§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD rose to call attention to recent Soviet revolutionary propaganda and to invite a statement of the policy of the Government, and to move, That the diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Government is at this moment undesirable. The noble and learned Earl said: My Lords, the serious nature of the proposal which I make to the House will I fear make it necessary, but I believe not unreasonable, that I should support it by a more impressive citation of documentary evidence than is usually my practice, but I am not without the hope that your Lordships will be patient with me in the task which I have undertaken, for there is no doubt that the subject which is involved in this Motion is one which has for long deeply exercised the minds of our fellow countrymen. The issue of the present discussions—I do not merely mean the discussions in this House, but those that will follow at a later stage—will undoubtedly determine for good or for ill in many directions the fortunes of this country.868
§ I think it proper to make it plain that no one but myself is involved in responsibility for the Motion which I have put down. I may be told that the Protocol is to be the subject of discussion in both Houses of Parliament, that the proper time for this House to express an opinion is when the matter comes before us when it has been considered by the House of Commons. But I take a slightly different view. I think I shall be able to show that all the facts are to-day before the House and before the country, and that we are entitled that the House of Commons should approach this matter with the knowledge of the view which has been formed in this House. The most striking justification of the attitude which I am anxious that this House should adopt is perhaps to be furnished by the United States of America, and their treatment of precisely the same problem. We have been told not only by the spokesmen of one Party that the resumption of diplomatic relations with Russia will result in an increase of British trade with that country. It has not hitherto been generally believed that the United States of America are indifferent to the prospects of commercial advantage, and the circumstance that with all the identical considerations before them which have been before successive Governments in this country they have reached, and have founded upon unassailable logic, a con elusion wholly different to that which the present Government have formed, is one from which in my judgment we may reasonably draw certain inferences.
This matter has been before more than one American Administration. More than one Minister has considered it. The Italian Government approached America in the summer of 1920 to enquire what the attitude of the United States was in relation to the Soviet. In a long Note, of which I will only cite the most relevant part, Mr. Secretary Colby said that America would not recognise the Bolsheviks, not because of any internal Russian situation, but because
the existing régime in Russia is based upon the negation of every principle of honour and good faith, and every usage and convention underlying the whole structure of International Law…. The responsible leaders of the régime have frequently and openly boasted that they are willing to sign agreements and undertakings with foreign
Powers while not having the slightest intention of observing such undertakings or carrying out such agreements. This attitude of disregard of obligations voluntarily entered into they base upon the theory that no compact or agreement made with a non-Bolshevist Government can have any moral force for them. They have not only avowed this as a doctrine, but have exemplified it in practice.
On December 5, 1923, in his first message to Congress, President Coolidge said:—
Our Government does not propose to enter into relations with another régime which refuses to recognise the sanctity of international obligations.
Chicherin then cabled to President Coolidge the same kind of soothing reassurances which have been more successful when addressed to the present Government. He offered to open negotiations on the basis of mutual non-interference in internal affairs. To Chicherin's telegram Mr. Secretary Hughes, one of the greatest lawyers and one of the most distinguished statesmen in the United States, replied in the following terms:—
There would seem to be at this time no reason for negotiations. The American Government, as the President said in his message to Congress, is not proposing to barter away its principles. If the Soviet authorities are ready to restore the confiscated property of American citizens or make effective compensation, they can do so. It requires no conference or negotiations to accomplish these results, which can and should be achieved at Moscow as evidence of good faith. The American Government has not incurred liabilities to Russia, nor repudiated obligations. Most serious is the continued propaganda to overthrow the institutions of this country. This Government can enter into no negotiations until these efforts, directed from Moscow, are abandoned.
Not, be it observed, until the Russian Government declare that they are willing to abandon them, but—with the wise prudence of the Secretary of State—
until these efforts, directed from Moscow, are abandoned.
Finally, so far as this part of the subject is concerned, on April 14, 1928, Mr. Secretary Kellogg made the following observations upon the same subject:—
The present rulers of Russia continue to carry on propaganda through the Communist International and other organisations with headquarters at Moscow within the borders of other nations, including the United States, for the purpose of ultimately bringing about the overthrow of the existing order in such nations.
In spite of this, he pointed out, substantial trade had developed with Russia, surpassing the trade of either England or Germany. No great nation will willingly accept its policy from another, but a common outlook upon various elementary considerations of commercial morality has up to the present been so generally maintained between the United States and the Government of this country that we ought, I think, to pay deep attention, not so much to the fact that the American nation has reached this conclusion, as to the, grounds, stated with so much weight and dignity in the passages which I have cited. Has any answer ever been supplied by any supporter of the resumption of diplomatic relationship with the Soviet Government to the arguments on principle contained in the passages which I have read?
§ Consider how insulting from first to last has been the attitude of the Soviet Government to this country, and not least to the members of the present Administration. The Socialist Government—or let me say the present Government, for I wish to avoid any language that might give offence—were hardly in office when they announced that in their opinion it was advisable to enter into diplomatic relationship with the Soviet Republic of Russia. You would think that the making of this announcement, known to be a subject of bitter controversy in this country, would at least for a period, however fugitive, have brought a change of temper and of disposition. It is impossible, of course, to put yourself into the mind of a leader in the Soviet Government, because there are differences of mentality which make such mental substitutions impracticable, but, if one could reason as to what is likely to pass through their minds from anything which one has ever known of as passing through the minds of any other statesman of any other country of the world, one would have at least expected them not so openly to humiliate the members of this Government as immediately to begin to show that they had not the slightest intention of doing that which, according to Mr. Henderson, is the condition precedent of the step which the Government propose to take.
§ Let me, while I am upon that point, deal with a matter which requires elucidation 871 and in relation to which, when once elucidated, no further obscurity is possible. Either the Soviet Government has, in fact, control over the Third International or it has not. If it has control over the Third International, then the assurance of the Soviet Government ought, in traditional international comity, to be capable of being received as an assurance that can be made effective over every other body in Soviet Russia. We do not even know now authoritatively on the Russian side, though there is much contradictory evidence, whether it is the view of the Soviet Government that they do possess control over the Third International and the Comintern, or whether it is their contention that they do not, because when and as it suits them they put forward each inconsistent contention.
But let me remind noble Lords upon the Government Bench of what Mr. Ramsay MacDonald said in the Foreign Office letter, initialled by him on October 24, 1924. That dealt, as noble Lords will remember, with the Zinoviev letter. It said:—
No one who understands the constitution and the relationships of the Communist International will doubt its intimate connection and contact with the Soviet Government. No Government will ever tolerate an arrangement with a foreign Government by which the latter is in formal diplomatic relations of a correct kind with it, whilst at the same time a propagandist body organically connected with that foreign Government encourages and even orders subjects of the former to plot and plan revolutions for its overthrow. Such conduct is not only a grave departure from the rules of international comity, but a violation of specific and solemn undertakings repeatedly given to His Majesty's Government.
Paragraph 5 of the same letter, as it seemed to me with some slight but not very important element of inconsistency, refers to the Third International as "a political body as powerful as the Soviet Government itself."
We have other evidence worthy of citation from the colleagues of noble Lords who sit opposite. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer wrote to Reynolds' newspaper in March, 1927, in the following terms:—
It is idle for the Soviet Government to deny complicity in this hostile propaganda. The Soviet Government, the Communist International and the Russian trades unions are a trinity—three in one and one in three.
Mr. Snowden stated also, as reported in the Daily News of January 29, 1927:—
The violently anti-British character of the rising in China is largely due to Bolshevist inspiration….. Wherever there is a chance of stirring up trouble, they are there.
I would add this further illustration of those activities to which Mr. Snowden made reference. On November 19, 1929, after the discussions had taken place with the Foreign Minister, after we had been reassured of this change of mind and temper, Mr. Pirow, the South African Minister of Justice, stated officially, almost in the middle of that hideous attempt to provoke a native insurrection, that the following instructions had been received from the Third International, in writing, by the South African Communist Party:—
Wage a struggle against the native Bills and all other forms of oppression, not through petitions, but in a revolutionary manner. On December 16 (Dingaan's Day) militant demonstrations to be conducted under the slogan of ' Long live the Native Republic.' Mines to be penetrated by all possible means and a partial stoppage of work to be called for on December 14. All available organisations to be utilised for this purpose.
These instructions, according to the South African Minister of Justice, were despatched by the Third International with the object of inflaming a revolution among the natives of South Africa, months after the discussions with our Foreign Secretary. Are we to assume that these instructions were issued with the authority of the Soviet Government, or are we to assume that the Soviet Government has no power to prevent the issue of instructions like these in various parts of the Empire? If the Soviet Government has no power to prevent them, what is the use of making a Treaty or resuming diplomatic negotiations with the Soviet Government? If the Soviet Government has the power of controlling these matters, and deliberately refuses to exercise that power, equally what is the use of fooling ourselves in the belief that stable, honourable and beneficial relations can be established with people of this character?
It would perhaps be unfair to found ourselves entirely upon authorities which are non-Bolshevik in this matter. We have fortunately the evidence of very many admittedly responsible and influential Bolshevist leaders. I will
content myself with making reference to two of them. Radek said at the Ninth Congress of the Russian Communist Party, on April 2, 1920—and no one suggests that any change has taken place since—
The Third Inter national is the child of the Russian Communist Party. It was Founded here, in the Kremlin, on the initiative of the Communist Party of Russia. The executive committee of the Third International is in our hands.
And Stekloff—a man of great force and influence at that period—on November 7, 1922, said:—
The Communist International rests on Soviet Russia…. The mutual solidarity of the Soviet Republic and the Communist International is an accomplished fact…. The spiritual, moral and material bond between them is based on a complete solidarity of interests.
We know, therefore, that some months after the Foreign Secretary was giving those reassurances to the House of Commons, the body which had a complete domestic solidarity with the Soviet Government was attempting, in a part of the British Empire, to the centre of which those assurances were given, to foment a revolution, which by the admission of these authorities would have been impossible without the consent, privity and complicity of the Soviet Government.
In his statement to the House of Commons on July 5, 1929, the Foreign Secretary gave a general indication of the steps which the Government contemplated taking in order to bring about a rapprochement between this country and Russia, and he referred, as was natural and expected, to the question of propaganda in the following terms:—
If our Russian friends "—
Why he should call them "our Russian friends" I do not know. They have themselves proclaimed that they are the bitter enemies of this country. To imagine that you can conciliate the antagonism of those who loathe you, and who have spent more than ten years in trying to destroy you—to imagine that you can conciliate them by describing them as your friends, is the language of a man of a degree of simplicity which renders him little likely to be an equal match for his subtle opponents. Mr. Henderson said:—
If our Russian friends have profited by the experiences that they have had in the
last year or two…. I should imagine, unless I am very seriously mistaken, that they will be prepared to give the most definite undertaking that they are capable of seeing carried out.
What a valuable security! He would imagine that our Russian friends would, unless he was seriously mistaken—of course that is another qualification, but just consider the value of this assurance upon which the country is invited to act. Unless Mr. Henderson is seriously mistaken he would imagine—unless he is mistaken!—that they would be prepared to give the most definite undertaking that they are capable of seeing carried out. I suppose even Mr. Henderson has seen that they are not capable of carrying out these undertakings. Then what is the value of them?
§ Let me give another illustration. A few days previously, that is before Mr. Henderson's opinion was expressed, the newspaper Press in Moscow was greatly concerned with these matters. Let no one say when you are dealing with Russia, as the Foreign Secretary said a few days ago, in answer to a question—" I do not pay too much attention to what appears in the Press." I may state, for the information of the right hon. gentleman, that if he owned a newspaper in Moscow he would pay a great deal of attention to what appeared in the newspaper Press, and he would either leave for Siberia or leave his head behind him in Moscow, if he published anything without the approval of the Soviet Government. I could give instance after instance showing what has happened to newspaper writers or proprietors or editors who have written any matter which displeased the authorities of what used to be known as the O.G.P.U. It may, therefore, be assumed—and on this point I boldly challenge contradiction—that if in the leading organs of the Soviet Government a certain attitude is adopted and persisted in, it is adopted and persisted in with the approval, and indeed at the orders, of the Government of the day.
§ There are certain papers which have very high official authority, and I shall confine my quotations from them to those whose official authenticity is indisputable and has never been disputed, either in Russia or outside of Russia. A few days before this opinion of Mr. Henderson was uttered, the Pravda, in its issue of 875 June 29, devoted seven eloquent columns to Moscow's efforts for "a new revolutionary outburst all over the world." It wrote that one of the most important conditions favourable to a revolutionary attempt was that "in the great capitalist countries, such as Germany and Britain, the Socialists have come to power." We shall discover that they have changed their opinion in the weeks which have intervened, but that was the view on June 29. If there was a potential element of good faith in this matter when that statement was made by Mr. Henderson in answer to pressure in our Parliament, surely, knowing that the matter must then engage the attention of our Parliament, one would at least have imagined that, in a homely phrase, they would have kept a civil tongue in their heads for a few weeks.
Well, now consider this. It is from the Izvestia, also a very influential paper, which on July 6, 1929, said:—
The renewal of relations must be effected without conditions, and if anyone has the right to demand conditions and guarantees it is the Soviet, and not the British Government.
Then this article, very politely to noble Lords opposite and their colleagues, concludes:—
The MacDonald Government evidently considers that the U.S.S.R. is prepared to enter into preliminary discussions regarding the conditions of renewal of diplomatic relations. We dare assure Mr. MacDonald and his advisers that they are profoundly mistaken; the Soviet Government stands for unconditional renewal of diplomatic relations.
Well, why should they stand for unconditional renewal? Only one condition has ever been mentioned, and that is abstinence in our country and in our Empire from revolutionary propaganda. No other condition, except the matter of the debts, has been mentioned. Why should they object to a conditional recognition unless it be—as, of course, it is—that they have not the slightest intention of conforming to those conditions? There can be no other meaning; there is no other meaning.
And in advance, I may add, of the conversation between the Soviet emissary, M. Dovgalevsky, and Mr. Henderson, which commenced in July last, the Pravda, in its issue of July 24, stated:—
If the British ' Labour ' diplomatists intend to start the game with the ' terms '
card, this may easily be off-set by Soviet counter-claims…. Persons in Mr. MacDonald's entourage as well as certain organs of the Press are endeavouring to represent the renewal of relations with the U.S.S.R. as an act of charity on the part of the British Government. Such pretensions are absolutely without foundation.
Now this was not conciliatory or promising, but the moment that the Henderson-Dovgalevsky conversations had been concluded and the Russian emissary had left this country the Soviet Press became extremely vituperative, and, commenting on August 2 on what was described as the breakdown of the Anglo-Russian conversations, the pravda said that Mr. Henderson's statement to M. Dovgalevsky constituted nothing but a refutation of what Sir Austen Chamberlain had maintained for years.
The Pravda continued to denounce Mr. MacDonald and Mr. Henderson in the following terms:—
Mr. MacDonald, in a cowardly and shameless way, tried to agree to the Russian question with the United States, then asked the question of the Dominions, and consequently declared that the Labour Government follows the principles laid down in its Note of 1924 to the U.S.S.R. Mr. Henderson's refusal to agree to the immediate resumption of diplomatic relations with us exposes him as an agent of the reactionary, imperialist bourgeoisie. The British Labour Party after coming into power has become an instrument in the struggle in the hand of capitalism against the working class and Communism.
Noble Lords opposite will see what their proposed new friends think of them. I cannot understand, when a man does nothing but insult you and insult your country, when his behaviour in a comparable period, in relation to which no change can be suggested between the conditions then and the conditions as they are to-day, is truly described by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer as an attempt to excite mischief and destruction in every part of the British Empire—when those people so described by a powerful colleague of noble Lords neglect no opportunity of insulting them and their leaders, personally I cannot fathom their motive. There must be some reason which has not up to the present been made plain. Perhaps we shall hear it this afternoon.
§ Shortly afterwards, namely, on July 24, the publication began in Moscow of the report of proceedings of the tenth plenary session of the I.K.K.I., the executive 877 committee of the Communist International, an extremely authoritative and powerful body, whose activities, I believe, have greatly reduced the redundant population of that unhappy country in the last few years. The report includes new instructions for Communist parties and agents abroad. It says that there should be particular agitation "against MacDonald's Government, which is a Government of war and capitalist rationalisation." I must say that noble Lords opposite and their colleagues at least are adepts in carrying out the scriptural injunction of turning the other cheek to the smiter. Personally I should select a smiter of a different kind for carrying out this admonition. It also states that certain special slogans are recommended for these demonstrations, singling out the British Government, disarmament and the Kellogg Pact for special treatment, and proclaiming the League of Nations an instrument for organising a new war. That would probably please the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor. It is rather ironic when one comes to think of it. Here Lord Parmoor has been all these years organising a new peace, and his new colleagues with whom he is going to shake hands are publishing slogans saying that the noble Lord is an instrument for organising a new war.
I have taken a short selection from the slogans which are recommended by this authority:—
MacDonald is a faithful tout for Imperialism.
Unmask these servants of the bourgeoisie.
That must mean noble Lords.
Hail the Proletarian Revolution in England.
Defend the U.S.S.R., the Fatherland of the World's Proletariat.
Rally for battle round the standard of the Revolutionary International.
The Kellogg Pact is a cloak for increasing armaments.
Down with bourgeois pacifism.
The noble Lords get it all the time.
Down with the League of Nations.
Warmest greetings to the Bombay strikers.
Hail, the Soviet régime throughout the world "—
Hail the armed risings of workmen.
Hail the Red Army, the armed vanguard of World Revolution.
Not content with the land only, the new friends of the noble Lords had an opportunity which they did not neglect of approaching the crew of an English ship, and a specimen of the propaganda addressed to the seamen of a British vessel trading in the Black Sea was secured by the Times newspaper and published in their issue of July 27, 1929. As to its authenticity there can be no doubt, and here again the date is of interest, not long after the soothing and pleasant talks with Mr. Henderson. The object of this document was to provoke a one-day strike on August 1 and an extract from it was as follows:—
The fact that MacDonald has come to power—the friend of ' His Majesty ' The King of England, the champion of British Imperialism—who has been tried and not found wanting, will in no way slow up the feverish war preparations of the bourgeoisie. Seamen! dockers! comrades! you can and must do your bit in the general working class struggle against Imperialist War to defend the Soviet Republic, to liberate the Colonial peoples from the Imperialist yoke, to turn an Imperialist War into a Civil War—in a word, to emancipate the working class! In this struggle the marine transport workers will prove the decisive factor.
It is sufficient for me to say that if time allowed I could establish this proposition—and if challenged hereafter at a later stage I will do so—that, ever since those conversations which left Mr. Henderson under the evidently deluded impressions as to what he imagines his Russian friends would do, there has been an aggravation of their activities against this country. There has been an insulting intensification of them so injurious to the judgment of noble Lords and their colleagues that I cannot conceive how they can make up their minds to persist in their proposals in face of them.
It is worth while sometimes observing bow these matters strike quite a different country. A great French newspaper, Le Temps, made what seemed to me an extremely shrewd observation upon this matter. In its issue of October 1 it stated that any chance of getting Moscow to recognise the Russian Debt or to renounce Communist propaganda in Britain was lost by the throwing away of the one lever which might have exercised any effective influence—namely, the
desire of the Kremlin for diplomatic recognition. It added:—
At the very moment that Mr. Henderson is negotiating, with M. Dovgalevsky Moscow has instructed the British Communists to intensify their insurrectionary campaign throughout the whole British Empire.
I do not mind if noble Lords opposite ridicule the power and influence of the British Communists. Very likely they are not a very serious force at this moment but that is not the point. The point is, are we prepared to sign a treaty with men whose strength, whether at present it be negligible or be formidable, may easily grow. Are we prepared to admit men into this country who have proved by their actions in the past so that nobody can doubt what their activities will be in the future, that they will direct themselves to all the insurrectionary seeds there may be in this country and forment them with advice, counsel, and financial subventions? Is there any reasonable man who can defend such a proposal?
On October 5 a statement to which I have not hitherto referred was made by Mr. Litvinov, the Soviet Foreign Secretary. This is not even an official newspaper; this is the opposite number of Mr. Henderson in Russia. He says:—
Moscow has abated none of her demands for the unconditional exchange of Ambassadors between Great Britain and Russia.
Thereupon an official statement was sent to the Press by the British Government referring to the undertakings given to the House of Commons by the Prime Minister on July 2 that before relations could be resumed an under taking from the Soviet Government regarding propaganda would be obtained, and claiming that by the signature of the Protocol of Agreement that undertaking had been obtained. Two observations fall to be made upon that. In the first place, it is quite untrue to say that by the signature of the Protocol you obtain any such assurance. That claim has no foundation in fact. In the second place, and this is fundamentally more important—and I have indeed failed even to approach myself to my task if I have not made it clear to your Lordships—it is utterly unimportant what assurance these men give. They have given them all before in every corner of the world: they have broken
them all before in every corner of the world. I would not enter into relationship upon the strength of any assurance they may give and therefore it is utterly unimportant what undertaking they do give.
In spite of the fact that Mr. Henderson in his speech when moving the Resolution for the resumption of full diplomatic relations referred to the Communist International as organically connected with the Soviet Government, he was contradicted next day by the Izvestia, which had previously in an earlier issue stated a different conclusion when it suited it. They replied to Mr. Henderson:—
The Soviet did not and cannot promise to curb the activities of the Communist International, which is an independent organisation outside Soviet control.
I should like to ask whatever noble Lord may undertake the task of replying to this debate a perfectly clear and precise question: Is it now the view of the Government or not that the Soviet Government can control the Third International? Is it their intention to obtain for what they are worth—and that is little enough—assurances from both the Third International and the Soviet Government? Or is it prepared to admit a diplomatic representative, not of the Third International, but of the Soviet Government into this country without obtaining the slightest guarantee that the future activities of the Third International will not precisely correspond with their past activities?
It is almost inconceivable that they should be so simple and so foolish. The word "foolish" is not, I think, in any way to be treated as unduly severe, because the real power in Russia as everyone knows, at any rate for punitive and correctional purposes, is the O.G.P.U. and the chief of that is Menjinsky. He said this, and I would commend his carefully chosen language to noble Lords opposite and their colleagues—
As long as there are idiots to take our signature seriously, and to put their trust in it, we must promise everything that is being asked, and as much as one likes, if we can only get something tangible in exchange.
Is the official position of Menjinsky in any way challenged? Is it disputed that he was the chief of this powerful organisation? Is it disputed that in this respect
it closely resembles the Third International, and that its powers are comparable with, and not easily severable from, the powers of the Central Government? And here this gentleman, soon after the conversation with Mr. Henderson, and noble Lords opposite and their colleagues, says "as long as there are idiots to take our signature seriously we must promise everything that is being asked."
§ What is the actual situation? Let me summarise it without heat and without exaggeration. The Labour Government, when it was last in office, re-established diplomatic relations with Russia. The association so admitted was most grossly abused. No one as far as I know has ever disputed it, and indeed no one could dispute it, for no abler Foreign Office document was over published, or has seldom been published, than that which was initialled by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald in his memorable protest against the Zinoviev letter, and we must take it, therefore, that in the opinion of the then Government and the present Government the privileges then conceded have been grossly abused. I desire to put the question perfectly fairly. Can any reasonable man, whatever his history may be in relation to this controversy, honestly say that anything has happened since the diplomatic relationship was terminated by the Government to which at that time I belonged which can in any way justify the expectation or the hope that there has been a change of heart and that consequently there will be a change of practice?
§ Everybody knows we have had from their inspired Press, we have had from the lips of their most influential Ministers, we have had recorded day by day in the records of contemporary history all their conduct all over the world. We have the accumulated and unanswerable proofs that they are the same men to-day as they were five years ago and ten years ago. Then what is the object of all this? Why are we doing it? Why are we humiliating a great country by presenting the appearance that we have of touting to these men in order to re-establish diplomatic relationship? When our Secretary of State publishes an account of a conversation that he has had, or an expectation that he has formed, why are we to be humiliated all over the world by immediate denunciations and contradictions by men of this character and of 882 these antecedents? I do not believe that the people of this country, if they were ever consulted upon it, as to some considerable extent they were consulted at the last Election but one, would ever make themselves the accomplices of this act of cowardice and of folly. No one up to the present has given any adequate reason why we should run this risk. No one up to the present has extenuated the humiliations which are involved in this risk and I hope, whatever responsibilities may be undertaken elsewhere, that your Lordships, not for the first time in your career, may put it on record so that future generations may be aware of it, that whatever evil consequences may follow your Lordships have no responsibility, but that a most solemn warning was given by this House to the Government of the thoughtlessness, the folly, and the weakness of the course which they are pursuing. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That the diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Government is at this moment undesirable.—(The Earl of Birkenhead.)
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (LORD THOMSON)
My Lords, we have listened to a speech of the noble Earl which has consisted largely of the quotation of extracts from documents. I am afraid I shall have to pursue, to some extent, the same course, but not quite to the same extent. My first point is this. In his Question the noble Earl asks what is the policy of His Majesty's Government in regard to Soviet Russia? My answer to that can be quite simple and quite definite. It is to resume normal diplomatic relations with the least possible delay and at the same time to safeguard British interests not only in this country but throughout the world. Some noble Lords may think that those two objects cannot be reconciled with one another. It is to that proposition I propose to address myself to some extent this afternoon.
The reasons why His Majesty's Government have taken this step are, in the first place, that we want to do everything that we can to contribute to the maintenance of world peace, and in the second place, that we want to expand British trade. As regards the first of those two points, I put it to noble Lords, is it not a fact, as the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, said not very long 883 ago, that peace must be precarious in Europe and throughout the world while our present relations with Soviet Russia continue? No one who knows anything about the Near or Middle East or the Far East but must appreciate the fact that peace will be precarious throughout the world while these strained relations exist between us, adding daily to the bitterness the Russians feel for the British people.
As regards the expansion of trade I will come to that in a minute. Let me make the attitude of His Majesty's Government clear on another point. We say that relations with Soviet Russia should not have been broken off. We protested at the time with all the power at our disposal, and we were reinforced by the statement of a very prominent and representative Conservative statesman on this same subject. What did the Earl of Balfour say in this House in June, 1926, when the noble Lord, Lord Newton, I think it was, raised the question of breaking off relations with Soviet Russia? This is what Lord Balfour said:—…I cannot see what would be gained at the present time by breaking off relations with Russia. That carries with it obvious dangers. Does it carry with it obvious advantages? If it does, I fail to see them.
§ LORD THOMSON
The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition spoke in a very similar sense not long afterwards in reply to a similar kind of question, again from the noble Lord, Lord Newton. The noble and learned Earl seems to object to the question of time. I really do not think that is germane in a question of such general application. After all the Conservative Party were always urging their leaders to break off relations with Soviet Russia and always on the same grounds, and the opinion, the considered opinion, of a statesman of the stamp of Lord Balfour or of the noble Marquess cannot be overlooked and cannot be regarded as of purely temporary application.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
Lord Balfour was a member of the Cabinet which took the decision. There was a culminating series of offences.
§ LORD THOMSON
On the general question of, breaking off relations, let me read another extract. I quite agree with the noble and learned Earl that there may have been a culminating set of reasons which induced the noble Earl to change his mind, but I am now referring to the desirability in the general sense of breaking off relations with Soviet Russia. This is what Lord Balfour said:—It [that is breaking off relations] is an operation which carries with it no substantial advantages. It may give you the excitement at the moment of some effective proceeding, but it is utterly ineffective, it leads to nothing good, and unquestionably, if I may repeat myself, I do think "—and this is the general application—the condition of the world, the condition at least of the European world, at this moment requires us to walk in all these international matters with a very cautious tread.
§ LORD THOMSON
My Lords, that is why we at the time protested against the breach of diplomatic relations with Russia and that is why we want to renew relations with that country, because, indeed, as I have said already, peace is impossible—that is to say, permanent peace, peace without this continual irritant which makes it precarious, is impossible while our present relations last.
Now I come to the question of trade. I think, if I may say so, the noble and learned Earl made rather light of this trade question, and it is here that I have to read to your Lordships some extracts. In the year 1923 the trade of the United Kingdom with Russia in exports and re-exports was worth £4,481,000. In 1924, the year we recognised Russia, it increased to £11,000,000. In 1925, the first year in which the fruits of recognition made themselves felt, it increased to £19,257,000. In the year 1926, the year after the action of the late Government, it came down to £14,401,000. In 1927 it fell again to £11,290,000. In 1928 it fell to £4,801,000, a fall of 75 per cent. This coincidence is both curious and sinister. It is impossible for any fair-minded man to dissociate this fall in trade—
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
Can the noble Lord inform me how much of the sums referred to consisted of re-exports?
§ LORD THOMSON
I cannot give that, but re-exports are a very valuable part of British trade, just as valuable as exports. I have not divided them for that reason, but I do not think any business man will contest that. In the days of Lord Emmott we had it continually pressed. Re-exports are just as good for British trade. Now take the figures for the corresponding years in other countries. Germany in 1923 had a trade of just under £4,000,000 with Russia. In 1924 it increased to nearly £5,000,000. In 1925 it increased to over £12,000,000; in 1926 to £13,000,000; in 1927 to £16,000,000; and in 1928 to £19,000,000, our own figure in 1925. The United States in the same period increased their trade from £1,665,000 to £14,900,000.
§ LORD THOMSON
I am coming to that in a short time. I implore your patience. It is really one of the principal points I am going to try to make this afternoon. Before I leave this question of trade I want to point out this, that Russia imports some £70,000,000 to £80,000,000 worth of goods every year. We in this country had one-fourth of that in 1925. In 1928 we had less than one-sixteenth. I repeat, a most curious and sinister coincidence. So what were the results of this break with Russia? We deprived ourselves of all this trade. We deprived ourselves of representation in Moscow and our nationals in Russia of protection in their trade transactions.
§ LORD THOMSON
They will have some protection when there is a British representative in Moscow. I think the noble and learned Earl is mistaken. Our representative in Moscow did a great deal for traders and our traders have regretted his departure ever since. We deprived ourselves of the protection of our nationals, I repeat, and what good did we do? Did we stop propaganda? Was it effective in any sense, this serious 886 action of breaking off relations with a country having a population of 130,000,000? What did we gain by it? Nothing at all. We used a Nasmyth hammer to crack a nut. We did not crack the nut. We put the hammer out of action. It was a profound mistake in the eyes of most thinking people, and I very much doubt whether the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, when that decision was reached, did not have some misgivings.
§ LORD THOMSON
Noble Lords cheered that remark. I wonder if, in the lifetime of the late Government, several members of that Government did not have the most acute misgivings. I can remember several instances where their differences even reached the public Press.
Now I come to what is perhaps a more difficult point, to which the noble Earl devoted considerable attention. He has displayed great industry in looking up the sayings and the writings of various people in Russia, and he certainly put his case most moderately. I want to answer it in the same spirit. I want to deal with his point about the agreement with Russia, and how far we hold the Russian people, through their Government, to be pledged; because that really is the justification for the policy. On October 3 a Protocol was drawn up, and that Protocol laid down that—Immediately on the actual exchange of Ambassadors, and not later than the same day as that on which the respective Ambassadors present their credentials, both Governments will reciprocally confirm the pledge with regard to propaganda contained in Article 16 of the Treaty signed on August 8, 1924, between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.Noble Lords may criticise that method of proceeding, but I really do not sec that there is any practicable alternative to that arrangement of the matter. After all, at present we are dealing with Soviet Russia by a very roundabout channel. 887 This is most inconvenient, and an exchange of Ambassadors would certainly simplify procedure.
But note this fact: Article 16 of the Treaty of 1924 is the pledge that will be reciprocally confirmed between the two Governments. The pledge is in these terms:—The contracting parties solemnly affirm their desire and intention to live in peace and amity with each other, scrupulously to respect the undoubted right of a State to order its own life within its own jurisdiction in its own way, to refrain and to restrain all persons and organisations under their direct or indirect control, including organisations in receipt of any financial assistance from them, from any act overt or covert liable in any way whatsoever to endanger the tranquillity or prosperity of any part of the territory of the British Empire or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or intended to embitter the relations of the British Empire or the Union with their neighbours or any other countries.I ask your Lordships if any form of words could be much more binding. I know the point that the noble Earl will make. The noble Earl will say: "You cannot believe a single word that the Soviet representatives say."
§ LORD THOMSON
He will say that it is no good getting into any trade relation with them whatsoever. Well, to my mind that is a policy of despair. If you are going to follow up that line of thought, then we are never going to have relations with Soviet Russia and the present state of affairs is bound to continue indefinitely. Is that the desire of your Lordships' House? Will you vote in favour of that principle to-day? Nothing to gain, as has been proved by past results; everything to lose in the way of representation and trade. I submit that those are the only alternatives before you. Either you give some measure of credence to the representatives of Soviet Russia, to their Government, or else you throw up the sponge and there is an end of everything and you decide to eliminate from the comity of nations as regards yourselves all relationship with a country of 130,000,000 inhabitants, possessing vast national resources and—I may add this from personal knowledge—with a people whose sympathies are very largely British. That I believe to be a fair statement of the case.
888 But mark the precautions that the Government take and the assurance that they give you in this connection. I am going to read this part of my observations because it is most important. The noble Earl referred to many incidents as having occurred since the conversations between my right hon. friend Mr. Henderson and the representative of Soviet Russia, and he said that already on many occasions the Russian Government had broken its pledge. Let me point out that the Ambassadors have not yet been exchanged and the pledge has not yet been given.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
If the noble Lord will allow me, he entirely misunderstood my argument. My argument was that now, in this curious interim, they are stating that they are not going, after the Ambassadors have been exchanged, to put the same construction, necessary to our purposes, upon the understanding as the Government puts. That is a wholly different point.
§ LORD THOMSON
The authorities that the noble Earl has cited say so, but not one of those authorities is a responsible member of the Russian Government.
§ LORD THOMSON
I do not think that that is quite fair. I have not been in Russia now for five or six years, but my opinion is that those papers, provided they stick to the Government line, can go a great deal beyond what the Government would do. I do not think the Government take the responsibility for or agree with everything that appears in the Pravda or the Izvestia. They would, as the noble Earl pointed out, probably deal very firmly with a paper that indulged in propaganda against their form of Government; but a paper which went far beyond what they themselves believe in might easily get off. Let me return to my point. Ambassadors have not yet been exchanged and the pledge has not yet been given. When it has been given, His Majesty's Government will look to the Russian Government to keep it in all its implications. From the outset the Government have made it clear that they will regard this undertaking when given, covering as it does 889all persons and organisations under their direct or indirect control, including organisations in receipt of any financial assistance from them,as including the Third International. The Government are not blind to the fact that this interpretation has been questioned by the Soviet Press, but I should like the noble Earl to pay attention to this: His Majesty's Government have not renounced, and will not renounce, their right to take any measure they may think necessary to check foreign subversive propaganda, from whatever source it may emanate, I submit to your Lordships that one cannot go much further. If the noble Earl should unhappily prove to be right, if all the gloomy prophecies in which he has indulged are realised, His Majesty's Government have a perfectly free hand.
§ LORD THOMSON
The noble Viscount asks if the Government will use it? I have read a sentence which makes that as clear as daylight—His Majesty's Government have shown in the past that they will not tolerate such procedure, and they have no intention of tolerating it in the future.
§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD
May I ask the noble Lord one question? In face of that declaration, are we to take it that if propaganda continues in this country, or in the Empire, instigated by the Russian Government, the Russian Envoy will be sent out again?
§ LORD THOMSON
By the Third International? Yes. I do not want, however, to leave the impression in the mind of the House that propaganda is going to cease as though by magic. It cannot, in the nature of things, with a body like the Third International; but subversive propaganda and dangerous propaganda is very different from the silly, foolish evidence produced in the White Paper of the noble Viscount, describing the activities of a few poor wastrels in the docks. I have here the names in the pamphlet and most of them are the names 890 of women, and mostly spinster ladies, so far as I can see.
§ LORD THOMSON
I do not know whether these women have votes or not, but the noble Viscount will no doubt exercise his mind on the subject. Is that sort of foolish propaganda really serious? Let me quote a remark by Lord Balfour in the same speech—On our part we are confident that, with this nation behind us, with its traditions, its common sense, its love of law, its power of seeing to the essentials of the question through all the mists of arguments by which it may be surrounded, we have nothing to fear from the contrivances and intrigues of any nation under heaven.That is precisely the view of the present Government with regard to this form of foolish, clumsy propaganda. We have nothing to fear from it. We do rely most utterly on the sound, sturdy common sense of the British people, and the proof of it is this, that in point of fact the Communist Party is a quarter of the size it was. Communism is taking no hold in this country. In fact it is diminishing in its membership every year.
§ LORD THOMSON
The noble Viscount claims that that is the result of 1927. I am not in a position to give him documentary proof to the contrary, but I am certain that he cannot give me documentary evidence in support of his contention either. I submit that we have a far finer thing to trust to than the hasty action of 1927. We have the common sense of the British people.
Now I come to the point upon which great stress was laid by the noble Earl and that was the attitude of the United States of America. Apparently he wanted us to follow the example of the United States and do as they did in regard to Soviet Russia. I am a great admirer of the United States, but I submit that we have very different interests to safeguard, and that we have a very different proposition to face. Of course there is the obvious answer that the United States never had diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia, and there is a vast difference between having no relations at all and not entering upon them, and having them and breaking 891 them off. I submit, however, that there is a much bigger reason than that. I would like to remind your Lordships that after the War, while we as a country were spending £100,000,000 upon what Mr. Lloyd George has called financing civil war in Russia, while we sent 10,000 officers and men to fight against the present Government, and while those officers and men were co-operating with Russian troops who perpetrated appalling atrocities in South Russia, the United States of America were spending an even larger sum on relief in Russia. I submit that that ought, and does, make a very great difference in the status of Great Britain and the United States in Russia. We have to remember that conduct such as ours cannot fail to leave a trace of bitterness, while the conduct of the United States was bound to produce gratitude. We cannot follow the example of the United States in this matter, because we cannot afford to. But if the noble Earl points to the fact that American trade has increased I submit that I have given a very substantial reason. We have unfortunately ourselves to point to the fact that our trade has diminished and I submit that I have also given a satisfactory reason.
There remains only one point for me to deal with and that is the question of atrocities. I can well understand many of your Lordships expressing reluctance to have relations with a country like Russia, in view of the terrible atrocities and the large number of executions which undoubtedly have taken place. Unfortunately it is the fact that there have been atrocities in Russia for many years. I think it was Mr. Joseph Chamberlain who made reference to that, and referred to Russia in most uncomplimentary terms by saying: "When you sup with the devil you must use a long spoon."
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
That had nothing whatever to do with atrocities. He was talking about a dispute on diplomacy.
§ LORD THOMSON
I presume even when talking of a dispute on diplomacy he was referring to the character of the country when he made that observation. I cannot understand anybody's view of Russia not being coloured by the 892 atrocities which have happened there, and which have been faithfully described by Kropotkin and others. Take, for instance, "Black Sunday," when many thousands were killed.
§ LORD THOMSON
I am referring to reports from our own Embassy, and I think the gutters in front of the Embassy are described as running with human blood.
§ LORD THOMSON
Those undoubtedly were atrocities and circumstances which would make any humane-minded person reluctant to enter into relations with that country; but I imagine that even the Conservative statesmen of those days decided that it was necessary to subordinate their own feelings of humanity to the national interests, and they swallowed their disgust and said: "It is perfectly true we hate these things, but the interests of the British people dictate a course"—a course which lead to what? Not only to our lending large sums of money to Tsarist Russia but to our paving the way to a close military alliance. That is precisely what the present Government feels. We do not condone atrocities, we regret the executions that have taken place in Russia, but we say that diplomatic relations were broken off without adequate cause, and that breach of relations has been an irritant in Europe ever since. We believe that a resumption of diplomatic relations with Russia, bringing about, as they will do, closer contact between Russia and our people, is bound to tend to diminish the system of executions and atrocities that still prevails in Russia. We believe that it is in the best interests of our country to resume relations. We believe that it is absolutely indispensable for the general peace of the world. And that is the reason why the Government are undertaking their present policy.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, the subject matter of this debate is one which must cause serious reflection not only to your Lordships but to all interested in the great affairs of this country. I certainly admit that during the years that have elapsed since I returned from India, when certain events have taken place in our relations with Russia, my mind has at times been very much disturbed and shaken in the conviction that I have had, which is that on the whole it is infinitely better to have diplomatic relations with a country than to stand aside or to break them off. It is even more serious when you once have had relations, as the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, said in his weighty utterance in your Lordships' House. I have listened, as always, with great interest to the observations of my noble and learned friend Lord Birkenhead. I cannot think that your Lordships should agree with his Motion. When this matter was last debated in your Lordships' House, I said it was a mistake to break off relations. Whilst there was every ground for taking strong action against those representatives of the Russian Government in the Empire or elsewhere who were in any wise connected with the dissemination of propaganda, and it would have been perfectly right, and would have commanded the support of the whole country if those representatives had been told to leave, it was more serious to break off relations.
I do not pursue that argument. I refer to it only for the purpose of showing that those who think with me on this subject are consistent in what they have done. The Question asked to-day has been answered by the noble and gallant Lord in plain terms. He told us that the policy of the Government was to resume diplomatic relations, whilst taking every care to safeguard the interests of this country and of the Empire. I believe that to be a sound and wise policy, It may be asked, and has been asked with great force: "Why have relations been severed with those against whom the accusations can he made which have been referred to by my noble friend?" One great reason which would actuate me in the consideration of any such problem is that there never can be a world peace until you have relations with Russia, until you have managed to bring Russia into the comity of nations, and got her to sit round a table and discuss 894 questions with you. It might be that promises would be made which were not kept. Nevertheless, there is a distinct gain in having Russia sitting at the table, discussing matters with us and other nations actuated by the same influences and impulses as ourselves, and I cannot but think that in the end those discussions would have their effect on the Russian Government. But apart altogether from that, the Russian Soviet Republic stands at the present moment, and I do not suppose that any one would venture to say that he could see the end of it or that the system is about to be changed. It is there, at any rate so far as we can see, to endure at least for some considerable time. That being so, is it better in our interests that we should stand aloof after we have had relations with them, or that we should resume our relations, always remembering that every care will be taken to safeguard the interests of this country?
I would ask those who are interested in the Far East, and generally in all the relations we have throughout the world, to consider whether it would not be of advantage to us to be in diplomatic relations with Russia, with a Treaty which binds them—even if they fail to carry it out—not to distribute the propaganda to which unfortunately we have been accustomed. It is far batter for us to get such information as we can rather than to have no relations with them and to have no one to whom we can address remonstrances, no Government to which we can say: "Here is your Treaty: this is what you said, and this is what you have done: what is your explanation?" It does not matter what the Government is, it cannot possibly pass by statements of that kind, if it does not wish to stand condemned in the face of the world of having broken its Treaty and the faith to which it pledged itself. In that respect I think we should gain. I am not attempting to palliate one single atrocity or mischievous or wicked action which may have been perpetrated. For my part, I prefer to take my stand first upon the point to which I have already referred, and which I will not elaborate; and that is, as must be obvious to us all, that there never can be real security, there never can be a universal peace until we have managed somehow to bring Russia into closer relations with ourselves.
895 I would go further and say at this stage, particularly during the period in which we are discussing day after day what is to be done with regard to trade—I suppose those are the problems of this country agitating the minds of us all, which make men think that parties are of no importance as compared with the interests of preserving our world peace and at the same time of fostering the trade of the Empire—at such a time we must really ask ourselves is it wise for us to stand aside, is it wise for us to say that we will have no diplomatic relations when we have seen, as must be apparent from the figures that have been quoted, that trade expanded during the time of diplomatic relations? That cannot be disputed. I quite agree that you cannot point to a document and say it was through that particular action of the British Government that our trade was expanded; but diplomatic relations do encourage trade. I doubt very much whether any of your Lordships would dispute that. The breaking off of diplomatic relations discourages trade. The figures quoted are eloquent upon this point and need no elaboration. At this moment there are undoubted opportunities. I shall not enter into them. I am not for a moment closing my eyes to the risks, but they are risks that some are willing to undertake, proved business men who see their way to trade under certain conditions and no doubt with certain reservations. Our trade will be encouraged if we have diplomatic relations, for the reason that our own traders feel greater security when they can address themselves to their Government in case of any wrong that may be done to them, and in that way they may be able to obtain the redress which otherwise would fail them.
On those two grounds I support the view put forward by the noble Lord speaking for the Government and I would add this. At this moment we are unaware of the precise terms upon which the relations are to be resumed, or rather are to be continued. I would myself, I confess, have infinitely preferred an agreement to have been made which would have laid down in definite terms the relations to exist between us before we had the exchange of Ambassadors. It would seem to me far preferable, but, notwithstanding that I take that view, I am prepared to support the Government in that, having come to 896 the conclusion that relations should be resumed and having failed—if that is not an inaccurate term—to obtain the assent of Russia to discuss the terms before the exchange of Ambassadors, it came to the conclusion that it was better not to stand on too strict a formality but to exchange Ambassadors and then to discuss terms.
We do not at the present moment know exactly the terms which will be reached when they meet, but there is one article to which we attach great importance. I think it is Article 16 of the Treaty of 1924 read by Lord Thomson. That deals with a matter most in our minds, and rightly so because it is that which interests us most. It is the offensive conducted by Russia against the British Empire, because, I verily believe, the British Empire stands as the great model of stability in the political world, and because of the traditions which have made it rise to its present position and of the virtues which perhaps we think we possess but which the Soviet Government may think are absent. It is the British Empire which is in the main attacked. Here, where there is an opportunity, not through any fear but simply because it is so desirable that we should strive to continue relations so that we may foster universal peace. I do hope that the terms when they come to be negotiated will be as precise and as definite as may be possible, and for myself I rely strongly upon the words used by the noble Lord when he said that the policy of the Government was to safeguard in every way to the best of their ability the interests of this country and of the Empire. I am depending upon the Government carrying that out.
I know that it may be said, and with some truth I fear, that you cannot place the same reliance upon Russia as upon any other country with which you may enter into these relations. I know that may be said. I do not dispute that in certain respects opportunities have been given for challenging the action of Russia. Nevertheless, I have faith first in our own people. I do not believe for one moment that the propaganda of Russia will affect us. Indeed it has been shown that it has failed utterly. It may be said with some truth that the present Government has everything to fear from a Communist movement and certainly for that reason would be particularly 897 glad if any relations into which it enters may have the effect of stopping Communist propaganda; but, even if it does not, its effects will not be serious in this country. I am not so sure that the effect will be so innocuous in other parts of the world, and therefore I regard it with some anxiety, as I have some knowledge of it.
I believe we are nearer to getting a diminution and eventually I hope an absolute cessation of this kind of offensive against the Empire if we enter into relations under a Treaty containing an article such as has been read, strengthened it may be and possibly should be by examining it with greater care, and taking care from beginning to end, as I understand His Majesty's Government will, that not for one moment shall there be any departure from the Treaty. Should it happen opportunity Will be taken at once to draw it to the attention of Russia. I think your Lordships will have noticed the very definite statement that was made by Lord Thomson in answer to the question that was put, that, if there should be a formidable breach such as was suggested, the Government would not hesitate immediately to take the proper steps with regard to Russia. That being so, all I ask is that we should accept the view that diplomatic relations should be resumed, having been made confident, as we must be, that in the end, if only our diplomatic relations are continued for any length of time, we have greater opportunity of making our views permeate among the Russians than we have if we stand shaking fists at each other, refusing to discuss matters round the table or to enter into trade relations which help to make for the peace of the two countries.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I only desire to intervene; for a few moments in this discussion and only a few sentences will stand between the noble Viscount (Viscount Brentford) and myself for I am sure we shall all be ready to hear what he may have to say. I have, unfortunately, another engagement. There is one aspect of this matter, quite rightly not alluded to up to this moment, about which I feel obliged to say a word lest any silence should be misunderstood, but my words will be 898 very few, and I am grateful to the noble Viscount for allowing me to speak for a moment. That aspect is the relation between the Soviet Government and not only Christian people in Russia but all who profess any form of religion whatsoever.
Your Lordships are aware of what has been the attitude of the Soviet Government upon these matters. No statement that I can make is needed to confirm your Lordships' recollection, nor would any member of the Soviet Government be concerned to deny that from first to last they have been, and are, vigorous and determined opponents of every form of religion, and that they are determined, so far as may be, to resist and prevent the expression and the free practice of religion in their country. They are, of course, entitled to their own opinions, and if they confine themselves to the expression of their opinions and the effort to give them every sort of propaganda, we, in a matter of that sort, would have nothing to say; but they have in the past gone far beyond this, and in their treatment of those who profess any form of religion have certainly more than once violated elementary traditions of justice. Your Lordships may remember that on two occasions my revered predecessor, Lord Davidson, called your Lordships' attention in this House to the treatment of the Metropolitan, the respected and saintly Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in Russia, the Patriarch Tikhon, and I have some reason to think that representations made in this House were not without their effect in at least mitigating the treatment that threatened that saintly Prelate. Later on there was intervention in this country in the case of the Roman Catholic Archbishop Caeplak.
The two Archbishops and Cardinal Vaughan and the leaders of all the Churches in this country, in 1923 I think it was, signed a memorial in the name of Christian public opinion in this country against the treatment being then meted out by the Soviet Government to all who professed allegiance to any form of religion whatsoever. If that had been the case to-day I confess I should have found it hard to reconcile myself to entering into relations even of diplomatic cordiality with a Government which was 899 capable of acts such as these. The information which I have received, though the situation is always extremely confused in Russia, is such that, while the position of the Soviet Government to any profession of religion remains what it was, while in many subtle ways that would not be tolerated in this or any other country the profession of opinion and even the holding of opinion is visited with every sort of subtle hardship and punishment, yet there has been and is for the present a cessation of those more flagrant violations of the elementary principles of justice that led to those protests that were made some time ago.
I am speaking here, I know, for multitudes of citizens of this country and in Europe and Russia itself, and if any word that I could speak would alleviate the position not only of Christians but of members of every form of religion, including Jews and others—if I felt any action I could take or word I could speak at this moment against the Soviet Government would help the cause of elementary justice in that country, I should not hesitate to take that action and utter that word; but the information which I have is such as to give me reason to think that we should be doing a disservice at this present time to those who profess religion in Russia if their position was in any way involved in the immediate issue that is before your Lordships' House. On the contrary, it is, I think, very probable that there is more chance of procuring some alleviation of their most difficult position if representations could be made on the part of this Government by ordinary diplomatic means to the Soviet Government than if we were at present to involve the cause of religious people in Russia with denunciations of the Soviet Government.
How far the promises made could be tested I have neither the desire nor the right to discuss. As I have said we have nothing to do with the opinions which any foreign Government may choose to profess on these great matters. We are only concerned—and there I hope we have concerned ourselves—when they act against the elementary principles of justice. I am trying to keep in the closest possible touch with those in Russia whose information can be trusted. It is extremely difficult to get at the truth. I shall feel bound to continue the closest 900 vigilance in this matter. If I were to find that there was any recrudescence of those more flagrant acts of injustice to which attention was Galled some years ago, I should not hesitate to call your Lordships' attention to them in this House, and to make necessary representations to His Majesty's Government. If it should happen, in spite of the influence which the Government may have if they proceed with these negotiations with the Soviet Government, if, in spite of the representations which I am certain they would feel bound to make, there was any recrudescence of such acts of really indefensible injustice, I know that neither this nor any other Government would feel that the only bond which bound it to another Government diplomatically was a bond of mutual advantage in trade, but that it also must be a bond of allegiance to the common instincts of mankind and the first principles of justice.
§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD
My Lords, I had not intended, though I have a note or two on the question, to refer to the subject about which the most rev. Primate has just spoken; I am taking my stand rather on the same lines as the American Government took their stand. I want to rule out, if I can, all small points. I am taking my stand on this, that it is undesirable to resume diplomatic relations with the Soviet of Russia because their principles, political, moral and religious, are such that we cannot have any part or lot with them. The most rev. Primate began by speaking of the hardships which had been imposed upon Christians in Russia, and I am bound to confess that I thought he was going to speak in favour of the view I hold, that it is undesirable to resume diplomatic relations, but in the middle of his speech he rather branched off because he said he had come to the conclusion that there was at the moment no actual cruelty being perpetrated such as that to which he referred in the opening part of his speech.
The point I want to make particularly, and to which I want to draw the attention of the most rev. Primate, is that the Russian Government, whether cruel or not at any particular moment, is trying to break down the religious system, not merely the religious system to which the most rev. Primate belongs but all religious systems. Quite recently, in August, 901 1929, there was a great meeting of what are called the Red Pioneers—that is the Communist youth of Russia—and one of the Russian officials, Yaroslavski, a man of great prominence and position, laid down that it was the duty of the schools to fight against all religion. He said:—We ought to wage a pitiless war against religion, not only in our schools, but in the bosom of the family. The Pioneer "—I commend this with very great respect to the most rev. Primate who is willing to resume diplomatic relations—
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
If the noble Viscount will pardon me, may I say that I deliberately and expressly refrained from taking any part in the discussion whether it is or is not desirable at this moment to enter into diplomatic relations with the Soviet Government?
§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD
I am glad to hear that the most rev. Primate is not with them, but at the same time I think it is desirable that everybody who takes the view that relations should be resumed should know exactly the position. Yaroslavski went on:—The Pioneer should be a front-line fighter in the advance trenches against God. You will organise groups of atheist children, and when you are older you will enrol in the battalions of those who fight God.The present Minister of Education, Lunatcharsky, sent his good wishes to a new paper in Russia and said:—With all my heart I wish the godless every success in the fight against the repugnant spectre of God.I am very glad that the most rev. Primate is not in favour of resuming diplomatic relations with a Government whose basic foundation is hostility in every possible way against religion and against God. It is partly because of that, and also because of the quotations made by my noble and learned friend the Earl of Birkenhead, from the Despatches of the various Secretaries of State of America that I say that no ordinary country which has ideas of right and wrong, which appears to distinguish between right and wrong, can properly enter into diplomatic relations with Russia.
The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, spoke, as did the Secretary of State for Air, almost appealing ad misericordiam to get us to resume relations 902 in spite of the fact that we know that they are at present continuing their propaganda, and almost went so far as to say—certainly the noble Marquess did—that in order to accomplish universal peace it was right that we should resume diplomatic relations with this Government, in spite of the fact that we know that they could not be depended upon in the past and probably cannot be depended upon in the future. The noble Lord opposite was good enough to quote from speeches made by the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, and the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, who leads this side of the House. I have those speeches and I should like to call the attention of your Lordships to them. I am bound to confess that the extract from Lord Balfour's speech was new to me and impressed me considerably. But what was the position? From the time we took office we were constantly at difference with the Russian Government because of their propaganda. Not once or twice but I believe three times our Secretary of State made very strong representations indeed to the Russian Government, quite as strong I am sure as the noble Lord will make if there is trouble in the future, and each one of those strong representations was treated with scorn by the Russian Government. The breaking off of relations was not a sudden idea. It had been in the minds of His Majesty's Government for a year or more before. If your Lordships will allow me, I should like to draw attention to the speech which Lord Balfour made in this House on June 17, 1926.
§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD
It is the speech the noble Lord opposite quoted, but you will find later on this sentence, which was, I think, the basis of Lord Balfour's meaning:—I think that at all events until the situation develops in the manner in which I earnestly hope it will not develop, we should go on diplomatically as we are going on now.We did go on diplomatically, as the noble Lord said. We went on diplomatically although the situation was going from bad to worse. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, spoke in this House on the same question on March 3, 1927, and I would like to draw the attention of 903 the Secretary of State for Air to the very clear definition of the position given by my noble friend. I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I read a rather long extract:—It is quite clear that, although all I have said I believe to be profoundly true, yet there is a point beyond which we cannot go and there is no use in concealing that. I am sure that it is not in the interests of the prosperity of the world, or of Europe, that we should pretend that we will put up with everything. That is not the case. It is not a trivial matter. It is a substantial matter. It is a question of whether we shall not, if we go too far, destroy the authority of this country or injure it, and there is a question whether there will not be direct damage to our interests—I do not mean merely our trade interests, but our interests as a great Asiatic power, for instance—if we allow things to go beyond a certain point. It is necessary to show that, although we are deeply conscious of our responsibilities, yet there is a point beyond which it is impossible we should go.That point was reached at or about the time when the raid was made on the building of Arcos.
The noble Lord made an attempt to cast scorn on what was found. I will not go through the whole of the White Paper, but one thing was found which showed quite definitely that money which was sent to the Communist Party in this country was paid through a Moscow bank to the commercial attaché of the Russian Government at the Russian Embassy in Chesham Place. That diplomat was the channel for handing money from Russia to the Communist Party in this country. That was what broke the patience of His Majesty's Government. That was what made us determined that we could not possibly continue any longer relations with a nation which deliberately and persistently in our own country fomented revolution and in our Empire tried its utmost to break down the position of the British Empire. The whole fundamental position of the Soviet Government is world-wide revolution. They boast about it. Their object as a Government is to promote world-wide revolution in order to convert all other nations to the Communist policy of the Soviet Government.
I have no objection to any form of government that Russia likes to have. Let them be Communists as far as ever they like. But I have the strongest objection to any other Government proselytising against the Constitution of my 904 own country. Surely noble Lords must see that the comity of nations cannot permit another nation to interfere with the internal affairs of our own country. We should not expect Germany, France or the United States to foment trouble in India or in any other part of our Empire, and yet we know, and noble Lords opposite know as well as we do, that this is exactly what the Russian Government has been doing up to this very moment in regard to our own country and our Empire. The noble and learned Marquess, probably knowing more about India than any other member of this House, did admit towards the close of his speech his great anxiety as to the effect of this propaganda in our great Indian Empire. We know that it has been going on. Noble Lords opposite can have information which is now no longer in my possession, but which is in the possession of the India Office, the Foreign Office, and the Home Office.
One point has not been referred to by my noble and learned friend who spoke first. I do not want to read a lot of documents or to detain the House long, but at Moscow only last year the World Congress of the Third International laid it down quite definitely that the overthrow of capitalism is impossible without violence, without an armed rising of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, and Bukharin, a member of the Cabinet and of the Politbureau in Russia, said quite definitely that the duty of the Communist Party here was to lead the strike movement and to adopt revolutionary activity against the Government. We have had that going on for some years. Are we now going to say that we will accept the suggestion that it is not going on any longer? Just consider what, I think, is quite the worst document they have published—the document in favour of revolt in India, published in March this year and referred to some little time ago in the House of Commons. This is not a newspaper pamphlet, but is issued by the Communist International itself, the Comintern, for the support of the revolutionary movement in India. The noble Lord admits that the Comintern is controlled by the Russian Government, and that the Russian Government is responsible for the action of the Comintern.
§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD
I know that, but we have heard a good many denials from the Russian Government. The noble Lord is a member of His Majesty's present Government and I imagine that he will be content with the statements of his colleague, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which have already been referred to and are common knowledge. Further, the Prime Minister himself, when he was dealing with the matter a few months ago, said to the House of Commons:—Is this propaganda legitimate or illegitimate? I say it is illegitimate.I am sure the noble Lord will feel himself bound, as a member of the Cabinet, by the views of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What was this document? It is headed:—Long Life to the Soviet Republic in India.And it goes on to say:—Imperialism is descending with brutal terrorism upon the proletariat in the hope of smashing it before the peasant reserve forces can come to its aid.Then there follows:—The rise of revolution in India will put new life into the revolutionary movement in China…. The day is approaching when in India the union of a proletariat revolution with Colonial insurrection will be realized.It is a supposedly friendly country that publishes that document to incite to revolution in a portion of His Majesy's Dominion. You say to me: "Make terms with them again and rely upon their word." All through the time when we were in office we could not rely upon their word. As I have told the House, propaganda continued. We protested and protested, but still they went on. Does the noble Lord think his protests will be more effective than ours?
I agree with the noble and learned Marquess that it would have been far better if, before this new diplomat came here, the whole thing had been agreed in black and white. It was not to be so. He is to come here, and he is to come under the risk, as I said just now, of having to be turned out again if they still continue this propaganda. I must admit that I was rather surprised that 906 the noble Lord was so bold as to make that statement. I thank him for it. I am glad to feel that we may rely upon it. But let me suggest to him that the position of affairs, if that happens again, the friendliness and the desire for peace that the noble Marquess was so insistent upon, will be in far worse case than it is at present. The diplomats of a great nation may be turned out once, but if they are turned out twice by a country like Great Britain because of their unfair and hostile propaganda in this country, the position, as I am sure the noble Lord will agree, will be far worse.
I am not going to deal with the trade position. My noble friend Lord Melchett would like to say something on that point. I want to end with one more extract. As I said at the beginning, I base my opposition to this further Treaty with Russia on the highest possible ground—that they are not a nation whom we of Great Britain, with our thoughts and our ideas, can possibly trust. Various extracts were read by my noble and learned friend from Despatches from some of the Secretaries of State in America. There is one American who, if I may say so, stands perhaps the highest of all at the present time. Mr. Elihu Root is a great statesman and lawyer in America. At the end of 1925, when Mr. Hughes retired from the Secretaryship of State, a dinner was given in his honour in New York. I shall conclude with, and adopt, if I may, as my own view, the words of Mr. Elihu Root in regard to the Russian position. He said:—He (Mr. Hughes) knew that recognition means that each Government accepts the implied assurance of the other Government that it will maintain true friendship, true respect, true observance of the obligations of good neighbourhood.Does the noble Lord really think—I pause to ask him—that this is really the case at the present time? Mr. Root went on to say:—He knew also that the fundamental doctrine of the men who govern Russia now is that it is their mission in the world to overturn and destroy the Government of the United States, of England, of France, of all the civilised nations of the western world.That was Mr. Root's view, that is my view, and I should be surprised indeed if in his heart of hearts it is not the view of the noble Lord opposite. If not, he 907 pits himself against Mr. Root and the whole of the statesmen of the great American nation. Mr. Root went on:—He knew that in the first place the act of recognition would be a formal and a solemn lie, a false pretence of accepting the obligations of the Bolshevist rulers of Russia to observe friendship to the Government and the people of the United States.I cannot put the views that I hold in regard to this action of the Government in words half as good as those used by Mr. Elihu Root. I do not believe in the honesty or the fairness or the desire for good relations of the Russian Government towards this country. I believe, on the contrary, that they are bound by the very basis of their Communist principles, whether in diplomatic relation with us or not, to be hostile not merely to this country but to the Empire and to all for which it stands.
§ LORD MELCHETT
My Lords, I do not intend to detain your Lordships very long at this hour, but there is one point which, curiously, has not been mentioned by any speaker, but which seems to me to have an important bearing on our discussion. I should like to refer to the Protocol itself, and especially to Article 9 which reads:—The steps to be taken, as set out in the preceding paragraphs, including the decision concerning the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, will be brought for approval before Parliament early at the beginning of the next Session. Immediately after this question shall have been discussed in Parliament, each of the two Governments will take the usual steps for the appointment of their respective Ambassadors.I would like to ask the Government whether they consider that Article 9 of their Protocol has, or has not, been carried out. Certainly the Government have never brought this question before this House, which after all is part of Parliament, for approval. Neither, if this thing is to come "for approval before Parliament early at the beginning of the next Session," could it do so until next year, because when this Protocol was issued we were in the present Session of Parliament, and a new one will not begin until after this Session ends.
In spite of the Protocol they have appointed Ambassadors, and I want to know by virtue of what authority His Majesty's Government have made the appointment. The Protocol says—Immediately after this question shall have been discussed in Parliament.908 It says that first there shall be the approval of Parliament, and then after discussion something shall be done. Does it mean that even if the Government are defeated in this House they will still appoint their Ambassador? It is the most extraordinary draftsmanship of a State document that I have ever seen, and I think we should be told why this question would never have been raised in this House if the noble Earl had not brought the matter forward on his own Motion.
I do not want to go over the whole ground of the long discussion this afternoon. I think the whole discussion can be summarised in relatively a few words. First, let us strip ourselves of the idea which still seems to haunt the minds of many, that in dealing with the Russian Government you are dealing with a Government of a character which the world has ever seen before. Let us strip ourselves of any idea that the precise language of any document which they, or we, may sign has any bearing upon the subject. Let us recognise that the present Soviet Government represents a Party which has repudiated as fundamental the belief in all documents. It has openly stated that it has no regard for them, and it is founded upon the basic fact that it has to create a world revolution. It believes in its doctrines with the same fanaticism as the Mahomedan. Let us give them credit for honesty in their convictions, foolish and mad as we believe them to be. Let us also remember that the Third International is the master of the Soviet Government and not the Soviet Government the master of the Third International. When we have got that fully in mind the difficulties will disappear.
The Russian Government may sign anything which His Majesty's Government may ask them to sign, but they have about as much power as the present Government would have if they seriously offended their masters, the Labour Party. Stalin is himself a member of the Third International and so are half of the Cabinet, and you are asking the Cabinet to control a body of which half of them are members, while saying they have no responsibility. Such an absurdity I have never seen in the world. We are a serious people and the Russians are not, and they must read with 909 laughter the speeches which we are making, and the speech which the noble Lord has made, in pathetic terms, expressing his hope that they will mend their ways in the future. Why should they? They get everything they want. Why not, before diplomatic relations are resumed, have cleared up definitely the point whether this Treaty includes the Third International propaganda or does not? Why put the British Ambassador in the insulting position of going out to Moscow only to be recalled at the end of a fortnight? Why ask a gentleman to occupy a palace in Chesham Place, if you are going to request him to hand in his papers and depart at the end of a month?
It is not a difficult question. The whole question is: Do you, or do you not, agree that this Treaty includes the Third International propaganda? It does not require ten minutes to answer that question, and if it were answered then the noble Lord might have something to say for it. We are all agreed that we will not tolerate this propaganda in the Empire and will do our best to stop it; but when we speak of peace, who is carrying on the war? The Russian Government are carrying on the war—a war much more deadly than a war of shells and poison gas—a war of inciting to insurrection and rebellion, of poisoning the minds of men in our own country against government and order—a war which you cannot meet in the open field. To that Government, carrying on that war, for the sake of a few million pounds of trade we are to sell ourselves. I am astonished that a Socialist Government should come down to this House and preach a doctrine of that kind. I have been in business all my life, and I control many business undertakings, but I should be sorry to think that we have sunk so low that we should have to adopt, not business relations, but official recognition of such a Government, in order to enable us, by long terms of credit and hazardous terms, to increase our trade.
The noble Lord read some figures and I was much impressed until I went into them a little more fully. I found out that a large number of those figures consisted of export of cotton and other things which used to be reshipped to Russia. He spoke of them as if they were of the same value as exports of British goods. 910 He really cannot have thought of what he was talking about. Of course the Bolshevist Government is always telling us that somebody else is getting their business, but whenever I meet American and other business men they always tell me that they are closing down with Russia because they cannot rely upon her. You cannot rely upon that kind of propaganda stopping. But leave it to the business people of this country to deal with that matter; I think they are quite able to do it. To appoint a Minister or an Ambassador is not a vital matter in that question at all. It is a question of whether or not capital in this country is of so speculative a character that the investing of it under a régime such as exists to-day in Russia is not a risk compared with which even the Wall-Street crash may appear to be a safe transaction.
But that is a side issue. Once you have started on this course again you cannot go back. You cannot play fast and loose, and shuttle-cock Ambassadors about from week to week as if they were people of no importance. It is evident from all the literature that comes from Russia. And why does the noble Lord say he does not believe that the leading Russian papers, Government papers, are expressing in their leaders and articles the views of those who, after all, control them? He knows as well as I know that they control them. Does he mean to say that the Russian Government seriously meant to include in the ban on propaganda the Third International? If so, would they not have prevented their papers vehemently denying, since Mr. Henderson's speech on November 5, the fact that the Third International is involved in these negotiations at all? Even in other countries, where the Government does not own the Press, it is a well-known fact that in affairs of foreign policy the leader writers on foreign affairs get guidance from the Government as to the line they shall take. All the evidence goes to show that once more the Soviet Government will refuse, as they always have done, to accept any responsibility for the Third International. And, even if they did, the noble and gallant Lord himself admitted that this propaganda could not cease at once; there are too many people in the department which is involved. The propaganda will be more 911 diluted, but not necessarily less dangerous, perhaps rather more dangerous and less responsible. And we are to go on with this festering sore throughout the world. I have in my office now the most terrible picture of British soldiers killing Chinese men and women—most poisonous propaganda, all put out by the Bolsheviks.
What is the solution? Not despair. It is to say to the Russian people, who do not happen to be Bolsheviks or the Bolshevist Government: "If you will put in a Government we can deal with, we will gladly deal with you. We are your friends." I was told by a leading Russian that we should do much more trade with Russia if the Russian people did not believe that we were supporting the Bolshevist Government, which they detest. It is a mistaken idea that the Ukraine, one of the largest consuming centres of Russia, which is living in a state of conflict with Moscow, desires us to support the Soviet Government. Their leaders have informed me and others in this country that we should do a great deal more business in that country if we were not supporting the Soviet Government in Moscow. That is our answer, and surely a good answer. It may take time, it may seem, a long way off. We are not a new nation, the British Empire did not arrive yesterday. We have a long, long tradition behind us, and the long tradition has been one of right-doing. There has been a long tradition of fair dealing and of refusing to deal with people who will not deal fairly; and that is how Britain has established a commercial and diplomatic morality throughout the world—a morality far higher than it would have been if we had adopted the more modern and facile idea in diplomacy and commerce that, for the sake of immediate gain, you can afford to give up all moral considerations. I do hope that this House, which seems to be one of the last refuges of dignity in this country, will to-day give a decisive vote, and will say that it stands for what every decent-thinking man must stand for to-day.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, in the concluding passages of his speech, seemed to imply that in some way or other we could induce the Russians to 912 change their Government. I hope, whatever other policy the Government pursue, they will not attempt a policy of that kind. That is an absolutely fatal policy to pursue with regard to any country, and, I should think, perhaps more fatal with regard to Russia than with regard to any other country in the world. My noble friend also said that if we showed hostility to the Soviet Government we should get much more trade than we have at present. I should have thought that the late Government showed very considerable hostility, but I do not know that they succeeded in improving the trade of this country with Russia. I want to put all these questions aside, and I want to say in the first place that I approach this question not at all from the point of view of whether the recognition of Russia will do good to Russia. The only thing that seems to me to be of interest is whether it will do good to this country in the widest sense—and of course I include in that the very interesting observations made by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, as to the importance of securing world peace. Because I am one of those who think that world peace is the greatest interest of this country. That is the point of view from which I approach this question.
We are told that we must not renew relations with Russia on several grounds. In the first place, because the Russian Government is a very wicked and abominable Government. You will hear no word of mine in defence of the Russian Government. I quite agree that they are a Government whose record is stained with crimes of many descriptions. I was impressed by what fell from the most rev. Primate this afternoon as to their treatment of Christianity and other religions. That is by no means the least of their crimes. They have been guilty of bigotry and tyranny and murder. I do not doubt it. But where I do not quite follow those who make that charge is in saying that that by itself is, or has ever been, held in this country to justify breaking off relations with another country. When I was younger we used to hear a great deal about the wickedness of the Government of Turkey. Unquestionably it was an incredibly wicked Government. Under Abdul Hamid and his immediate predecessors it indulged in the most fearful massacres in Armenia 913 and elsewhere. I remember hearing vivid descriptions of the massacres which went on not only in Armenia but in the streets of Constantinople: how when you took a boat on the Golden Horn you were as likely as not to come across a corpse. And it was not only actual murders, but tortures. The Bulgarian atrocities a little earlier were very real and very horrible things. There were people in this country who thought that so outrageous and scandalous was the behaviour of the Turkish Government that we ought to go to war with them. We did not go to war. Nobody that I ever heard of suggested that we should break off relations on that ground and on that ground alone.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
There is a shade of difference, I agree, but it is only a shade. It is the same principle, and, at any rate, I think you will find that there is no case where we have refused to renew relations where we have broken them off, merely on the ground of the wickedness of the Government. And, indeed, when one comes to think of it, that is a wise line to take because how are we going to say what is the degree of immorality and wickedness which shall impose upon us the necessity of breaking off relations with any other Government? It seems to be a very difficult inquiry to be launched on with respect to the governments of other countries in the world. It is part of the same argument to say that they are wholly untrustworthy, that it is no use making an agreement as they will certainly break it. I am a little unsure how far we are to go in that respect. Are we to have no relations at all with the Russian Government, to have no negotiations? Recently we have issued a remonstrance to the Russians calling their attention to their obligations under the Pact of Paris. Yet, if they are perfectly hopeless people, so untrustworthy that it is hopeless talking to them, we ought not to have done that.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
One of my noble friends says "Hear, hear," but with great respect most people 914 will think that we did rightly in calling their attention to their obligations in that respect. Previous Governments, including the Government of which my noble friend Lord Birkenhead was a member, entered into relations with the Russian Government. They negotiated with them at Genoa and later made a trade agreement because they thought it was a desirable thing from the point of view of British interests. That may have been wise or foolish. If you are going to say this Government are so wicked and untrustworthy that we ought not to have any relations with them at all, I understand that position, but I do not think it is a practical position to take up. You cannot really avoid having some relations with that Government and it is therefore only a question of the form your relations are to take.
The main ground on which it is alleged that we ought not to enter upon further diplomatic relations with this Government is the question of propaganda. Nobody doubts that for a friendly Government to carry on propaganda against the institutions of this country, either here or in the Dominions, is a gross breach of international comity. Nobody would question that for a moment. It is a most improper thing to do. Unfortunately in my recollection, which now I am sorry to say goes back half a century in political affairs, I have never known a period in which it has not been alleged that the Russian Government were carrying on propaganda somewhere with regard to our Dominions more or less acutely. I remember a story by Rudyard Kipling which turned upon the fact of a Russian spy being in India and stirring up sedition against us. That has always been the case. My noble friend Lord Melchett says this propaganda campaign the Russians are carrying on is more deadly than war. I cannot conceive a more grotesque exaggeration of the facts of the case. The really remarkable thing about Bolshevist propaganda is its complete futility.
§ LORD MELCHETT
If the noble Lord knew much about the subject he would not make that remark. Half your trouble in China, your Bombay strike, in which a good many people were killed, the trouble in Egypt, the trouble in Palestine 915 and a good deal of the General Strike here were due to Bolshevist propaganda.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I venture to point out this to my noble friend. He talks about China. What has been the result of Bolshevist propaganda in China? The Bolsheviks have been driven out of China altogether.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
They have indeed. They have been driven out. The most fatal charge any one can bring against any of the warring factions in China is that they are in alliance with the Russian Communists. That is the result of their propaganda. They had great propaganda in Turkey which was said to have great influence with the Turkish Government. I hear nothing about that now. It seems to have disappeared altogether. The same thing happened in Persia. The noble Lord says that everything that happened in Egypt is due to Bolshevist propaganda. I cannot conceive anything so unlikely as that. Undoubtedly the history of our difficulties in Egypt goes back a very long way beyond any possible Bolshevist propaganda. It is a very long and a very interesting story, but it has no more to do with Bolshevist propaganda than with the debates in the House. He then asked us to look at Palestine and the Bolshevist propaganda. Does he really think that the trouble in Palestine is due to that propaganda?
§ LORD MELCHETT
Evidence has been produced before the tribunal that undoubtedly some of the trouble has been caused by Bolsheviks, Arabs and Jews, paid by Moscow.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
That seems an extraordinary doctrine too when you know the different religious feelings and the bitter religious feelings that have existed for a long time. Produced by Bolshevist propaganda—nonsense!
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
The noble Lord must restrain himself. His youthful enthusiasm is getting the better of him. I do not for a moment believe that it is so. As to their propaganda in this country anything more 916 utterly futile, more utterly useless, it is impossible to conceive.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
Yes, what great harm have they done? We know from the public Press that the Communist Party is on the verge of dissolution in this country. The truth is that Communist propaganda has got hold of the imagination of some people and that a vast amount of exaggeration of the importance of propaganda takes place. This is not a new view. I have always held the view that you can easily exaggerate the importance of propaganda of any kind, particularly propaganda by foreigners in this country. I have a strong faith in the essential rightness of our institutions and their great superiority over Russian institutions. I believe that the Russian theories are silly and foolish as well as wrong. I believe that the more they are known in this country the more they will be condemned, and that, so far from propaganda being the danger, the real danger is ignorance. If we show this nervous anxiety lest the Russians should be able to state their case in this country, however absurdly they state it, we do more to help Russian propaganda and Communism than by any other action we take. The one thing we have to reply upon, as has been said earlier, is the common sense of the people. I am not in the least afraid of it. Let the Russians and all other disruptive forces from outside come to this country and they will find they are wasting their time. The only thing you do by showing this fear is to help the Russians both in their country and outside.
On these grounds I cannot accept the reasons that have been alleged against renewing relations with Russia. As to the positive case, I quite admit the case is not so strong. Apparently—I am no judge of it—it will help our trade to some extent. That is an advantage. It is obvious if we are to have relations—and we cannot avoid relations with this vast Empire in the East of Europe and in Asia—that it is an advantage that we should be able to speak to them directly and that they should speak to us directly. It is very inconvenient as a method of communication if you have to go through a neutral Power. I think it is Norway 917 that we utilise for this purpose. It is a very inadequate way of making representations to a foreign Government. The Norwegians, I have no doubt, do everything they can to help us, and I have no doubt they are admirable exponents of our views so far as they can be, but it is a different thing obviously from that which we should obtain if we were in direct communication with them. Therefore it seems to me that on that ground, and because it involves no approval, in my judgment, of Russian proceedings in their own country, of Russian cruelties, of Russian bigotry, we ought to resume diplomatic relations.
It is purely, as I look at the matter from the positive side, a matter of business. Will it be on the whole of advantage to this country or will it on the whole be of disadvantage to this country that we should renew relations with Russia? It seems to me, on the whole, it would be of advantage. It is quite true that Russians may so act as to force us again to break relations with them by a breach of their engagements to us. I understand that the Government contemplate that as a conceivable possibility. I can only say that I trust they will not. I think it would be a very unfortunate thing for them if they show to the world as a whole that they cannot be trusted even after this advance has been made towards a better understanding. I think it is worth trying. I quite admit that in coming to that conclusion I have been moved very largely by the considerations so well put forward by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading—namely, that I am convinced that as long as there is this running sore between us, as long as there is this division between two great Empires of the world, it does impede the progress of peace and it does make things much more difficult than they would be otherwise. It does appear to me to be a matter of statesmanship to try to bring that state of things to an end after taking such precautions as are open to us that our action does not do any injury to our own national interest.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (LORD PARMOOR)
My Lords, I think I must say something on behalf of the Government, but what I say will 918 be very short. I do not want to attack any one for what has been said to-day, or for the way it has been said. There is really only one single point for our consideration. Are we to adopt the course that we ought not to resume diplomatic relationship at all with the Soviet Republic? That is what it comes to. I think one important point has been overlooked. There are at the present time diplomatic relationships between the Soviet Government and every single country in Europe, except ourselves. Have the countries in Europe suffered from that? The common sense of our people, or the educated democracy of this country as it is sometimes called, puts us in a stronger position than any other country in the world in regard to propaganda.
I think we were all struck, though the inference was perhaps different from what he intended, by what the noble Earl, Lord Birkenhead, said. It appeared to me that he made it clear that so far as this country is concerned no advance whatever had been made by means of Communist propaganda. Not only so, but from his quotations from the present Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Mr. Henderson and others, it was made perfectly clear that the Communist Party in this country was probably weaker now than it had ever been. The present Government would never allow under any pretext what has been called "improper Communist propaganda," such as has been suggested in some quarters of the House. I should like to give two or three facts in reference to that. It is quite true that America is not in diplomatic relationship with Russia, but there is a very important American Commercial Mission in Moscow and a very important Russian Commercial Mission in Washington. America are not cutting off commercial relationships, but, owing to the conditions which prevail, they are carrying on, for the moment at any rate, without diplomatic methods.
I should like to give one other illustration upon this point, because I think we ought to be very careful in this House before lending ourselves to a proposal for avoiding and keeping apart from Soviet Russia so far as diplomatic relationships are concerned. Reference has been made to South Africa. Upon 919 that point I should like to read what is the latest information I have. It is this:—The Commission appointed by the South African Government to investigate the cause of native unrest in Durban attributes it almost entirely to economic grievances.It considers that Communist propaganda played an almost negligible part in the trouble.Wholesale arrests of natives were made at Durban in connection with the collection of the poll-tax, the police actually using tear gas on one occasion.I quote that to show how careful you must be in considering what is said to have taken place under this Bolshevist propaganda in other parts of our Empire. I do not wish to say anything about the matter about which the noble Marquess has already spoken because if my information is right the question is now sub judice. I admit there has been propagandism on a very wide scale, but so far as propagandism is concerned it has absolutely failed in this country. We all admit that. Further, so far as my information goes in none of our Dominions or Colonies which are so widely spread throughout the world has propagandism been responsible for all the evils which are attributed to it.
I think there is the strongest possible case for a resumption of diplomatic relationship. It is quite clear that the breaking off of diplomatic relations has not stopped propagandism. What has stopped it is not the absence of diplomatic relationship but the common sense and virility of the British democracy, both at home and in various other parts of the Empire. It is perfectly clear that if you want to promote peace in Europe it is most important that diplomatic relationship should be renewed between the Soviet Republic and ourselves. I say between the Soviet Republic and ourselves because there are already diplomatic relations in existence of the ordinary character between the Soviet Republic and all other Governments throughout Europe. What is the position? The great factor of the future peace of the world is bound up with a system of disarmament. No one questions that for a moment. What is the position? Can Poland disarm, can Czecho-Slovakia disarm, can Rumania disarm, leaving Russia outside the community of nations, as she is at present, 920 and with an overwhelming army of her own? Of course, we cannot push forward the general cause of European peace unless we can bring into what I call the comity or the community of nations the Soviet Republic, and by entering into diplomatic relations with them that could be carried out I think without delay.
There is one other matter to which the noble Lord opposite particularly referred. I am bound to say that on the facts I have both as regards exports and re-exports, as emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, the breaking off of diplomatic relationship with the Soviet at the time when they were broken off by the Government of which the noble Viscount was a member—I am not going into that question, I will assume for the sake of argument that it was justified—prove, if figures have any importance in a matter of this kind, that the breaking off of diplomatic relations vitally affected the progress of our trade with Russia and handed it over practically to our American or German competitors. That is an extremely serious point. There is no greater question at the present time than unemployment. It is a great question, and it is a question which cannot be solved in any very short time. But is it not madness, I was going to say, is it not at any rate a great blow to our progress in that direction to diminish the best market in the world for our manufactured products?
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
The best market in the world? Does the noble and learned Lord seriously say the best market in the world?
§ LORD PARMOOR
I ought to have put in this limitation—the best market in the world which is still open to us as almost an unexplored market.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I do not want to get into controversy with the noble and learned Earl, but I want to say this. We have given credit, of course, in connection with Russian trade, and although as regards other countries where we have given credit we have not always been repaid in full, in the case of Russia every penny has been paid back. Not a single penny is outstanding as regards money 921 we have advanced for credit purposes of trade between this country and Russia. That is a very important thing. I do not in the least want to enter upon what I may call provocative points, but, after all the suggestions made about Russia, it comes to this, that in our trade relations with Russia, since, of course, the Republic was formed, every penny has been paid on every transaction of every kind, and although I have not got statistics of transactions with other countries I am told that that cannot be said of any country except Russia.
What is all this prejudice about Russia? Of course, we all know that the Bolshevist régime is one to which we are entirely opposed. That is common ground. It is also common ground that the Soviet Government have regarded this country as the one opposing force stabilising the opposition to what they desire to be general. I quite agree with what the noble Viscount said upon that point. But when we are in diplomatic and commercial relationship they will form a very important market for our manufactured products. That will give employment where we chiefly want it. In every direction it is to their advantage and to ours. I do not intend to speak any longer to-night. If any one wants to see the commercial side of the question set out in an admirable way I would suggest that he should read the speech
§ Resolved in the affirmative and Motion agreed to accordingly.922
§ of Mr. Wise, who has spent so much of his life in Russia, who made his maiden speech the other night in the House of Commons. We cannot get away from this: Whatever may be said, if this House supports this Resolution, it will cause all its influence to be thrown on the side of saying that we are not to resume relations with Russia, although I agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, said, that it is the only way in which we can come to a better understanding one with another and the only way in which there can be commercial and diplomatic co-operation. Of course, we shall vote against the Resolution when the vote is taken.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
My Lords, of course I shall not take more than a second at this period of the evening. I will only say I wish the arrangements of the debate had made it possible for me to take longer, because I am convinced by the speeches of the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, that my view has hitherto been entirely wrong, and that Russian propagandism is either wholly innocuous or positively a benefit to this country. I am not at all sure that we ought not to subsidise it.
§ On Question, Whether the Motion shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 43; Not-Contents, 21.921
|Argyll, D.||Bertie of Thame, V.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)|
|Salisbury, M.||Elibank, V.||Greenway, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Greenwood, L.|
|Birkenhead, E.||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Novar, V.||Illingworth, L.|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Melchett, L. [Teller.]|
|Iveagh, E.||Aberdare, L.||Newton, L. [Teller.]|
|Lauderdale, E.||Banbury of Southam, L.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)|
|Lucan, E.||Bayford, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bess-borough.)|
|Midleton, E.||Biddulph, L.|
|Morton, E.||Carson, L.||Queenborough, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Cushendun, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Danesfort, L.||Sydenham of Combe, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Dynevor, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Erskine, L.|
|Sankey, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Cecil of Chelwood, V.||Darling, L.|
|Mersey, V.||de Clifford, L.|
|Parmoor, L. (L. President.)||Gainford, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Hereford, L. Bp.||Gorell, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Amulree, L.||Marks, L. [Teller.]|
|De La Warr, E. [Teller.]||Arnold, L.||Pentland, L.|
|Cawley, L.||Revelstoke, L.|
|Allendale, V.||Clwyd, L.||Thomson, L.|