§ THE EARL OF DENBIGH had the following Notice on the Paper:
§ To ask His Majesty's Government, with reference to the reply given in the House of Commons on the 7th of December as to the apology demanded of the Soviet Government by His Majesty's Government for the recent untrue and insulting charges made in the Moscow Izvestia:
- (1) If such apology has been published, and if so, in what terms and in which papers;
- (2) If the oral reply stated on the 7th of December to have been then under consideration can now be stated; and
- (3) What steps His Majesty's Government propose to take for the purpose of stopping the various forms of revolutionary propaganda and the promotion of strikes and labour disturbances in this country and in India openly advocated in the recent "Survey" of the Comintern.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, on November 9 last the Riga Correspondent of The Times sent a communication recounting how the Russian newspaper Pravda had published what was called a survey of the Communistic propaganda in other countries, and credit was specially taken for having caused strikes and trouble in Manchester, London, Liverpool, Glasgow and other places and for having taken over the organisation of the unemployed and arranged the hunger marches of which we heard so much the other day. The claim was also made that the membership of the Communist Party in England had increased from 5,000 to 50,000—a figure to which you may attach as much credence as you like. I remark that they boasted a great success, particularly in the United States of America, and especially amongst the negroes, and they also stated how they 396 conducted important fighting in the streets. Any Communists who are caught inciting fighting between the whites and the negroes in America will probably deserve all that they will surely get. It was also stated that the world's masses were now about to enter upon the second phase of revolutions and wars and that universal war was not far distant.
§ This striking announcement appeared within a few days of the arrival of the new Soviet Ambassador in this country and his reception by His Majesty the King as the representative of a peaceful and friendly Power claiming, no doubt, to be treated as such. I thought that this called for some explanation and I put down some Questions to find out if the diplomatic immunity granted to Soviet representatives was to be continued on the same scale. Some annoyance was apparently caused in Moscow for on November 14 another cable from Riga stated that the official newspaper, the Izvestia, had come out with a fierce article denouncingThe Times, the Foreign Office, the House of Lords and various others as being professional forgers all enlisted in a general plot against the Soviet Republic. It specially accused the Foreign Office of instructing agents abroad to send in documents, true or bogus, to show the connection between the Soviet Government and the Comintern or the Red International. Well, naturally, His Majesty's Government demanded an apology for this untrue and insulting accusation, and I was asked to defer my Questions till the matter was settled. From the statement in another place last night, I see that the Soviet Government states that the Izvestia was misled by a foreign correspondent and that the Government dissociate themselves from the accusation against the Foreign Office.
It was said that this closed the controversy, but I would especially ask your Lordships' House to note that this is only one incident, and I regretted to notice what seemed to me to be a tendency in the House of Commons on the part of the Government to concentrate attention on this one matter and to ignore others which are much more serious. The Izvestia first stated that the survey of Communistic activities which had been quoted in other papers did not exist,
and then they stated that if it did it was a forgery; but The Timescorrespondent pointed out that unfortunately for them they had not observed that this report had been published in several other papers and that the Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Comintern had read it to Communist representatives and made a special report which is in the Pravdathat I have in my hand. This is the translation of what lie said:
The achievements of the Communist International were due to Comrade Stalin. Under his guidance with the banner of Comintern the workers of the whole world would overthrow capitalism and establish proletarian dictatcrship. Long live wars for proletarian revolution! Long live its leader, Comrade Stalin!
§ Then we are asked to believe there is no connection between the Soviet Government and the Third International, with Comrade Stalin the dictator of the one and the leader of the other. Those can believe that who like to do so, but for my part I regard these disclaimers on the part of the Soviet Government as being unworthy of notice and, to use perhaps a somewhat vulgar but expressive word which may perhaps be pardoned in your Lordships' House, as the veriest bunk, a disgrace to any Government that uses it.
§ The other matter to which I would call attention is that the Izvestiais a Government organ. Its full title is the "Organ of the Central Executive Committee of the U.S.S.R. and of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets of the Workers, Peasants and Red Army Deputies," which is a fairly comprehensive title. There is another aspect of the case—namely, that of stirring up strife and causing industrial troubles, which is bad enough—and we are also having a recurrence of attempts to create disaffection in the naval and military forces and munition factories. Diplomatic recognition was given to the Soviet Government in 1929 on condition that propaganda was stopped. When it was continued Mr. Henderson stated that the Soviet Government would be held responsible for the actions of the Comintern, and I invite attention to a Memorandum of Instructions agreed to at the 12th Plenary Session of the Executive Committee of the Communist International in Moscow last September. The full text was published in the official newspaper Pravda, on October 11, and here is a translation.398
The instructions given to the Communist parties existing within the British Empire are as follows:
The Communist Party of Great Britain must increase decidedly its activities inside the reformist trade unions, and among the factory workers in order to incite the working masses, on the basis of a united front, for the struggle (1) against the fresh attacks of capitalists on wages and unemployment benefit; (2) against the policy of the Government which supports and encourages anti-Soviet aggressiveness of Japanese and French Imperialists; (3) for the independence of British Colonies and Ireland.
I do not suppose they care much for the British Colonies and Ireland, but put it down for the purpose of annoying and probably weakening England. They then go on to say that they must strengthen the organisation and political influence of the Communist Party of India:
to conduct a decided fight in the reformist trade unions; to broaden on the anti-Imperialist front; to emancipate the masses' from the influence of the National Congress; to agitate for and make preparations for a general strike; to support the agrarian movement for non-payment of taxes, rents and debts; and to popularise the slogans and tasks of the agrarian revolution.
Then, as regards the organisational tasks, they state that the sections of the Communist International must—and this is the worst part of the whole thing—
(a) carefully conceal the existence of the Communist cells in the factories and at the same time conduct a bold, courageous mass agitation; (5) form immediately secret Communist cells in the Army and Navy units, in capitalist, semi-military organisations, amongst the workers employed at the munition. factories, in the railways and in the ports.
This memorandum was printed in London by the Communist organisation and advertised in the Daily Worker of November 5, and I should like to ask His Majesty's Government what they intend to do about it.
§ The Soviet. Government has been repeatedly warned by Mr. Henderson in his best milk and Water style, which does not seem to have had the slightest effect. We know now that the spread of Communism and its pestilential doctrines are being continually and actively pushed by Soviet emissaries, corning like snakes in the grass with the deliberate object of creating trouble and revolution. Are we going to sit down quietly and do nothing? Is this diplomatic immunity to continue exactly as it 399 has up to now? His Majesty's Government very properly pointed out that important trade agreements were coming up for discussion in the early future. If we have to take cognizance of the fact that honesty and keeping one's word of honour are bourgeois attributes entirely unsuited to proletarian mentality, it will not help towards friendly relations, and I would ask the House to remember what Lord Balfour said in this connection two or three years ago. He said that, "there is a point at which a steady course of deliberate and authorised perfidy is intolerable in international relations." A nice thing to have to say of diplomats with whom you are supposed to be conducting friendly relations—
§ I can understand the Government's reluctance to 'sever commercial relations if such a step is likely seriously to increase the unemployment evil which is upon us, but speaking as an Englishman and as a Catholic and therefore a firm believer in God, I feel that the whole Communist teaching, its anti-God campaign, its persecution of religion and destruction of family life, its corruption of children and views on ordinary morality, apart from its dishonesty and violation of contracts, are repulsive to the last degree. Why should we submit to have these things openly taught in this country and in some of our schools? At the same time, I recognise that in the reordering of this disordered world it is impossible to ignore that immense country with its vast population and unbounded natural resources. All we ask is to he let alone and to have our children protected. I beg to move for Papers.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, you have heard from the noble Earl the political aspect of this question, and I am not going to say anything about that, important though it is. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the anti-religious propaganda of which mention has been made by the noble Earl. One had thought up to now that organised anti-religious activities were confined to Russia; but that is not so. In the military jargon of the rulers of that country the anti-God front has been shifted from Moscow to Berlin, from which city centres are being established in European countries for an attack on all religions. In Britain centres of the Godless League are being formed in fifty different localities. Those of your Lord- 400 ships who are sceptical have only to look at the Daily Workerof June 27 and July 20, 1932, where the initial steps of this campaign are set forth. The propaganda is to be directed not only against adults but against children. It will be the duty of the young pioneers, a body of Communist youths, to pervert the children of this country. Already blasphemous pamphlets are being distributed wholesale to children in the industrial areas, and the services of these young people have been utilised for a short irreligious play which has been performed with some success in London and the districts around.
Other places where contact is made with the young are the summer camps. Some are called Socialist camps, and are camouflaged under other names, but most are under Communist direction. One near Glasgow has accommodation for 250 people, men, women and children. It has permanent buildings and has occupied the same site for two years. There is a Communist Sunday School teacher in residence who takes the children each week. Any of your Lordships who have seen the blasphemous propaganda issued for instruction by Communist Sunday School teachers would not wish any children you were interested in to he in residence at such a camp. Efforts are being made to get at the teachers in the national schools, but up to the present, I think, with small success. Our teachers, as your Lordships are aware, are an admirable body of men and women well-fitted to look after the moral and material welfare of our school children, and in what I am about to say I do not wish to detract in any way from the capability and efficiency of the teachers as a body, but there are some teachers, very few I believe, who belong to the Educational Workers' League and are avowed Communists.
The Educational Workers' League has a magazine printed entirely for circulation amongst school teachers. It is against religion and I have seen blasphemous extracts from it. I hope and believe it has a very small circulation. When one considers that the statutory half hour of religious instruction in the schools is the only instruction of that kind many children receive, I think that teachers who hold Russian atheist views, however few they may be, are not fit to be in charge of children and should be removed.
401 I do not wish to decry the genuine unbeliever; he is often a man of moral integrity; but I want to point out that the atheism coming from Russia is quite different, for it not only seeks to destroy belief in God but it wants to smash all morality and family life—in fact, to remove those things which differentiate the human being from the ape. It has been suggested that the Government should take action in this matter of propaganda, hut in so far as this particular point I am pressing is concerned I realise it is very difficult for the Government to intervene effectively. This Hydra is going to raise its thousands of poisonous heads throughout the country. What is going to be done about it? I have no wish to exaggerate at all, but it is nevertheless a fact that a powerful foreign organisation is attacking religion in this country. I have the highest authority, and also the authority of the Soviet Press, for stating that the Soviet consider their principal adversaries in this particular line to be the Pope and the British Empire.
The most rev. Primate, whom I am glad to see in his place to-day, knows all about these things. He has stated that he is much impressed by the facts relating to the anti-God campaign in this country which have been put before him. I yield to no one in my admiration and respect for the most rev. Primate, and I realise all the difficulties which he has to contend with. But I should like to ask him why the Church does not take a stronger stand. Perhaps it is that they are afraid of politics. I respectfully ask again where do politics end and where does the saving of the souls of the children of this country begin? I should like to feel that the principal adversary of the Soviet in their war against religion is the National Church of this country. Our people would then feel assured that some definite action was being taken to counteract this terrible form of propaganda amongst those who are the least able to resist it, and on whose shoulders, as electors, will rest the responsibility for the future well being of this country.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I had no intention of taking any part in this discussion, but the remarks which have just fallen from the noble Earl call, I think, for some short rejoinder on my part. I need scarcely say that I most deeply and 402 cordially sympathise with everything that the noble Earl has said, and with the not too strong remarks which the noble Earl used in bringing forward this question, as to the insidious character of this anti-religious campaign. We are discussing to-day the influence of it in this country. We have no concern at present with the position in Russia. Many of your Lordships will remember that I called very full attention to that matter in this House two years ago. Since then I have been ceaseless in my efforts to do what is possible to mitigate the continued persecution and oppression which go on in that country. But may I be permitted to say that such efforts as are possible are more likely to be successful if they are deprived of all kind of publicity?
Now, with regard to the campaign in this country it is very important, I think, that we should not be carried away by exaggeration. Certainly this campaign is persistent and highly organised. It has its speakers in different parts of the country, and it issues an immense amount of exceedingly mischievous literature, which I do not think can command the respect of any person of intelligence. It has a certain measure, but a very small measure, of circulation. I have made it my business to make inquiries in all parts of the country, and I am satisfied by the evidence which I have received that, while it is true that here and there this propaganda is having its effect upon some of our younger men, goaded into discontent by prolonged unemployment, it has scarcely any effect at all upon the great bulk of the workers of this country. It may be that some of them, many of them. are Socialists of such an advanced type that they welcome some of the political and economic doctrines of Communism but, so far as the anti-God side of that campaign is concerned, I am satisfied that it has comparatively little influence upon the great bulk of our people.
We hear a great deal about the Communist Sunday schools. I know all about them. I made a most careful inquiry a very short time ago in the industrial North. I had a great deal of information given to me, among others by the police, and I think there is nothing much about the character, the teaching, and the places of these Communist Sunday schools with which I am 403 not familiar. But I am quite satisfied, happily, that they are comparatively few and that they are attended by the most meagre groups of children, who are all of them the children of already convinced Communists. In these circumstances, while I agree with every word that has been said about the character of this campaign, it is important to keep a sense of proportion. And I ask again, in these circumstances, what is precisely that stronger lead which the noble Earl desires and expects from the Church—by which I suppose he means the authorities of the Church? Is it to be formal assertion of the repudiation of the doctrines of this anti-God campaign? Such assertions have been made by Church authorities, notably quite recently by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool. But are these solemn assertions really necessary? The very existence of the Church involves a repudiation of the doctrines of this campaign.
I freely admit it is true that there is a small group of clergy—I hope I may without breach of charity describe them as a few eccentric and misguided clergy, some of them operating under the high-sounding title of the Catholic Crusade—who are engaged in the not very hopeful attempt of combining Communist principles, economics and politics with the Christian religion. They commit many extravagances within their small area. They are very few. They are wholly without any general influence. Their Bishops have expostulated with them, but they are impervious to expostulation. Your Lordships will appreciate that it is exceedingly difficult to take proceedings against men because of their political and economic opinions, and you will still more appreciate that the last thing one would wish would be to invest members of the little group, wholly negligible and unimportant in itself, with a new importance by covering them with the glory of martyrdom.
Or is it desired by the noble Earl that there should be issued emphatic denunciations? There again, I ask who are going to be influenced? Not the Communists themselves. On the contrary, they would regard any such authoritative declarations as a proof that they were winning some successes and were proving to be a serious menace to the religious life of the country. They would not influence those 404 who are inclined to Communism and to the anti-religious side of Communism because, if I know, as I think I do, that type of man pretty well, they would be rather stimulated than restrained in their inclination by mere ecclesiastical denunciations. Indeed, I think it might be said that the only people who are likely to gain satisfaction from formal and authoritative denunciations of this kind are either those who find their own strong opinions forcibly expressed, or, as I have hinted, the Communists themselves, who would rejoice in the public advertisement given and who would feel great pride in realising that they were being considered a really alarming element in the life of the country.
No, my Lords, the real lead that is to be given, and it ought to be given, is of another kind, and it will be much more successful if less spectacular. It is that this propaganda must be countered by counter-teaching, counter-argument and counter-witness. I believe that the Christian Protest Movement, with which the noble Earl is, I think, associated, is undertaking to do some of this work throughout the country, and so far as it attacks this anti-God campaign the noble Earl knows I wish him every success. I ought., perhaps, to mention, if I am not wearying your Lordships, that the Christian Evidence Society in all parts of the country provides speakers in the open air—in Hyde Park, and elsewhere—and a great deal of most effective literature. I might mention also—I think it is worth mentioning—the effort being made next year by the British Broadcasting Corporation, which may affect multitudes of our workers who have wireless sets, by which they are to provide every fortnight on Sunday talks on religion of a constructive and positive kind by some of our very greatest scholars—a most admirable syllabus which I think ought to have the greatest effect in building up the somewhat doubtful faith of numbers of our people. Then again we are arranging for cooperative missions between the Church of England and the Free Churches on a very large scale, part of which will always be to arrange for open-air speeches in public places of resort where many of those who might be inclined to this insidious propaganda are likely to be present.
405 Best of all means to counteract this propaganda is the quiet, continuous, persistent work of the clergy and other ministers of religion; I do not mean merely their religious services, which may not be attended as largely as we could wish, but the meetings which they have in all parts of the country, which are open for discussion, the clubs which they have for workers, and the admirable organisations of which they are the centre, such as the Scouts—if I may allude to them in the presence of their distinguished founder—the Girl Guides, and other organisations of the kind, and. most of all, their own Sunday Schools. The truest way of meeting this propaganda is to help the Church in its widest sense to have the men and the means by which they can reach not merely a fringe but the bulk of the people, and extend the influence of religion throughout the country. I am sure it is by this positive means rather than by formal denunciation that the lead which the noble Earl rightly desires is to be given. I have the greatest sympathy with everything that he has said. It is quite useless to say what I feel about the kind of talk and literature with which this propaganda is conducted, but I must say that I think the way to meet it is not so much by formal, negative denunciations as by positive effort to increase the forces of religion in the community so that it may become by its own inherent health impervious to this poison imported from Russia.
THE DUKE OF ATTIOLL
My Lords, we have had several aspects of the question put before us to-day. and I think that what we have heard from the most rev. Primate is extraordinarily sound. Obviously, so far as religion is concerned, the best way is to have religion in your own country well looked after—a healthy body that will make a healthy mind impervious to the poisonous bacillus these people are trying to spread. For some time T have had a. Question down dealing with the third point of the noble Earl's Question. I have refrained from asking it for reasons into which I need not enter, and now that the noble Earl has in fact asked the same Question, mine can be dropped. But I would like to say a very fen words on the subject which the noble Earl has raised.
Some weeks ago my attention was drawn to the report of the Twelfth Ple- 406 num of the Executive Committee of the Communist International published in thePravdaof October 11. I was more than shocked when I read the details and could hardly believe that the translation which was given me was either accurate or unbiased. However, almost immediately after this, I was reading, without much interest, in theDaily workera good deal of abuse of a certain member of another place who is related to me by marriage. But my interest revived when my attention was drawn to an advertisement at the foot of the page stating that the translation of the proceedings of the Twelfth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International was on sale at 16, King Street, London, under the auspices of the Communist Party of Great Britain. I immediately sent over to King Street, and found that the report was printed by the Utopia Press of 14, Worship Street, and published at id. I bought several copies without difficulty. In my opinion it is a pamphlet which should be banned by the authorities, because it is preaching straight out revolution and sedition against this country in almost every line.
The Communist International was founded in Moscow in 1919 by the Russian Communist Party in order to produce world revolution. At the beginning of September of this year the Executive Committee of the Communist International had its Twelfth Plenum Conference in Moscow, and passed a resolution on the international situation and the tasks of the national sections of the Communist International. As the noble Earl who has asked the Question has already dealt with these points, I need not repeat them, and to save your Lordships further trouble, I would refer you to the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper. From that Question you will gather in short what is the programme of the Communist International and how it takes credit among other things—and this struck me as extraordinarily bad from our point of view—for having stirred up insubordination in the British Navy last year. I would remind your Lordships that as recently as September of this year instructions were given at the Congress of the Communist International to the Communist Parties of Great Britain and Ireland, and we have not lacked experience in the last two months as to 407 how the Communist Party here has acted on its instructions, through the stirring up of the unemployed to a hunger march. The same effect is being experienced at the present time in the unemployment demonstrations in the United States. Your Lordships are also aware of the influences in India.
In a report of the Ninth Congress of the Russian Communist Party, it is interesting to note the following sentences:The Third International is the child of the Russian Communist Party. It was founded in the Kremlin upon the initiative of the Communist Party of Russia.Those are the people who are denying at the present moment that they have any connection with the Soviet Government. I would also draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that as recently as 1932 the programme of the Communist International stated thatthe decisions of the Executive Committee of the Communist International are obligatory for all the sections of the Communist International and must be promptly carried out. … In any given country there can only he one Communist Party affiliated to the Communist International and representing its section of that country.It is obvious from this quotation that the British Communist Party gave allegiance to the Communist International since its inception, and I think your Lordships will agree with me that this is further borne out by the following extract from the constitution adopted at a national conference held in Manchester in April, 1929, the year that the Communist Party was formed in Great Britain:The name of the Party shall be the Communist Party of Great Britain. The Party is affiliated to and adheres to the statutes and theses of the Communist International.Therefore, everything that appears on this Twelfth Plenum with regard to sedition and stirring up revolution and trouble in Great Britain is equally a part of the programme of the British Communist Party.
On November 5, 1929, Mr. Henderson, then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the late Government, of which our present Prime Minister was the head, made a statement in another place. It is a well-known statement which I need not quote now, except perhaps the last sentence., in which he said: 408This is, in fact, an undertaking that Soviet propaganda will not be tolerated in any form or at any time.This was confirmed by the late Lord Thomson in your Lordships' House. On October 29, 1930, Mr. Henderson told the House of Commons that he had seen the Soviet Ambassador, who told him that his Government could not control the activities of the Third International, and Mr. Henderson added that apparently the Soviet Government placed a different interpretation on the agreement from that placed on it by the British Government.
I would ask your Lordships to remember that the sovereign power in Russia is the Russian Communist Party, who act through their general secretary, Mr. Stalin, and the Political Bureau; that both the Soviet Government and the Communist International are controlled by the Russian Communist Party; and that the special task of the Communist International is to carry out propaganda in foreign countries. As long ago as 1927, Mr. Philip Snowden, as he then was, stated inReynolds'snewspaper on March 13:It is idle for the Soviet Government to deny complicity in this propaganda. The Soviet Government, the Communist International and the Russian trade unions are a trinity, three in one, and one in three.I do not suppose we shall get a higher authority. The Soviet Government states that it has no control over what the Communist International does. Technically, this may be true, but I have to remind your Lordships that the Russian Communist Party controls the Soviet Government and the Communist International. Yet I do not for one moment believe—nor do I think any other noble Lord in this House believes—that if the Soviet Government wished to stop this propaganda it could not be done. If the Soviet Government is superior to the Communist International it can surely control its own citizens, or it is a very much weaker Government than any of us give it credit for.
To come down to bedrock, it is obvious that the Soviet Government is not observing its bargain, implied or otherwise, with the British Government to stop propaganda in return for diplomatic recognition and trade facilities. We now have the ludicrous spectacle of a foreign nation asking us to be on good terms with them and improve our commercial rela- 409 tions, at the same time as they insist upon being a nation at arms and a menace to the peace of the world, directly preventing any serious step towards general disarmament. They are also endeavouring by the most poisonous propaganda to set the hole world by the ears, openly glorying in spreading the seeds of sedition and revolution in the defensive forces and among the peoples of all other nations; and, lastly, by a system of State control in conjunction with a system of forced labour, enforced by terrorism and the threat of starvation, they are producing articles—I say nothing about their quality—at such prices and in such quantities that no trailer or business in any other country can stand up against them. If this system is allowed to continue the markets of the world will be even more disjointed than they are at present and the general interchange of commodities and manufactures produced under normal conditions will cease. Any yet Great Britain gives the Russian trade emporium in this country diplomatic privileges which are denied to others!
It is impossible to disentangle the points of this question—diplomatic relations, propaganda, trade and commerce, and last but not least, the training in arms of a whole nation, and hence the peace of the world. I may say that I have no particular objection to or admiration of Communism as a platonic study for disgruntled individuals or cranks, but there are a certain number of deluded individuals in this country who are encouraged to break the law and get into trouble. My sympathy rather goes out to them, but I have no sympathy with the hired agents of the Russian Communist Party who are at the root of all the trouble. I would like to remind certain individuals in high places who talk hot air in public places but are silent here, that it is not they who suffer when trouble comes, but their dupes. In conclusion I wish to appeal to the representatives of the National Government who have the matter in their hands, to see to it that they will be at least as strong in purpose as Mr. Henderson and a little stronger and more powerful in action.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY)
My Lords, the position of a Minister on an occasion of this description is somewhat 410 difficult. In another place a Minister always has the refuge of being able to say that he must have notice of that question, but when a noble Lord puts down a question in this House it is expected that the Minister in charge of the matter will be able to reply to all the questions put forward by any noble Lord in this House and to give a proper answer to anything which may be put before him. I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I am unable to do so on this occasion. I shall endeavour with your permission to confine myself to the specific Questions asked by the noble Earl, Lord Denbigh. I think that your Lordships always consider this question of Russia as one which carries an enormous amount of interest and I only wish that it had been possible—as the noble Lord who sits opposite mentioned on another occasion—for more of your Lordships to be present to discuss it, because I think you will agree with me when I say that the effect which we may hope to have on world opinion and also on Russia will be best brought about by a strong public opinion in this country. I wish that in these debates there were many more of your Lordships to express opinions on a matter which is of vital interest to the people of this country, regarding which there are many and different opinions, and on which we hope eventually to carry out all those ideas which are put forward in the Question of the noble Earl.
In regard to the matter to which the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, devoted his attention, I think your Lordships will agree that that received the most able reply, as one would expect, from the most rev. Primate, and I feel sure your Lordships will not expect me to go into that matter. I think the most rev. Primate, if [may say so, dealt with that question in a most masterly fashion. He at once said, as I would have expected him to say, that he did not attach very much importance to the question which the noble Earl raised, but feels that the people of this country are strong enough to withstand propaganda of this description. He went on to say that if it were not so, our duty was to bring counter-propaganda and to put efforts forward in this country to withstand the pernicious propaganda to which the noble Duke has referred and which 411 it would be impossible to deny does exist in different parts of this country. The noble Duke always associates himself with this question and I need hardly say that I am glad he does take a great interest in a subject which is of vital interest to the country and also to the world. But whilst I have had an opportunity of listening to the noble Duke on many occasions, I have never heard from him one single proposal which would help us to solve those difficulties and problems with which we are confronted at the present time. He indicates in tabular form what is happening, and what is said here and what is said there, but not on any single occasion does he give an indication how the evil to which he alludes can be counteracted or what remedies can be put forward.
With this brief introduction it is now my duty to refer to the Question raised by the noble Earl, Lord Denbigh, and I can probably deal best with the first and second parts of the Question by repeating the statement which was made yesterday in another place. That statement, as your Lordships will remember, was to the following effect:On the 5th December, during my right lion, friend's [the Foreign Secretary's] absence at Geneva, the Soviet Ambassador called on the Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and made an oral communication to the effect that, while the Soviet Government only took responsibility for official communications in the Izvestia, they desired to state that, with regard to this particular incident, they did not entertain, and had not at any time entertained, the suspicions of my right hon. friend and of the Foreign Office which were expressed therein. On the contrary, they dissociated themselves from such statements. Monsieur Maisky repeated this declaration to Sir Robert Vansittart on the 9th December, and added that he himself had communicated with the editor of theIzvestia, who had now replied that he had been misled by one of his correspondents; that he recognised that the statements in question were inaccurate; and that he wished to express his /egret for having published them. In these circumstances, His Majesty's Government regard the matter as closed.As regards the third part of the Question it has been made plain to the Soviet Government that His Majesty's Government hold them responsible for these Comintern statements, that they cannot accept any disclaimer of responsibility for such statements, and that they expect the Soviet Government to prevent them in future. His Majesty's Government now propose to wait and see whether 412 their expectation is fulfilled; and meanwhile they will conduct their relations with the Soviet Government on the assumption that they will not be disappointed in this expectation, unless and until they find fresh ground for complaint.
In this connection I might add, though the point hardly needs emphasis in this House, that all possible steps are of course taken by administrative action in this country, in India, and in other parts of the Empire, to prevent the revolutionary propaganda to which the noble Earl refers from taking effect; and I think it may justly be claimed that the present state of this country and the recent improvement in conditions in India give ground for the belief that the measures taken to prevent this propaganda from having serious results have not been ineffective.
The basis upon which the relationship of the Government of this country with the present régime in Russia rests has always been that the Russian Govern-merit shall observe the accepted standards of conduct between Government and Government in the comity of nations and shall abstain from the spread in this country, or elsewhere in the Empire, of subversive propaganda. That still remains the basis of our relationship and the Government are determined to maintain it as a standing condition of the maintenance of all official relationship. When Russian affairs last came up for debate in your Lordships' House I ventured, if I may repeat it, to make the following point:We could not hope or expert to exercise any influence over Russia and her people if we cut ourselves altogether away from them and regarded them as standing outside the comity of nations.The continuance of trade relationships does afford a means whereby we may hope ultimately to exercise a beneficent influence upon that country.
May I venture to quote what I said on that occasion, although it is so recent, because I feel it is of the utmost: importance that your Lordships should understand the position which I take and the opinion which I hold upon this important question? I said:We can feel sympathy with those multitudes of people in Russia who are oppressed by the régime now in existence. 413 We have ever believed that such a régime cannot continue with benefit to the civilised world; but that they will have to, g) through with it, and will have to pass through perhaps oven more difficult times than they have passed through in the past, is one of those facts which we have got to accept.. I do feel this, however, that of the two attitudes which are being advocated, one to cut off our relations with Russia and the other to continue relaions, far the better effect will be hat upon the outcome of Russian development if we maintain the relations which we maintain at the present moment, instead of cutting them adrift and giving an example to the world of making outcasts of a whole nation.I do not for a moment seek to defend the present réme in Russia or what has been done there in order to bring that régime into existence. Much that we hear of Russia horrifies and appals us, but I cannot see any other path towards securing amelioration except by a continuance of intercourse between this country arid Russia. If noble Lords regard Communists as wild animals, I would remind them that wild animals become tame simply by intercourse with man—not by being left alone with their kind in the jungle.
Intercourse and trade with Russia are undoubtedly of importance to the manufacturers of this country. A market of some 180,000,000 of people is not one that can lightly be ignored. Any new trade agreement with Russia will contain provisions which will secure a fairer balance of trade than hitherto, and much of the objection taken to it on the score that trade with Russia has been altogether one-sided against this country will disappear. The disease from which the world is suffering is, I think, largely the result of what I may call economic nationalism, and the attempt of each country, for whatever reason it may be, to live within itself and to reduce its dealings with its neighbours, so far as import trade is concerned, to the lowest possible minimum. We are looking to the World Economic Conference to place matters on a wider basis, and to secure the easy and reasonable interchange of commodities between the nations. How can such a Conference be a success if we are to pretend to ignore the existence of the Government of a people numbering 180,000,000? I think I have replied to the Question which the noble Earl has put to me. I need hardly say that I have no quarrel with him for initiating this debate. The matter is one which should 414 be debated in your Lordships' House, and I feel that the. inspiring words which we have heard from the most rev. Primate have given a very helpful turn to this question, in which we are so deeply interested.
§ LORD DANESFORT
My Lords, in the opening part of the speech of the noble Marquess he rather invited expressions of opinion on the part of members of this House, and that encourages me for a very few moments to detain your Lordships. He rather complained of the speech of the noble Duke, because he said that the noble Duke had made no suggestion as to what he desired should be done to put an end to this admittedly iniquitous and unjustifiable propaganda on the part of the Soviet Government. After all, whose business is it to suggest methods? The Question asks what steps His Majesty's Government propose to take for the purpose of stopping the various forms of revolutionary propaganda, and therefore I should have thought that it was not so much for the noble Duke to suggest means of stopping admitted evils as for the Government itself. The noble Marquess has stated, in effect, that the amelioration of the existing circumstances is best to be secured by a continuation of trade relations between this country and Russia. I ask what amelioration has taken place in the course of the last ten years, while we have had these trade relations?
The Soviet Government have promised over and over again to discontinue this propaganda, and the propaganda goes on unrestricted and unrestrained and even worse than before. I venture to suggest to the noble Marquess and to the Government that the continuation of trade relations affords no means of persuading the Soviet Government to cease from their iniquities. May I humbly venture to suggest what may possibly have effect upon the Soviet Government? We have given notice to terminate the existing trade agreement. We are told that our Government is about to make a new trade agreement with Russia. Will it not be possible to intimate quite clearly to the Soviet Government that the new trade agreement is made upon the express condition that, this propaganda is discontinued, and that if it is continued, as it has been for years past, we shall take: 415 immediate steps to put an end to that trade agreement? To my mind that would be far more valuable than any other intimation. It has been said in debate that the trade agreement is of value to us. That is true, but it is of far more value to the Soviet Government. What they sell to us is five or six times what we sell to them, and therefore putting an end to the trade agreement would be far more effective upon them, and far more dangerous to them, than it would be to ourselves. I respectfully suggest to the noble and learned Viscount who leads the House that some intimation of that sort., given to the Soviet Government, would have more effect in putting an end to this propaganda. At any rate it is one method of trying to improve their morals and conduct, and I venture to suggest it is worth thinking of.
§ THE EARL OF DENBIGH
My Lords, may I re-echo what has fallen from the noble Lord who has just spoken, and say that I quite agree with him. I thank the noble Marquess for his remarks, but I do not hold that it is necessarily for us to make suggestions. Humble and obscure individuals like the noble Duke and myself who are not governing the country are not responsible, and we leave it to the Government to find these things out. They have their agents and other means of finding out what is going on with regard to this revolutionary propaganda. One thing I would like to suggest, and that is that they should take some action against the publication of such a document as I read out—namely, the advertising and selling of these resolutions passed by the Comintern in Moscow, with instructions as to what is to be done in various countries. I think much sharper action should be taken against the publishers of these docu- 416 ments, and if the present law is not strong enough it should be amended.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.