about the "pompous folly" of holding aloof from recognition of the Russian Soviet Government. If that definition of our attitude be approved there must be a good many pompous fools in the world at the present moment and in high places in the world. As my noble friend behind me reminds me, high up in the category you must place the President and Secretary of State of the American Government, who have definitely and deliberately declined to proceed even to the discussion of recognition with the Soviet Government until they are satisfied, first, that the propaganda against the institutions which they value has ceased, and, secondly, that some recognition is given of the Russian debts to American citizens, amounting, I believe, to £140,000,000. Then among the other high authorities who are denounced as "pompous fools" by the present Prime Minister must be included the President of the French Republic and the Prime Minister of France, with whom he is endeavouring, somewhat cautiously and slowly, to re- 1059 establish by friendly correspondence cordial relations. I do not know that that operation will be at all facilitated by the use of the language that I have described.
Similarly among those who are equally guilty of "pompous folly "are the Governments of Japan and China. And what has happened in those cases? Japan for the last six or eight months—I am not certain that it has not been longer—has been engaged in an effort, by discussion with the Soviet emissaries at Tokio, to arrive at some understanding with them culminating in recognition. The negotiations have hopelessly broken down. The result has already been attained there which my noble friend Lord Emmott anticipates will ensue here a little later on. And even China, in her desperate state of weakness, has actually been driven so far by the tactics of the Soviet delegate who was pressing for recognition, M. Karakhan, that there also the negotiations have broken down and no solution has been reached. And indeed, if we contrast the category in which all these "pompous fools "of the universe are contained with the unpretentious wise men of whom Mr. Ramsay MacDonald is the leader who have given recognition to the Soviet Government. we find that the latter consist of Signor Mussolini, with whom there was an almost indecent competition as to who should get in first, but of whom your Lordships will not be surprised to hear that, unlike His Majesty's Government, being a man of business, he insisted on a very substantial return—Signor Mussolini in the first place, and the Governments also of Austria, Greece, and Czechoslovakia. In that estimable and distinguished company, His Majesty's advisers are marching to the solution of this question.
What have they got in return The noble Lord, Lord Emmott, devoted a considerable part of his speech to showing that they have got a good deal of what I think he called "virulent and calumnious abuse," and he read out a series of passages from the speeches of Zinoviev and others which confirmed his description. What did the noble and learned Lord, the Lord President of the Council, say in reply? He said these speeches were made for the most part to the Third International, and that when you address that class of person you have to be a 1060 little violent, you have to accommodate your utterance to the audience you are addressing, who are used to that sort of thing. It is no use giving them milk and water; you have to give them undiluted gin of a very fiery description. With all the resources of the Foreign Office behind him he was only able to excavate one relatively harmless passage from the various utterances of this gentleman.
But the unfavourable remarks about His Majesty's present advisers have not been confined to the meetings of the Third International, nor to the inebriated utterances of Zinoviev. The important Russian papers have themselves been very disrespectful. I have here an extract from a paper named the Pravda published at Moscow, and the well-known and authoritative organ of the Communist Party in Russia. This paper devoted special attention to the noble and learned Lord, and this is what it said of him:Lord Parmoor is a typical Quaker, a reformist, a sugar-mouthed humanitarian Peer of the Realm, who during the war worked hard to convert the anti-militarist elements of the Labour movement into despicable Socialist pacifists.That is the view entertained of the noble and learned Lord by these persons with whom he is about to enter into this experimental Conference. But you may say that, after all, the Pravda, like the Third International, represents only the more violent sections of Soviet opinion. Let us hear what the Izvestia, which is the official organ of the Soviet Government, thinks of His Majesty's advisers as a whole:The Socialist Government of Great Britain consiste entirely of reactionary Parliamentary Socialist members, representatives of the Radical intelligentsia and even pseudo-Radical representatives of the old bourgeois bureaucracy.I do not know exactly which of these labels fits the noble Lords whom I see opposite. I imagine each one of them will fit the label which seems best adapted to describe himself. But at least it is a good thing to know in advance what the people who are about to enter into conference with you think of you, and to know the type of amiable and complimentary persons with whom you are shortly going to find yourself sitting at the table.
The next point I venture to make is this. In return for this recognition, have you got, or are you likely to get, any 1061 improvement in trade ?—because certainly one of the reasons for which recognition has been advocated by the Party which is represented opposite was the desirability of relieving unemployment in this country by opening again the congested channels of commerce. Whatever trade is possible with Russia—and this point was very clearly established by Lord Emmott—can perfectly easily be accomplished under the terms of the Russian Trade Agreement, which was concluded in 1921 for that very purpose. But there was one point which the noble Lord did not mention, at least I do not think that I heard him mention it, and that is that no trade between Russia and Great Britain on a large scale can possibly be expected as long as trade remains a monopoly of the Russian Government. At the present moment 84 per cent. of the Russian export trade is entirely in the hands of the Soviet authorities, and only 4 per cent. is achieved by private enterprise. And, even if this situation of affairs was changed, how would it affect the problem of unemployment in this country? I looked up the figures of trade before the war, and I found that in the most favourable years Russia only took 4 per cent. of British exports. So that even supposing the best ensued, I do not think that you are going to get any very considerable augmentation, under present conditions, of British trade.
The third question I put is this—and upon this point the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, said nothing. Is there now, in consequence of this moral gesture, any cessation in the active and pestilent propaganda against British institutions, British influence, and the British Empire, which has been going on unremittingly for years, and which was in full blast when I left the Foreign Office between two and three months ago? We have heard about the "bulging corn-bins," which never bulged, because there was nothing inside them; but this I do know, that the pigeon-holes of the Foreign Office and of the India Office were bulging with information of these sinister activities to which I refer. When we concluded the Russian Trade Agreement in April, 1921, I pressed most earnestly, and with success, for the insertion in the preamble of that Trade Agreement of a solemn engagement by the Russian Government which we were quite prepared to reciprocate, and did, to 1062 abstain from all hostile propaganda against the interests or institutions of the other party. From the day that it was signed that promise was shamelessly and continuously evaded.
From that day to the present time the Russian Government has been behind the extreme Nationalist activities in Ireland, just as it was behind the Irish rebellion that took place in the course of the war. At the present moment in India there are Indian extremists who have been trained in Moscow for the special purpose of attacking the British Government and breaking down British rule. There are in India Indian emissaries who were specially trained for the purpose in a school opened with that object by the Soviet authorities at Tashkent. There is at the present moment circulating on the borders of India a paper financed by the Soviets with the object of stirring up disorder and rebellion in the frontier districts of the Indian Empire. There are at the present moment in South Africa Bolshevist agencies at work directing their activities towards the destruction of the Union of South Africa. In Persia, during the five years that I was at the Foreign Office, there was a continuous stream, unabated when I left, of propaganda and intrigue against British interests in that country. Last summer we published in a White Paper, which was circulated, the full information as to the simultaneous and corresponding intrigues of the Russian representative at Kabul.
Now I have shown this stream of activity circulating round the whole globe, and I submit that the noble and learned Lord, who has told us more than once that he has a room in the Foreign Office and who, therefore, has exceptional opportunities, might have done well before he agreed to this novel experiment, had he made some inquiries at the Foreign Office as to what was going on and as to the character of the persons with whom he was called upon to deal. Further, these people whom you have recognised are the people and the Government who have, as the title which they now assume of the Union of Soviet Republics sufficiently demonstrates, destroyed the independence and suppressed the nationality of all the small peoples round the fringes of the Russian Empire whom it has always been the traditional policy of the Liberal Party 1063 and, indeed, of all Parties in this country to support and defend. Where is Georgia? Gone! Where is Armenia? Destroyed! Where are Azerbaijan and Daghestan I Absorbed! Where are Bokhara and Khiva? Drawn into the same network of the Soviet system of Republies. In every one of those independent States or kingdoms independence has been destroyed, and the democracy of England, which thinks in holding out the hand of friendship to Russia, it is clasping hands with a democratic Government, is in reality only exchanging courtesies with the most terrible and grinding of despotisms that has been known in modern times.
The Government, in pursuit of their experimental plans, hope that there will be a change and that these people will turn over a new leaf. I recall one little incident that makes me doubt it. When the Conference was going on at Genoa a bombshell was suddenly thrown into the proceedings by the announcement that the Soviet authorities had concluded a separate agreement with Germany, known as the Treaty of Rapallo of April, 1922, Accordingly, a German Ambassador was appointed to Moscow much in the same way as the noble and learned Lord seems to anticipate that at some not distant date a British Ambassador will go to the same place; and—would you believe it? —last year, or the year before, when the revolution broke out in Germany and things were in rather a critical condition, the German Ambassador at Moscow appointed under these conditions of resumed friendship, had actually to threaten a rupture with the Russian Government and his own withdrawal from the scene because the Soviet authorities were shamelessly supporting the revolutionary policy in his country. That is the sort of thing you will probably have experience of here.
I think the question may not unfairly be put "If you denounce the recognition which has been given by the present Government as unwise and premature, how do you think they ought to have proceeded? How would you have proceeded yourself?" Because the condition of affairs hitherto existing is one very unsatisfactory to all parties, and from which everyone would have sought a release if they could. I will endeavour to answer that question. In the first place, 1064 had I come fresh to the office I think I would have made a careful study of what had been done in this direction during the last four or five years. Remember that this is not the first time that recognition has been contemplated. Mr. Lloyd George tried it as early as Paris in 1919, when he proposed a Conference at Prinkipo. At a later date we had the two Conferences to which the noble Lord, Lord Emmott, referred, at Genoa and The Hague, and the study of what happened at both those Conferences would really be very useful to anybody taking up the question anew now as explaining the causes why hitherto there has been such a complete breakdown.
Next, I think I would have waited for some evidence of greater stability in the Russian Government than at present exists. The noble Lord, Lord Emmott, talked about a schism which was developing between the extremists and the less extreme party. Indeed, it is well known that the political situation in Russia is one of flux and it is impossible to say whether the triumvirate to whom he referred will or will not retain their ascendancy a few months hence. Next, I would not have acted alone. The Prime Minister, when he assumed office, more than once described his policy as one of co-operation; by which he meant cooperation with other Powers, the great Powers of the world. In the present case, instead of rushing alone into this recognition, would it not have been well to find out what France was going to do, what America was going to do, and what Japan was going to do In how much stronger a position would you have been, had you decided to do it, if you had had the assurance of these great Powers behind you, or, if you decided not to do it, to know that you also had their support. I should have thought that that was an elementary consideration which might well have been borne in mind.
Then, would it not have been well, instead of dropping all idea of conditions, at any rate to have laid down certain broad conditions, broad principles in advance as to which you had a right to demand, and as to which you might surely have expected to receive, some assurance on the other side? Look at what America did. When the Soviet Government tried to get the same favour from President Coolidge, he said at once that he would not give de jure recognition 1065 to the Soviet authorities until, firstly, they had given compensation to dispossessed American citizens; secondly, had given recognition of Russian debts; thirdly, had abandoned their outspoken hostility to American institutions; and, fourthly, had shown works meet for repentence. That is rather a vague phrase, particularly when you are dealing with people like the Soviets, but I think, if you are going to recognise, you might at least have insisted upon the recognition of the external debt of Russia, upon the acceptance by the Russian Government of the principles of international law, and upon their reversion to what we may describe as the ordinary accepted standards of civilisation. Further, I think you might have sought for some kind of guarantee as to the manner in which the promises of the Russian Government would be fulfilled at a later date.
You are going into this Conference—and here I must confess that I was rather astonished at the reply which was given by the noble and learned Lord. Lord Emmott said to him: Can you give us any information as to what you are going to do, and about what is contained in the paper that Mr. Rakovsky took to Russia? All the noble and learned Lord said in reply was: We must wait to see the agenda paper of the Conference in order to find out what is in it. But the Conference is going to open next week, or the week after, and here is the noble and learned Lord, enthroned in a chair in the Foreign Office, who has not himself seen the agenda and has not the ghost of a notion what is in it. Nor I believe has any member of His Majesty's Government, and we and the public outside will remain in entire ignorance of what is going to be discussed until the Conference is well upon its way.
If I may venture to lay down the requirements which any British Government must hold in view in this intended Conference they would be, firstly, the recognition by Russia of pre-war debts. Remember that although our holding in those debts is very considerable, that of France is much larger. Over and over again I have heard the President, M. Millerand, and M. Poincaré discuss in most uncompromising tones their views on this matter, and we ought not to do anything which is calculated to cause alarm or arouse suspicion across the Channel. Secondly, I put the recogni- 1066 tion by the Russian Government of war debts. If you once abandon these things you have not in your bargaining a leg left to stand upon. Next, there is the restoration of the property in possession of the Russian Government—the restoration of the lands, houses, factories and other things of the various British subjects, living and trading in Russia, who have been despoiled, rifled, and plundered of all that they own by the Soviet authorities, and have never got one penny of compensation. You have got either to insist upon the restoration of their property, or compensation to them in some form.
Have your Lordships any idea of what these total figures amount to? They are pre-war debts, £167,000,000; war debts, £630,000,000; claims for property of British nationals in Russia, £180,000,000; total, nearly £1,000,000,000 sterling. That is your claim in pounds, shillings and pence against Russia. How are you going to get this out of Russia? It would be difficult in any circumstances, and impossible in all probability without a moratorium, but it seems to me it will be wholly impossible when you have given away all the cards with which you might have played, and have nothing in your hands with which to force them to the issue that you desire.
These are not the only conditions which any British Government has to bear in mind at the Conference table. I need not say anything further about the nefarious propaganda of which I was speaking a little while ago. You have no guarantees that this will be stopped. Further, if you want, as you say you do, the people of this country to invest money in Russia, to go into trade there, live there, work there, make their homes there as so many have done in the past, surely you have to ensure them conditions which will give them reasonable protection for their life and property, and which will not expose them to the arbitrary vagaries of the Soviet Government.
Have your Lordships appreciated the difference in the two situations? A Russian comes to this country. There is nothing whatever to prevent him owning property, and entering into business here. He has behind him the protection of the British Law Courts, the purest and the soundest system in the world. But if a British subject goes to Russia now and attempts to invest his money there, or to 1067 take up some occupation, or to embark in industry, he has no security at all. None. He is at the mercy of the Russian Law Courts, and the Russian Law Courts are at the mercy of the Russian Executive, which had it specially laid down in the Constitution that any decision of the Law Courts may be varied according to the exigencies of the moment as determined by the Soviet authorities. That is the system. It is a system utterly lawless and inconceivable, a system to which British subjects are at the present moment condemned if they want to trade in Russia. I have ventured to describe what it is I think that any British Government, whether it is a Labour Government, or a Conservative, or a Liberal Government, is bound to bear in mind at the forthcoming Conference.
In conclusion, I will only say a word or two about the topic which was raised by Lord Emmott, as I thought with great cogency. What do the Russians want 2 What are they coming here to ask for ? The noble Lord (Lord Emmott) said that he had seen some communications in some newspapers, I think, that there was some difference of opinion as to whether the Russian Government really wanted credit or not, or was prepared to abandon the demand for credit, and to seek consolation in some other shape. He asked for information on that point, but the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, was singularly obscure and uncommunicative in his reply. I have no doubt in my own mind what the Russian Government want. What they expect as the sequel to recognition is credit—money credits, long-term credits, not credits given under the Trades Facilities Acts, which are for the benefit of British subjects to enable them to trade, but credits to the Russian Government to enable them, not to give orders to British workshops but to rehabilitate their own districts, to restore their own productive forces, to rebuild their own factories to enable them to compete with British industry, and render them not dependent upon imports from this country. That is what they want credit for.
Further, if I might prophesy, I would venture to say this. You will find not only that they demand credits but they want cash. You will find an immediate demand for a loan, and a considerable loan, to be paid to nobody else but to the Russian Government. The noble 1068 Lord said that at some stage their total requirements had been estimated at £300,000,000, and that later there had been a reduction of this absurd total to £15,000,000 or £20,000,000. Whatever the figures may be I have little doubt that when it comes to business you will find that that is one of the first things they will want, and unless they get the money to re-establish themselves, they will do nothing whatever for you.
The noble Lord made another point which I thought was of very substantial importance. He said, supposing they get the money from you, or from other sources, what will they do with it? Ought you not to be quite sure as to what use they are going to make of it? If you give them money on the understanding that it shall be spent in this country in the encouragement of British trade and manufactures there may be something to be said for it, but experience tends to show that, quite apart from the consideration I have just named—the use of any money they get from you for the reconstruction of the internal resources of Russia—it is more than likely that a considerable portion of the money will go into the pockets of the Third International, about which the Lord President of the Council spoke in terms of very justifiable reprobation, and, indeed, that no small portion of the money will go to continue the propaganda against British interests.
You must remember—there is no concealment about it—that the object of the Soviet Government is not to restore British trade. They do not care two-pence about our trade. Their object is to destroy the British social organisation and to prepare the way for the triumph of revolution throughout the world. There is no concealment about it. They regard the organic life of Great Britain as the most formidable tower in the fortress against which they are directing their attacks. That is what they want to bring to the ground, and it is true that no amount of preaching, no amount of bargaining, will induce them to desist from that. It is the breath of their life, the rule of their existence. It is the principle upon which their new political principles are founded, and in meeting them at the conference table you are not dealing with the sort of people you ordinarily meet at International Conferences where you discuss and bargain 1069 with your fellow men who look at society from the same point of view as you do. You are dealing with men who come from another world, I will not say whether it is higher or lower, but it is substantially different from our own, and you are up against men who, whatever their friendly attitude may be towards you in a conference, will not be satisfied until they have destroyed the whole basis of society under which we exist in this country.
If I am right in this diagnosis of the situation, there is indeed some ground for apprehension in the Conference in which we are about to enter. That apprehension is not diminished by the knowledge of the personality of the individuals by whom, on the Russian side, it is going to be composed. The noble Lord has called attention to the fact that the Secretary-General of the Conference—I have the announcement in the newspaper with me now—is Mr. Rothstein. If it is the same gentleman, and I think it is, I know him only too well, or rather I do not know him personally but I know of his activities, and for years past there has been no more inveterate or unscrupulous agitator, whether in this country or in Russia, against British interests. But he does not stand alone. There is M. Rakovsky, and one of the most important members of the Conference is to be M. Litvinov. I know M. Litvinov. I was a member of the Government which had to turn him out of this country during the war. In the early days of the war he was admitted for a time as a sort of irregular Russian representative in this country, but so desperate were his intrigues that we had to turn him out, and on subsequent occasions whenever there was to be a conference here which it was suggested that M. Litvinov should attend, one of the things that made Mr. Lloyd George perfectly furious was the suggestion that this very man should be readmitted. Now all these things are apparently to be forgotten. Under cover of this conference M. Litvinov and M. Rothstein are to reappear on the scene. When the noble Lord quoted words referring to the activities of M. Kamenev he was probably not aware that M. Kamenev had also to made a sudden retreat from this country. I remember negotiations in which M. Kamenev was guilty of actions for which it is difficult for me at this Table to find a desirable epithet, and his active- 1070 ties were of such a nature that we were unable to readmit him to this country.
These are the excellent people who are to sit at the table and to whom you have handed away the whole of your cards in advance. I look with apprehension on the Conference. I am afraid a great disillusionment lies before the British Government and the British people. But at least in entering this Conference I beg of you most earnestly—after all, you represent this country and you owe a debt to the people of this country, and more particularly to those who have lost their all—to bear in mind those considerations of overmastering importance to which I ventured to call your attention a few minutes ago.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, the noble Marquess has given a vast range and generality to a topic which, on the Paper, was of a very limited kind, and the speech which he has just delivered has made me feel not a little sad. Here we have the spectacle of a man who has been in office for years, who has been controlling this very situation, and what does he present to us as the result of all his efforts? Failure. We are no further on in our-relations with Russia than we were at the beginning of the period. It is true there is no longer any talk of supporting White armies in their efforts to put down Bed armies: we do not interfere in any military affairs or with the internal affairs of Russia. God be thanked for that. It only led to an increase of that bitterness which has been characteristic of the situation right through, and we are well free from it, But when I pass to the suggestion of policy which the noble Marquess made, it certainly does not fill me with any sense of hope. As I have said, it is a policy which has given us nothing, that has produced no effect. I am not going to adopt phrases which were used by the Prime Minister in quite a different context, such an expression as "pompous folly." The Prime Minister did not apply that phrase to the President of the United States or the President of the French Republic.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
The noble and learned Viscount will pardon me. The Prime Minister on entering office said that he was going to abandon the "pompous folly" of holding aloof from de jure recognition.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
That is very different from applying it personally, from applying it to the President of the United States or the President of the French Republic. They, of course, take their own course. The Prime Minister was defining the principle as one of pompous folly. I have no doubt he gave it many applications, but he did not give it a personal application. He said he was not going to have anything to do with a principle which, wherever it relied upon force, had failed, and might therefore be described as a pompous folly. I am not sure that it was a very bad phrase, if you judge by results. What is it that is suggested to us? Is it that we should go on with this futile ploughing of the sands in the attempt to convince the Soviet Republic that it has been wrong, and that it had better yield to our pinpricks? It will not yield to our pinpricks. It laughs at them. It is there, entrenched, with 130,000,000 people, and it will not move. And what is the result? The noble Lord gave us a very sad picture of all sorts of territories turned into Soviet Republics, a process which does not seem to have stopped, and then he went on to call attention to this terrible Government in Russia and to the saddlebags full of propaganda which were being distributed all over the world.
He asked us to look at their operations among our own people and elsewhere. So far as our own people are concerned, I do not think that Bolshevist propaganda has had any material effect. If it has had any effect at all, it has only been as a reaction against the somewhat pompous denunciation which we have had on every kind of platform, and which does not appeal to the British democracy. We need not trouble ourselves about Soviet propaganda in this country. I have heard a great deal about it, but invariably from people who seem to have no influence whatever in counteracting it. Let the British people alone; they are essentially sane, and they will keep their feet against currents of air a great deal more violent than any that are blowing from Russia.
But where does the remedy, the deliverance from the present state of thing in Russia, lie? I do not certainly know that it lies anywhere, but I am sure there is only one source from which it can come, and that is through the people of Russia themselves delivering themselves from a bad Government, if it is 1072 a bad one. I am not here to make pronouncements about the Russian Government. I am not enamoured of it, and I do not wonder that the Pravda and other papers denounce my noble friend the President of the Council, and others of us as bourgeois officials—I think that was the phrase quoted by the noble Marquess. I do not mind being called a bourgeois official. I have a great regard for bourgeois officialdom. It has done very valuable things in the past, and will probably do very valuable things in the future, and I am content to stand here, regardless of the Pravda, as a bourgeois official.
My being a bourgeois official, however, does not prevent me from saying that it is great folly to try to impose your views upon the people of Russia. I do not know what the views of the people of Russia are. I do not think they have come to a complete expression of their mind, and the very purpose of this recognition, the object of the Government in taking this new step, is to encourage the people of Russia to realise that the responsibility is upon them, and upon them alone, and that we do not intend on our side to try any more of these pin-pricks which have led in the past to so little result. That being so, the policy of recognition is a very obvious one. Its purpose is to bring home the futility of one nation trying to interfere with the internal affairs of another. Russia may have what Government it pleases. It is the affair of Russia and not our affair. I protest stoutly against any policy between leaving people alone and setting out with sufficient force to impose your will upon them. You failed to impose your will upon Russia with a policy of pin-pricks, and there is no other way but to leave it to the people of Russia to put their own affairs into such order as seems good to them.
What is the prospect? My noble friend Lord Emmott has referred to the Conference and suggested that its composition may not be agreeable to either of the parties concerned. It is quite possible that the Russians will appoint representatives who are not to our taste, and that we shall appoint representatives whom the Russians do not like on their side. But what is the object of the Conference? It is its business to discuss matters in detail. M. Rakovsky is a man of ability and of very pleasant manners. He has come over here simply to state the points which he wants to have considered. That is how 1073 matters stand, and recognition was only the very first step in the process. Does the noble Marquess think that we are not able to take care of ourselves in that Conference? That appears to be his opinion. He seems to think that we are to be invited to hand over a large sum of money by way of loan to enable the Soviet Government to play what he regards as further pranks. It is not the practice of Governments in this country, as the noble Marquess well knows, to hand over sums by way of loan in that manner. Their practice is to encourage other nations to put their affairs in order, and when their affairs are in order they can come and borrow here and elsewhere from private sources, which fortunately are open, and where money can always be got by people who give good security.
In order that people can give good security, the foundations of their Government must be sound. That is the state of affairs which we are hoping may begin to come into existence. It may be a very slow process and it may be a process that will fail. The Russian people may not succeed in putting their Government right, but if they do not, there is nobody else who will. Of that I am perfectly certain. Consequently, the only sensible and sane course seemed to the Government to be to take the line of telling the people of Russia that it is to the people of Russia alone that we look to cure the deplorable situation which the noble Marquess has described, and to set up a Government which will be able to come again to the world, to borrow and to establish its trade and commerce. It may succeed in this plan and it may fail, but at least it is a less hopeless policy than the policy which has been a declared failure, and from which we wish to dissociate ourselves once and for all.