§ 2.5 p.m.
§ LORD ADDISON rose to call attention to the war situation; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I must apologize for the shortness of the Notice which was given in connexion with this Motion, but it was deemed convenient that an opportunity should be afforded for a discussion in this House of the war situation as soon as possible, and it is on that account, mainly, that the Motion was placed on the Paper. It is, I should think, for every one of us a matter of some difficulty to follow the rapidly changing scenes of the war, and to keep touch with events. But one may be allowed at the beginning of the debate just to glance at some of the outstanding features, recognizing that what is paramount to-day may perhaps have receded in a few days time into a position of seemingly less importance, because the situation is completely different from what it was when your Lordships last discussed this matter. It has in fact been transformed since that time.
§ Outstanding in our thoughts, I am sure, must be the recent achievements of the Russian Armies, representing perhaps the greatest co-ordinated military attack in history. What it means in administrative efficiency behind the lines, as well as in heroism and direction in the field, evokes the admiration of every one of us. We know that, in these days, by reason of the immense tonnage that is required to supply the needs of armies and of the fact that the railways supplying them are of different gauge from that of the railways by which they have previously been supplied, there is necessarily a limit to an advance until the supply organization can meet the needs of the situation and enable a new advance to be undertaken. How far the Russian Armies will go 706 remains to be seen, but nobody, I am sure, is more fully aware of the physical difficulties of supply than those men of superlative ability who administer the supply services of the Russian Armies. It may be that before long, owing partly to the difficulties of supply and partly to a certain rallying by the enemy somewhere or other, the Russian Forces will meet with a stiffer resistance than they are experiencing just now. But if that does happen, I think, it will only postpone the event, because the recent progress on the Russian Front has shown that they are thoroughly competent to destroy the German Armies. It is only a matter of time before that will be accomplished.
§ In the Ardennes, too, there has been a happy transformation since we last had this subject under consideration, and I am sure we should all like to associate ourselves with the tribute that the Prime Minister paid to the American troops for the resistance they made. Above all, I am sure we recognize that the infantryman, American or British, is the man who has stood in the pass and who has enabled what looked at one time like a dangerous attack to be turned, probably, into a serious cause of weakness or even worse for the German Armies. In passing, I think that we should never allow ourselves to forget the service which has been rendered in Italy by keeping some twenty-five or thirty German divisions there and so out of action on the Eastern and Western Fronts; nor should we forget the bold and dramatic adventures which have enabled the American Forces to land once more on the Philippines. Behind all those operations there must be a growing demand for shipping. I shall return to that matter again later. Some people who believe that questions of supply will be easy after Germany is defeated may be disillusioned, because one can see that the demands for shipping in the Pacific before Japan is finally defeated will necessarily abstract immense quantities of shipping from other supply routes. I hope that none of our fellow-citizens will be too sanguine in thinking that in the near future there will be abundant supplies of the things that they would like to have, because if they have those ideas I am sure that they will be disappointed.
§ As the war has made more rapid progress, the problems of the liberated 707 countries have begun to emerge—the feeding of them, the restoration of their normal life and activity and so on. I think that the experiences up to now have on the whole been less distressing than many of us expected. Countries cannot be desolated wholesale for years and the people taken away from their homes in millions without indescribable distress arising and immense difficulties having to be dealt with before any sort of co-ordinated restoration can be accomplished. I should like—and I am sure that your Lordships would like—to pay tribute in this connexion to the people of France. Knowing what we do of the scarcities that there are in that country—scarcities due to lack of transport through the destruction of the railways and the supply system generally, to lack of materials from their factories and to lack of food—and knowing what we do of the deprivations of all kinds which they are suffering, we must all feel that the attitude and courage of the French people mark them as almost greater than ever. The way that France is enduring her distress and preparing herself for restoration, suffering indescribable hardships meanwhile, should indeed receive a tribute of admiration from the whole world. Mr. David Scott, in an excellent article some time ago in the Daily Telegraph, very eloquently described the position of the French people when he said that they greeted their liberators through a mist of tears. I am glad that the Government are preparing to assist the French in rearming their new Army. Whilst we know that the provision of arms for those actually in the field must have the first priority, I hope that after that the rearming of the new French Armies will be the next priority. I shall return to that subject later on.
§ We have had a series of distressing and, to me at all events, confusing discussions on the subject of Greece during the last few weeks. To be quite frank, I have felt that the sources of information open to us were sometimes so uncertain and sometimes so contradictory that it was very difficult to form a clear judgment of what the case actually was or of its necessities. It is undeniable, however, that before the war there was in Greece a long era of tyranny, and it is natural and inevitable that there should be all manner of suspicion and hostility engendered by that. 708 You cannot expect these feelings to die down rapidly. People suspect one another. I can well believe that if I had been an adherent of those who were persecuted under Metaxas and had found myself with a rifle in my hand, I should have been rather reluctant to give it up. That would be natural and no doubt explains a good deal of what is behind the trouble there.
§ But there is one other thing behind the trouble in Greece which is also undeniable, and that is the scarcity of food. People who are hungry are very likely to be rebellious and difficult; and I confess to disappointment at the measures (so far as one knows of them) which have been taken to distribute food in Greece. I am not sure whether the U.N.R.R.A. organization has been able to function as freely as one could wish, and I cannot but think that—if it is true—the denial of food supplies to certain parts of Greece, which I understand to be the case at present, is unfortunate. After all, nothing could do more to allay discontent and to promote a peaceful disposition than that we should make our food supplies available to hungry people wherever they may be in Greece. I hope that steps will be taken to enlarge the distribution of food supplies as soon as possible.
§ When all is said and done, however, and whilst one can understand the reactions to past tryannies and their inevitable result's, it is certain that you can never have stability and freedom in a country if the rival political Parties have rival armies. That just will not work. There should be only one Army in a State, and that is the Army which is responsible to the Government of the country. Knowing what we do of the past history of affairs in Greece, I hope that every care will be taken to secure that the Army which is likely to be equipped is not used as a refuge for reactionaries, and that the various brands of Quisling who existed in Greece in abundance before the war will not find a refuge in the new Army. Care should be taken to see that the new Army is, as an Army should be, subject to the directions of a popularly-elected Government and to no other. While on that subject, I should like to put in a plea that the supply of arms to the Greek Army, so far as it is being formed and so far as we are supplying the arms, should not prejudice 709 the supply of arms to the French Army. The French Army should have first claim to anything we can spare.
§ We shall all hope that the Greek Regent will be successful in the prospective negotiations, and that a friendlier atmosphere will gradually develop. I ask the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, to bear in mind, even if he does not reply to it today, what does seem to be a just claim on behalf of some of those who, I think, know the position in what is called E.A.M., that the letters which were delivered to the Red Cross representative, addressed I understand to the heads of different Governments, should be delivered, and not be prevented from being delivered by technicalities; because they may contain suggestions which may help towards peaceful proposals. And I think that opportunities should be given to the representatives of that Party to state their case. I understand they are not given freedom of access to responsible newspaper correspondents and others, which I think they ought to have if we are to hear both sides. We can never expect to get pacification in that country if we begin by suppressing the free expression of grievances. In any case I hope we shall not be open to the charge of being responsible for any measures which will prevent the free expression of grievances.
§ When I say all that I still have at the back of my mind, and I do not care who knows it, a reluctance to feel much sympathy for anybody who takes hostages, whoever they are. It is an abhorrent practice, although I believe both sides have been responsible to some extent. However that may be, I am glad to find that there appears to be a prospect of settlement in that matter; and for my part I feel that the Government mean to stick firmly to the attitude of President Lincoln, adopted by the Prime Minister the other day in another place, and that they are sincerely desirous of promoting a peaceful settlement so that in Greece we shall have a Government of the people, for the people, and by the people. I trust that success will attend their endeavours, and at all events no factious criticism in that matter will come from me. But it has been a miserable business, and it is an example, I consider, of a danger which we have to bear in mind and avoid these days. We are always in danger, I think, of allowing things that are near and immediate to obscure our view of things 710 that are in the end of much greater importance and of more enduring value; and as the war proceeds incidents or events of this kind are apt to lead to disputations which might tempt us to lose sight of the greater objectives.
§ I want to say just a word about those greater objectives, which in my view are the outstanding needs of the world. In that connexion I am sure all of us are glad to know that there is shortly to be a meeting of the heads of the three great Allied States, and wish them with all our hearts success in their deliberations. But there are certain obvious world necessities, and no one has been charged with a more onerous task than the three heads of our great Allied States at their forthcoming meeting. They have it in their power to promote agreement, as we all hope they will, on the machinery that is to be set up for dealing with two great immediate matters. The first is an agreement among the Allies as to what is to be done with Germany when she is defeated. I am not going to discuss that subject now, but a score of thorny questions present themselves to one's mind, and I have not a doubt that President Roosevelt, Mr. Churchill and Marshal Stalin will have a great many more presented to them when they meet together. It is clearly a first-class necessity that there should be agreement among the great Allies as to what steps they are to take and who is to take them when Germany is defeated. That clearly is number one, and alongside it I am sure we are all anxious to see the machinery for securing international co-operation for preserving peace in the future brought into as workmanlike a shape as may be as soon as possible. That is the great task which is before these statesmen and their advisers, and if we think what depends upon it, what it means for the future of the world, many of the other matters I have been referring to will appear of trivial, or at all events of passing, importance.
§ I think it is evident that whatever machinery is devised for world security in the future it must mean a standing agency for international co-operation. How the Security Council will operate, or what may be substituted for it in various respects one does not want to anticipate to-day, but I am sure that every one of us recognizes that few things are more difficult, and nothing is more urgent, than to get 711 into practical shape the machinery of international co-operation for the preservation of peace. It is inevitable, too, that whatever the machinery is, it must mean for the world and for the different nations some sacrifice of their previous notions of national sovereignty. I do not think that that point has been sufficiently amplified. It cannot be imagined that the nations will co-operate in any practical fashion, either for the settlement of their differences or in their contribution to the machinery for securing peace, unless that does involve some diminution of the national notions of sovereignty as we have hitherto understood it.
§ I hope that as a part of the deliberations we shall see some machinery set up which will deal with urgent matters of international dispute. First amongst these, of course, is the Polish question, and I sincerely hope that one of the results of this meeting will be some proposals for producing an effective settlement of that longstanding controversy. Unfortunately, for two hundred years or more, we know that history has presented us with disputatious factions—to put it no higher—in Poland, and I suppose that national characteristic will still remain. Well, we have our share of it ourselves. The settlement of the major Polish questions is clearly an essential ingredient in the security of peace in Europe. I think also that we might look for some prompter action and more effective machinery for dealing with the problems of liberated nations as they become liberated. It is true that the conditions that arose, say in Belgium, or France, or Greece, or Yugoslavia, are in themselves different, and I do not see on the horizon, at present anyhow, any inter-Allied agency that can function with authority, with sufficient promptitude, as these territories are liberated. We cannot expect the standing European Council, which is mainly advisory, to exercise functions of that kind, but I think that some more effective machinery and a more authoritative agency is required than we have at present for dealing with the problems of liberated countries as they arise, and particularly for the distribution of food supplies and other necessities.
§ I have just tried to indicate a few of the great matters which are present, I am sure, in the minds of all of us, and the moral of it all to me, as an old Party man, is that in view of these things we cannot 712 afford to quarrel about minor matters. These issues are so big, of such immense world importance that I, for one, view with grave apprehension the creation of great clamour about lesser things. It seems to me that these immense problems, upon which the future peace and the security of the nations depend, call to us for the greatest and most enduring unity that we can possibly fashion. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 2.34 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken will allow me to say that he has made a very comprehensive survey of the war situation. He has dealt with these difficult issues with great wisdom, and I find myself in agreement with practically everything that he has said. In particular I thought he was very wise in his treatment of the controversy about Greece. He said that he had suspended judgment; that he did not feel that in the early days of the controversy he had sufficient data upon which to base it. I could not help thinking how wise it would have been if a great many other people had acted in the same way. It seemed to me that there were many people in the country taking sides upon very inadequate data, and stirring up bitter controversy, just at the moment, as the noble Lord has himself said, when this country most needs a united front.
I do not linger upon the Greek situation this afternoon, except to make this one observation. It seems to me that in the Greek incident we could not have had a better example of the moral and material devastation of Europe that this House was discussing three or four weeks ago. As the noble Lord has just said, it showed the bitterness of partisan feeling upon the Continent of Europe; it showed in particular the need of law and order and food at a moment when the Continent is so terribly devastated, and, if I might add to the list given by the noble Lord, I would say also the need of employment. I believe that a great many of these problems that we see to-day in the newly-liberated territories are due to the fact that a great percentage of the population has nothing to do. The breakdown of transport, the lack of raw materials, the anarchical lives that of necessity so many men and women have had to live under German occupation, have made normal life almost impossible; and I would put as one of the 713 first priorities for these newly-liberated territories the need of providing opportunities for the population, and particularly for the young men, to have some useful work to do. But I do not now refer to these Greek issues except to point the moral to which I have just made allusion.
I am thinking much more—indeed, I imagine that most noble Lords are thinking upon the same lines—of the conference that is going to take place in the immediate future between the three great Allied leaders. I share completely the opinions just expressed by the noble Lord as to the great achievements of our Russian Allies during the last two or three weeks. Nothing could be more magnificent. Nothing could show better the contrast between the high standards of efficiency that one finds in the Russian Army to-day and the state of affairs when I and some other members of this House were attached to the Russian Army during the last war. But whilst I am behind no member of your Lordships' House in my admiration of the course of military events, I am none the less somewhat disturbed by certain of the recent political developments. It seems to me that under our eyes has been gradually taking shape the new pattern of Europe. It seems to me that it is a new pattern, very different from the pattern that some of us had contemplated two or three years ago. It seems to be a pattern that is differing in certain material respects from the principles of the Atlantic Charter. One by one the difficult issues of Europe are in process of being settled, but they are being settled, for the most part, piecemeal, unilaterally and without the consultation or the full approval of the populations concerned.
I am not so foolish as to think that in the course of a great war lasting many years, it can be expected that events will always go according to some neat preconceived plan. What the Prime Minister the other day rightly called "the march of events" is bound to have a great influence upon the political developments that take place. Nor, still less, do I fail to realize the gigantic achievements of the Prime Minister and the other two great leaders of the Alliance in keeping together the Coalition, always a very difficult task in the course of a long war, and in concentrating its full efforts upon the defeat of Germany. None the less 714 I do think that at the impending conference that is so soon to take plate, the time has come to revise some of the decisions that have been taken piecemeal and unilaterally in the course of the war and to make an attempt to fit them into a system for Europe that will last not a few days or a few months, but a system that may be regarded as a permanent foundation for the Continent for the future.
I have in mind a whole list of definite questions to which such an attempt might be applied. I do not weary your Lordships with them this afternoon; they will probably occur to every noble Lord who is present. I take from the list two of them as examples of what is in my mind. They are two examples, it is interesting to note, that the noble Lord who preceded me has selected. I take first of all the question of the attitude of the Allies to the liberated territories. I take secondly the attitude of the Allies to Germany. I am going to be somewhat more ambitious, perhaps somewhat more indiscreet than the noble Lord who has just spoken, and attempt to put my argument into a more concrete form. Take first of all the question of the treatment of the liberated areas. It seems to me that we have been witnessing a series of acts which are essentially unilateral acts. They have been tending to create what I believe many people wish to avoid, unilateral spheres of influence in Europe. I am quite aware that very often what has happened has been that the great Allies have given some kind of general approval to what has happened. Now, I would venture to suggest to the noble Viscount, the time has come to go beyond the generalities and for the Allies to have a common programme for dealing with liberated areas, to make their programme public and to have an organization for carrying out the executive part of the programme.
We have seen what has been happening in Greece. In Greece it seems to have been assumed that we alone were responsible for the course of events. As a result, a large measure of odium was placed upon our shoulders and we have seen a large amount of criticism, very often ignorant criticism, of what we have done, in the columns of overseas papers, I would suggest to the Government that the attitude of the Allies in liberated territories ought to be collec- 715 tive action, and that there ought to be some body upon a higher level than what is called the European Advisory Commission. I say not a word of criticism against the European Advisory Commission. The British representative upon the Commission is one of the ablest of our younger diplomats and I feel sure that within their limitations the European Advisory Commission have played a very useful part. I believe, however, that the time has now come when there is needed an organization upon a higher level. Noble Lords will remember that at the end of the last war what was called the Ambassadors' Conference in Paris played a very useful part and was effective in settling a number of difficult questions during the period of its existence. I do not say that an exact repetition of that organization is necessarily suitable to present conditions. It may be that better methods can be discovered. It may be, for instance, that regular meetings between the Foreign Ministers might be preferable, provided, that is, that those meetings are regular, that they are constant and that they have an organization behind them.
But the point I wish to make to your Lordships this afternoon is that the treatment of liberated areas should be a collective and not a unilateral treatment, in which all three, indeed I should say all four, of the great Powers are involved, for I would include the French as one of those four Powers. I feel that it is essential to bring the French Government into the active consideration of these questions and to make the French Government and the French people share responsibility for the decisions taken.
My second point is that at the ensuing conference an organ of some kind should be set up upon a higher level than the European Advisory Committee which should deal from day to day with the many questions that are bound to come to the front—questions which, if they are left as they are to-day, will only end in the kind of bitter, ignorant controversy of which we have had so flagrant an example in the case of Greece.
I come to my other concrete proposal. I believe myself that, now that we are entering upon what appears to be the last stages of the last chapter of military operations, the time has come for the Allies collectively and not unilaterally to 716 make their attitude towards Germany far clearer than it is to-day. I have tried to follow as best I could the announcements that have been made from time to time by the Allied leaders on the subject of Germany. I think I am right in saying that almost without exception these statements have been unilateral statements. There has never been a joint and considered pronouncement by all the great Allies, including France. I think it is essential that upon the issue of Germany any declaration of the Allies should be shared by the French Government.
So far the very comprehensive phrase "unconditional surrender" has held the ground. I would not for a moment suggest going back on the phrase "unconditional surrender"—I thought that what the Prime Minister said in another place the other day was unanswerable on the subject—but I do think the time has come for the great Allies to explain more clearly what they mean by "unconditional surrender." As I understand, the phrase "unconditional surrender" means no negotiations; it means a decison by the Allies as to what terms they intend to impose upon Germany. Leaving the phrase without any explanation seems to me to give a free hand to Goebbels and the German propagandists to paint an unrestricted picture of all the horrors that the Allies are going to inflict upon the German people and to convince them that however hopeless may be the war, however terrible may be the result of defeat, it is better than any surrender to the Allies. I should like to remove that instrument of propaganda from the possession of Goebbels and by that means to help our military effort, to shorten it may be the course of the war, and to bring to bear on the subject our machine of political warfare, of which we have heard a great deal in the past with, so far as I have seen, very meagre results, an offensive political warfare to aid our military offensive. I should like to see at this ensuing conference agreement reached upon such a statement. I should like to see the Allies set out clearly the essential conditions upon which they insist and upon which I believe there is a great body of general agreement amongst the Allied peoples—the total disarmament of Germany, military occupation, industrial control, the readjustment of frontiers on military grounds, punishment of war criminals, the provision of 717 German labour and German materials for the rehabilitation of devastated areas. I believe it would be found that there is a great body of general agreement as to what are the terms—the very drastic terms—upon which we should all insist.
It would be very useful from the point of view of hastening the end of the war that these terms should now be stated. But suppose agreement could not be reached upon a statement of that kind. I should still like to see the great Allies collectively make a statement—if they cannot make a statement upon what we are going to do with Germany, a statement upon what we are not going to do with Germany. The Prime Minister in the debate in another place made an admirable statement upon that subject. He made it quite clear that there was no question of withdrawing the provision of unconditional surrender, but he made it quite clear, also, that that did not mean that in our treatment of individual Germans we were going to behave as the Germans themselves have behaved towards the inhabitants of occupied territories. He made it quite plain that we should act within the limits of the traditions and principles upon which we have always conducted our dealings with individuals of our own and other countries. It was an excellent statement, but it was a unilateral statement made by only one of the great Allies.
I would ask the noble Viscount if he would consider very seriously the wisdom of our representatives at the conference doing their utmost to obtain a united statement of this kind, supported by all the Allies, and publicly announced with all the force at the disposal of the various organizations of political warfare. By this statement, I suggest, it should be made quite clear to individual Germans that all the horrors out of which Goebbels is making such capital at the present moment were features of German propaganda, and that whilst we were going to insist upon the most drastic measures for the prevention of any future war of aggression by Germany, none the less we were going to treat individual Germans as human beings. It should further be stated that we contemplated that—to use the phraseology of the Atlantic Charter—"after the final destruction of Nazi tryanny" the Germans would play their part in the Europe of the future, and that, Germany being a country of 718 60,000,000 inhabitants, the part they would play would be an important one, provided that Nazism was for ever destroyed and that they lived as civilized neighbours with the rest of the countries of Europe.
Let me then epitomize in a sentence or two what I have been trying to say. I wish to see this great conference—much the most important conference that has been held since the war started—get back to the Atlantic Charter. It is four years since the Atlantic Charter was accepted by the great Allies. It has been accepted by the great Allies; it has been accepted by the smaller Powers. Here, is a statement of policy agreed by the President of the United States, by our own Prime Minister and by Marshal Stalin. I am anxious to see that we get back to the principles that were so admirably stated in it. Let me, in conclusion, read to you the principal clauses. I think that you will say that, if they could be carried out, we should find in them a real and permanent basis for a better Europe for the future, and that where we have been diverted from them—it may be under the hard pressure of military events—we have been pushed off the right track.
Listen to this. The Signatories state:First, their countries seek no aggrandisement, territorial or other.Second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.Sixth, after the final destruction of Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want.My Lords, there, is a fine statement of agreed and united policy. There is a programme upon which we can build. There is a line to which I hope we shall see the representatives of all the great Powers devote their full attention when they meet in the near future in this all-important international conference.
§ 3.8 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I have to tender my apologies to the House and 719 to my noble friend Lord Addison for intervening in this debate without having been here to listen to its opening stages. I have been fulfilling a long-standing engagement of a public character which made it impossible for me to be in my place here at the appointed hour. On the last occasion when we discussed foreign affairs the debate was devoted to the situation in Greece, which was then causing great anxiety. That is now happily on the way to settlement, it appears. The chief cause of it was undoubtedly the violence of the dissensions between the contending Parties in Greece. Historians and ethnologists have sometimes questioned whether the present Greek population is truly descended from the classical Hellenes; but there is no doubt that in their insistent and bitter internecine quarrels they run true to type, and that there is clearly a proof of heredity there. And again at the time of the War of Greek Independence, when Byron was reduced to inactivity in Missolonghi, engaged in attempts—mostly futile—to persuade the warring Greek factions to combine together to overthrow the Turks and to win the independence of their country, precisely the same characteristics were displayed. There is a line which has become proverbial, though often misquoted, from an eighteenth century play by a now unknown author—When Greeks joined Greeks then was the tug-of-war.So it has been in this case. I hope, however, that if the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, touches upon this matter in to-day's debate he will be able to give a far more satisfactory account than was possible when the matter was previously before your Lordships' House.
I turn now to a different and a very distant theatre. Within the last few days there have been recorded great victories won by the Fourteenth Army in Burma, which I think should be hailed thankfully here in the Imperial Parliament. That Army has been fighting under the most arduous conditions, and we should express our gratitude to the General and to the troops there engaged, and for the support which they have received from the Americans and the Chinese, in that they have won these striking successes after long conflicts. I should like to ask 720 the noble Viscount whether the re-opening of the road through Burma to China is likely in the near future to bring succour on a considerable scale to the Chinese Armies, which have been passing through so great an ordeal for so long a time.
If the noble Viscount is able to refer to China, it is possible that he may also be able to say something—though I should not press him on the subject if he thinks that it is in any way inexpedient—on the question of whether there is any prospect of reconciliation and co-operation between the Chungking Government of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and what is almost the State—the so-called Communist State—which has been set up in Yenan. All the United Nations are vitally concerned in the effective prosecution of the war against Japan on the Chinese mainland, and this internecine quarrel between these two administrations has undoubtedly had a most deleterious effect upon the progress of that campaign. Possibly the recent remodelling of the Government in Chungking may bring about some approximation betwen these two authorities which, if it could be effected, would, I am certain, be very warmly welcomed by public opinion in this country.
Turning now from those two specific points, I come to what is fundamental in the whole of the war situation, and that is the question of the solidarity of the alliance between the United Nations. That is an absolute condition not only of victory but also of the avoidance of future wars, and it is our duty here closely to watch any indication, however slight it may be, of a rift between any of the partners in this vast world-wide enterprise, and particularly in the relations between Russia, the United States and the British Commonwealth. I think occasion should be taken here in this Chamber to make a protest against a speech recently made by Commander Bower, a little-known Member of Parliament, which was a sweeping attack on Russia and the Russians. That speech, having evidently been telegraphed to Russia, has recently met with strong condemnation in Pravda, the official journal. I sincerely trust that our friends in Russia will realize the complete unimportance of that speaker, who is known, I think, only for his prominence as being one of the most reactionary and irresponsible of our Members of Parliament. We can assure the Russian authorities and Russian opinion 721 that his, speech is entirely unworthy of their attention, and represents the views of no one but the speaker himself.
More serious has been a journalistic breeze which has blown up in the United States in consequence of an article which appeared on December 30 in London in the Economist. That is a paper which we all know to be of a very responsible character, and which has always expressed strong Americanophil views; but this article was a vigorously-written protest against unfair criticism in the American Press, and expressed a strongly-worded feeling of resentment against such unmerited attacks upon British policy and British actions. That undoubtedly caused a very considerable sensation throughout the journalistic world in America. I think that any of us who have read that article cannot but feel that there was some justification for it, and that it may have helped to clear the air as between the two countries; but if such a statement had to be made it should be made once for all and having been made the matter should, in my view, be allowed to rest there.
It would be deplorable if that article and the replies in America should be the beginning of a Press bickering between the two countries, and it would be even worse if it were to extend from the newspaper level to the political and Parliamentary level. That, happily, has not yet taken place, and I feel sure that no member of your Lordships' House would wish to continue here any such discussion. After all, let us have a sense of proportion. In view of the immeasurable value of American co-operation in this war, of their economic and industrial help, and of the magnificent achievements of their Vast Armies, it would be ridiculous to over-emphasize these little points of resentment of criticism. There is a Chinese proverb: "Do not remove a fly from thy friend's forehead with a hatchet."
We have watched with admiration and gratitude the massive succession of successes of the Russian Armies on the Eastern Front, due to a combination of soldierly valour, brilliant generalship and efficient organization. Those successes, following upon the British and American successes in the West from the time of the Normandy landing six months ago, must undoubtedly bring us much nearer to the end of this immense and prolonged con- 722 filet. Nowhere is such an end more ardently hoped for than in the occupied territories of Europe, disorganized and devastated by the occupation and by the campaigns. Europe is in the position of a patient who has to undergo the excision of a malignant tumour without an anæsthetic. The suffering of the occupied countries has frequently been very great.
It was proclaimed by the United Nations some considerable time ago that they regarded it as a duty to bring immediate material relief in food and other supplies and raw materials to the liberated nations, and U.N.R.R.A. (the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) was established amid universal approval and applause with the general understanding that its duty would be, as soon as the Armies had reoccupied any territory, to rush in supplies with the utmost speed in order to relieve the local situation. The event has not proved as was intended, and as was expected. Most distressing accounts have come in turn from each of the released territories. In South Italy, in Greece before the unwarrantable attack by the forces of E.L.A.S., in Yugoslavia, in Belgium, and in Holland, to the disappointment of all of us, it has been found that the sufferings and the grievances continued. In The Times of January 16 there appeared a paragraph on this matter in which the following sentence had place:In Dalmatia and neighbouring parts of Yugoslavia there is famine; at the end of last year more than 200 people a week were dying of starvation.Well, we know the great difficulties that there have been in bringing in supplies—difficulties of shipping, of land transport, difficulties due to urgent military priorities; but it appears that there has also been some defect of organization. We are told that U.N.R.R.A. is not admitted on to the scene at all for six months, except with the invitation of the military authorities, and as a matter of fact in several of these cases they have not been able actively to function at the early stages. And it is quite understandable that the military authorities, concentrated upon their own most urgent and immediate problems, having to bring up their forces, to supply them and to win battles, are unwilling to consent to any considerable release of shipping or transport for the purpose of meeting civilian needs. They have necessarily 723 to be concentrated on their own province. But whatever may be the causes, we, representing British public opinion, can only judge by results, and it must be admitted that the difficulties, which are real, have not been overcome. Whether it has been inevitable that they should not be overcome we cannot judge. The fact is that such has hitherto often been the case. It would no doubt be unjust to say at this stage that U.N.R.R.A. has been a failure, but no one can sincerely say that it has yet been a success.
Recently His Majesty's Government sent one of their members, Mr. Richard Law, Minister of State, to the United States in order to see whether further measures could be devised for overcoming these difficulties and for achieving greater results. It is, in the first place, a humanitarian duty to endeavour to bring some speedy relief to these populations, which have been so gravely suffering. But it is not only a humanitarian duty; it also has a very direct bearing upon the military campaign and upon the prospects of victory; for, though on the one hand the transport of supplies may on some occasions be in competition with some military requirements, on the other hand, inaction and failure also have effects on the campaign, for they lessen the energy and vigour of the co-operation of the local populations. It is very important to our Armies as they advance, and as they leave behind them and have around them the liberated population, that the population should be enthusiastic and grateful, and not suffering from continued and sometimes increased hardships, and finding themselves in spirit separated from the Allies and in some degree alienated. Possibly that may have had some effect in the rapid decline in the warmth of the popular welcome of our Armies in Greece.
Even more important is the last point to which I want to invite your Lordships' attention and that is certain aspects of the present position in regard to the future organization of the post-war world. It has frequently been thought that power and peace were opposites, and no doubt often that has been so. But it need not be so, and we recognize—we have had to recognize from hard lessons—that in our present state of civilization there certainly will be power in the world. If it is in wrong hands wrongly used it brings disaster to mankind, as we know only too 724 well at this moment; but if it is in the right hands and rightly used power may be a guarantee for peace. And that is why the new policy of the active friends of peace throughout the world is being adopted; it recognizes the necessity of the maintenance of power in the hands of the peace-loving nations. In that connexion the two most important events during the course of the war, apart from the military aspect, appear to me to have been these: first, the Anglo-Russian twenty-years' alliance, which contemplates that those two countries should maintain their armaments and should act together for the future preservation of the peace of the world; and, secondly, the laying of the foundations for a world-wide organization at Dumbarton Oaks.
And here I would draw your Lordships' attention to what would seem to be a most important observation made by the Prime Minister in the very last sentence of his remarkable speech in the House of Commons a week ago. He was referring to the forthcoming conference between himself and President Roosevelt and Marshal Stalin, and he said that he had great hopes of that conference, and he added that we were (I quote his words):… at a moment when direct advance may be made towards the larger problems which will confront the victors and, above all, advance towards that world organization upon which, as we all know, the salvation of our harassed generation and the immediate future of the world depend.There the words of great importance perhaps are the words "above all." That is of the greatest interest to mankind at this moment.
And when we come to consider what that world organization should be I would again revert to a point that was made by other speakers as well as by myself in the very significant debate which was opened not long ago by the noble Viscount who has just spoken, Lord Templewood; and that is that these Dumbarton Oaks organizations and other measures of the kind and treaties of alliance between Russia and Britain and the like, are not the last word nor the matters of greatest importance; that it is not formal treaties and not armed forces being kept in readiness which are the things which are the most necessary. During that heart-rending civil war in America, Walt Whitman wrote these lines: 725Were you looking to be held together by the lawyersOr by an agreement on paper? or by arms?—Nay—nor the world nor any living thing will so cohere.And whit really matters is the spirit of friendship among peoples and the will to peace among the masses of mankind. Therefore it is in continuously emphasizing that fundamental principle that I believe this House of Parliament can most usefully influence the opinions and the actions of our people.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I would ask your Lordships' indulgence for a few minutes to make one or two observations in this debate. Our many debates on this subject are perhaps the most important debates in which we can take part, and I think it is very fortunate that we have the opportunity of holding these discussions in both Houses because we then are able to hear from our leaders a description and account of the actual situation. I think we owe a debt of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Addison, for moving this Motion, and we shall look forward to the reply which the noble Viscount will give us in a few moments. We have been fortunate in listening to a speech from my noble friend Lord Templewood, and also from Lord Samuel, because both of them have had a very varied and wide experience, and we always listen to anything they tell us with marked attention.
These debates do present certain difficulties. They are very closely followed by all the nations of the world and they create impressions in those countries which it is quite easy to exploit. Therefore it is very necessary for us in anything that we say to use the utmost caution, in case some phrase should be taken out of its context and used to depict a condition in this country which by no means exists. I think we owe a deep debt of gratitude for the statements which the Prime Minister has given in another place on every occasion when it was thought necessary, and my noble friend who leads this House has followed suit and has given us of his best in speeches which we all remember for their wisdom, their eloquence and their replies to so many questions which on different occasions we have had to put forward. We can feel particularly grateful to the Prime Minister because he gives us a correct picture of what is going on. 726 He neither exaggerates on the one side nor minimizes on the other. He never gives us too optimistic a picture which is likely to create complacency in this country and elsewhere, nor does he give us an ultra-pessimistic picture which is likely to affect morale in some direction or another.
But when I say that, I am not at all so convinced—and I speak with great respect of these two institutions—that either the Press or the B.B.C. present very correct pictures of the real meaning of the debates here and in another place. We in this country are an enigma to the rest of the world, and I am quite sure we shall always remain an enigma, because, through various circumstances, we are more fortunate than any other country, and we have opportunities and responsibilities which it is very difficult for other people to understand. They certainly do not understand our habits, our customs or our procedure. In fact, those things are quite incomprehensible to the ordinary person in any other country, and we find that when violent attacks are made on the Prime Minister they assume a grave significance in the minds of those people and are used as propaganda by the enemy against this country. Your Lordships will remember that there was a debate in another place in which the Prime Minister was personally attacked by one or two speakers. I think the minority vote was seven and the chief attacker did not vote at all; yet that chief attacker received a column of report in one of our leading newspapers, which shall be nameless but which I expect your Lordships will recognize. That naturally has been used, and will be used, as propaganda against this country in other parts of the world.
In all these debates in which we have the opportunity of taking part in your Lordships' House, the minds of those of us who are not actually engaged in fighting the war and who have some experience behind us naturally range over the future. I was very glad to hear the speech which the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, delivered to-day, because it is obvious that, with his wisdom and knowledge, he is very closely considering all those tremendous events which must take place at no very distant future. Therefore, as the noble Viscount who is to reply to us in a few moments knows, all these debates really apply to foreign 727 affairs. It is the concern we feel in relation to the foreign policy of this country that prompts us to raise these matters in your Lordships' House and to venture for a few moments to trespass on your attention. The noble Viscount spoke of the conference which is to take place. At the present moment it would be folly to say that the war is over and we do not say so, nor do we wish, by wishful thinking, to assume that the war will be over before it is; but that conference will take place and a tremendous, responsibility will be placed in the hands of all those who are called upon to carry out its decisions.
Now the record of foreign policy in this country between the wars was a very bad one indeed. I would say that in the later years before the war this country had no foreign policy at all. My noble friend Lord Perth, who I am sorry to see is not here to-day, has on more than one occasion raised debates in your Lordships' House, and I regret to say that those debates have not interested the Press very much because there was nothing in them that was particularly striking to attract public attention, which is the standard which the Press follows to perhaps an extent which is rather unfortunate. But the noble Earl, Lord Perth, has touched the real issue. He has spoken of the structure of the Foreign Office and of the changes which are in contemplation and, I hope, in being. We very often hear from the Front Bench, and anxieties are allayed by the information, that there is a Cabinet Committee sitting which will shortly report. Then all our anxieties will disappear. I need not go into the matter of a Cabinet Committee because, speaking as one who has a certain amount of experience in these matters, I know that the Cabinet as such consists of such few members, each of whom has a terrific burden of departmental responsibility on his shoulders, that I cannot believe that a Committee of those eminent gentlemen has been sitting for two years considering the structure and changes which are necessary in the Foreign Office. However, perhaps the noble Viscount will tell us what the real situation is.
But the matter to which I would like to draw your Lordships' attention is the whole position which the Foreign Office should occupy and is to occupy in the future. The Foreign Office, without doubt, is the most important Department 728 in the Government of this country. I think we can all of us regret that in the pre-war years the Foreign Office did not occupy the position which it should have occupied as the pivot around which the whole policy of this country and Empire should revolve. It is within your Lordships' recollection that for one hundred years the statesmen who occupied the foremost position in the Government after the Prime Minister were—to mention only a few—Castlereagh, Palmerston and, to come to later years, Salisbury, Lansdowne and Grey. And I think they all were Foreign Secretaries. They were men of great political stature and attainments, and were certainly the most important members of the Government after the Prime Minister. When Mr. Chamberlain went on his fateful journeys abroad he was not accompanied by the Foreign Secretary. I do not really know how the Foreign Secretary was represented at the Conference at Ottawa, but no doubt there was a representative of the Foreign Office with the delegation that went there, which shows your Lordships that the important position which foreign affairs must occupy in this country was not in the minds of the Government at that time.
If we go back to a few years before the war we can remember that there was no foreign policy in this country at all and that on every occasion Great Britain always gave way, for reasons which I need not go into now. Perhaps there was a defeatist inferiority complex point of view, and we felt we were not strong enough to carry out any intention we might have had in our mind. But I need not go into that matter now, although there is a great deal to be said about it. I think the intelligence which was supplied by the Foreign Office was extremely faulty and I am quite sure that the attitude which this country adopted of fearing to offend anyone, or of treading on anybody's toes, or to take any direct line on anything, was responsible for the fact that Hitler was able to carry out all his obvious bluffs and to place us in the position which we were in in 1939, whereas in 1933 he was impotent. I go so far as to say that the structure of the Foreign Office and the failings of the Foreign Office were responsible for our being then in a position which we had not been in during the previous hundred 729 years. I think that was responsible for bringing about the war we are waging at the present moment.
The position which we occupy in this country and in this Empire makes it impossible for us to occupy a position of isolation and I hardly think it will ever be our policy to occupy such a position. There is no political movement in any part of the world which does not, in some shape or form, affect a British interest, and that is why it demands a very correct appreciation from the Government of this country. Unless we have those changes in the Foreign Office which I believe are likely to take place, unless we have a Department which can express a definite and an overriding opinion on all these great matters, we shall relapse into exactly the same position in which we were before the war, and we shall find policies being enacted that are in conflict with the foreign policy that this country ought to have.
In the debate in this House yesterday my noble friend Lord Elibank spoke of dual control. It is quite necessary that the Foreign Office must be the overriding authority, that it should have sufficient knowledge and be equipped with such departments as can deal with all those maters with which my noble friend so ably dealt yesterday. I am glad to think that the United States of America has definitely come to the belief that no nation can exist in a watertight compartment, therefore it is vitally important that we should act in close co-operation with the United States of America in our foreign policy because, as I venture to say to your Lordships, there is no question, even no domestic question, no Empire question and no world-wide question which does not affect the foreign policy of this country.
If I say anything about the United States of America at this moment, I can assure your Lordships that I do not mean to say anything to their detriment, because I feel that so much depends in the future on our close co-operation with them and that an alliance is vitally necessary not only for our mutual advantage but also for the benefit of the world. At the same time we must recognize the very unfortunate part played by the United States in relation to the League of Nations. From the moment they stood out of that organization it was doomed to 730 failure. At this time, men's minds are ranging over the future and perhaps we are sometimes inclined to ignore the past and there are signs of new organizations arising, of pious hopes developing. Unless these great countries hold together and realize that they must have the capacity of defending all their commitments, these pious hopes and ideas that are now in people's minds—and I am not sure they are entirely absent from the discussions at Dumbarton Oaks—will not be realized and we shall find exactly the same failures and disasters which occurred on the last occasion.
I venture to say very respectfully and humbly to the noble Lord who presides over our destinies in this House that I hope he will advise his colleagues that plain speaking is really the only way to deal with these matters. It is a vital necessity that Great Britain should have a very definite idea of what her foreign policy is going to be. Unless we can make up our minds on that and make known what is our foreign policy—with slight amendments, if you like, and the acceptance of other people's opinions to a limited extent—we are certain to fail. I would like to say at this time that the only person who, during the last fifteen years has ever spoken in direct terms, who has ever spoken in the phraseology which we in this country and in the Empire understand and which the world understands, has been our present Prime Minister and the fact that he has spoken plainly, and the fact that he has told the world what he is prepared to do and will do, has been the cause of the success that has attended upon his efforts. If we go back to the attitude we adopted before the war, waiting to hear what everybody says or is going to say, and trying to find out if we are offending France, or alienating Italy, or by joining with France and Italy we are alienating Germany—if we go back to that attitude we shall again get into a position similar to that which preceded the present war. We know quite well that we are faced with tremendous changes in certain directions, but they do not affect the basic policy by which this country has been guided for a century. We know quite well, by reason of recent inventions, that time and space are annihilated and that our negotiations and relations with foreign countries must be undertaken on a modern basis, perhaps with different methods and by different 731 means to those which we have adopted before.
I will venture now to say one or two words about Greece to which the noble Lord referred in his opening speech. There is very little I want to say, but I do not think we can disguise from ourselves that what is going on there is a forerunner of problems, I hope not many problems but certain problems, with which we shall be faced in the future. I think both the Prime Minister and Mr. Eden have played a noble part in what has happened there. I deeply regret, and I dissociate myself, as I am sure all my friends on the Opposition Front Bench dissociate themselves, from the attempts to make political capital which some people have made who claim to be their followers. When I entered this House I had a letter put into my hand. It began by claiming to be written by a Left Wing person belonging to the Labour Party. It opened with abuse and ended on an even more virulent note. The statement was made in it that I was determined to place King George on the throne of Greece, that that was the object of my Party and that that was the reason for the Prime Minister's speech in the House of Commons followed by that of Mr. Eden. I think I am really speaking for all my noble friends on this side of the House when I say that these considerations are not in our minds at all. We are determined so far as we have the opportunity to see that all these liberated countries have an opportunity of finding out as best they can what their people want, and whatever their people want they will find us in support behind them. To suggest that we are associated with any Party in Greece is one of those strange bits of political propaganda which carry far too much weight in this country and abroad.
There are two principles on which I would venture to say a few words. One has reference to insistence on the sanctity of treaties. I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that that really is the chief duty of the Foreign Office. It is the duty of the Foreign Minister, apart from his other responsibilities, continually to remind the Government of which he is a member that the one thing that is vitally necessary on all counts is the sanctity of treaties. If we look back we can realize that Hitler would have been powerless if this country had merely expressed a determination to adhere to the sanctity of 732 treaties. Part 5 of the Treaty of Versailles should have been put into operation and Hitler's activities brought to an end. When I say that I do not mean to suggest that treaties cannot be varied. If circumstances which supervene after a treaty has been made show that consultation and negotiation are required then these treaties should be modified or altered in view of the changed circumstances, but one thing we must maintain is that unilateral denunciation of a treaty must be made impossible. As I have said, the Treaty of Versailles is a flagrant and disastrous example. Great Britain at that time was too timid to do anything.
When I am speaking of the sanctity of treaties I should like to draw your Lordships' attention also to two other matters. One is the guarantee we gave to France. We guaranteed France in conjunction with America after the last war, but there was a dangerous proviso that if one of the high contracting parties failed to ratify it should be open to the other party to disregard their obligations and refuse to ratify also. America, after President Wilson had returned to Washington, refused to ratify and unfortunately we followed the Americans. I think all your Lordships realize the disastrous results which followed. The French were placed in a position of doubting whether we would carry out our obligations and the fact that France was not able to trust us all through those years—and she showed it on more than one occasion—was due to our failure to fulfil our guarantee. The other matter is the American debt. Because of circumstances which I need not go into we repudiated the debt, with the result that one of the pieces of political propaganda circulated in America was that we never fulfilled anything we said. That created friction between ourselves and America which could quite easily have been avoided. I think your Lordships will agree that the sanctity of treaties is the whole foundation of civilized existence.
The second main principle to which I would like to draw your Lordship's attention is the question of the liberated countries. I do think, as my noble friend Viscount Templewood said in his speech, that in all these matters we must have the Allied countries associated with us. I should have liked to see the United States of America and Russia associated 733 with us in the Greek question. I hope that in all questions which are likely to arise in the future that principle will be paramount. I think we are all agreed in your Lordships' House that it is vitally necessary that in all these liberated countries we should see that the Governments which will be established are based on Lincoln's maxim of government of the people, for the people, by the people.
§ 3.57 p.m.
THE EARL us HUNTINGDON
My Lords, wish to have your Lordships' attention for a very short while upon the vexed subject of Greece, and I should like to assure my noble friend the Marquess of Londonderry that if I disagree with some of his statements it is not because I have any wish to make political capital out of this matter. I want to make one or two concrete proposals and I should like at once to emphasize that these proposals are my own proposals and in no way commit my noble friends on these Benches or the Labour Party. This is a moment when we are all hoping that the Plastiras Government and the National Resistance Movement will soon be sitting in conference and it occurred to me that if by any chance we had any constructive suggestions to make this was pre-eminently the time to bring them forward. Obviously no progress can be made in Greece unless some Government can be established on a broad basis, a Government which will include not only the members of the Plastiras Party but also members of the different Parties which form the National Resistance Movement.
It has been suggested by the Foreign Secretary in another place that the National Resistance Movement is more or less breaking up. I think the phrase used by the Prime Minister was that they were flaking off, leaving only a hard Communist core. In proof of this a document was produced in another place which purported to come from the Greek Socialist Movement saying that its members disapproved of all that had happened and that they had resigned from E.A.M. But this document was signed by no known name and it would be interesting to know who exactly are these people. We really do not know them, whereas there are well-known Socialists such as M. Stratis, Secretary-General and one of the original founders of the Greek Socialist Party, M. Laskaris, Secretary of 734 the Railwaymen's Union and a leader of the Socialist Party, Professor Angellopoulos and Professor Svolos, who are E.A.M. leaders. I do not say that many people may not have left the National Resistance Movement out of fear, perhaps, of reprisals and so forth, but it is strange that no signatures of well-known people have been produced. I should think, myself, that it is highly improbable that there has been any real break-up of this large movement which was brought together under the pressure of German tyranny and under the inspiration of national freedom. However, news out of Greece is difficult to get.
I suggest that the first problem which this conference has got to face is whether General Plastiras can convince the delegates from the Liberation Movement of his good faith in the matter of wishing to build up a Greek democracy, a democratic Greece; and, if so, whether he will give them some adequate representation in the Provisional Government which must take control until elections are held. That seems to me to be a fundamental issue, and, of course, the British authorities can have a very big say in these matters, for, obviously, without the support of British military forces the Plastiras Government would hardly last a day.
The second problem to which I should like to draw the attention of the House is how to find some useful activity for the employment of the guerrilla forces, the forces of E.L.A.S. as well as the Royalist regiments, the Sacred Battalion and the Mountain Brigade. It is dreadful, to me at any rate, to think of these very brave fighting men in Greece who should be used against the common enemy but who, instead, are fighting each other or our soldiers, and of the fact that several of our divisions which are tied down in Greece could be so usefully employed against the Germans elsewhere. Field-Marshal Alexander himself spoke of this at the Conference in Athens, at which the Prime Minister also spoke. He said:Instead of my having to pour British troops into Athens you should be pouring Greek brigades into Italy to march shoulder to shoulder with my victorious troops against the common foe.That is the position we should like to see.
As a solution of the problem, I would suggest to His Majesty's Government that 735 E.L.A.S. forces should be asked to combine in an attack against the considerable German garrison in Crete. This garrison is a constant menace to the Greek mainland and to our forces, and, more important still, as your Lordships will all know, Crete is the home of Greek republicanism. It is the home of Venizelos, and any election which did not take in the considerable population of Crete could hardly be held to result in an expression of the opinion of the Greek people. The population of Crete, I think, is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 800,000. Actually, before December E.L.A. S. forces in Crete had driven the Germans into one section of the island, but since then all food and supplies have, I understand, been cut off from these guerrilla forces, and we do not know what the situation is now. But I think that the idea might be very much welcomed and that it would be found to provide an effective way of utilizing the bellicose spirit of these guerrillas. I believe that they might even be prepared to fight under the command of British officers, if some of those (or the equivalent of them) were sent out who won their confidence in the early days of the formation of E.A.M. to resist the Germans and who were, unfortunately, withdrawn later.
Meanwhile, the Royalist regiments, the Mountain Brigade, the Sacred Battalion and so on, could perhaps be sent to fight in Italy, the Dodecanese Islands or Rhodesh—all useful places for their activities. I think that that is an idea that would possibly be accepted by both sides if they were satisfied that the National Guard would be impartially recruited. This is a point that I particularly want to make to your Lordships, and it is an extremely important one. As you probably know, for a long time in the Greek Army there has existed a system quite different from that which exists in other European Armies. It is, or it was, almost impossible for an officer to hold a rank above that of Captain unless he should belong to the Party in power. What usually happened was that most officers enjoyed high rank when their Party was in power, and probably went on half pay when their Party was out of office. That was deplorable, but it was a Greek custom. I think it is very important that it should be made clear that this new 736 National Guard will be impartially recruited, and that whether the means of general conscription is employed or not the officers will not be former officers of the Metaxas régime or Quislings or Fascists of any kind, or even be exclusively drawn from among the followers of M. Plastiras. This is extremely important and I hope that something can be done about it.
The next suggestion which I would make with a view to alleviating the situation in Greece, is that some equivalent of our county councils might be built up in Greece. This is an idea which I believe would commend itself both to the Royalists and to the Republicans. During the Metaxas dictatorship a system of Prefects appointed from Athens was instituted all over the country with really disastrous results. Any local suggestion for improvements had to be referred back to Athens, and this caused innumerable delays and trouble and stifled all local initiative. I think that by the means I have suggested Greek democracy could be built up, and built up, as it were, from below. Furthermore, the local enthusiasm for politics could find a very useful outlet in this channel.
This, of course, brings us to the question of elections. That is the fundamental matter which is most important of all. I think that whatever method is adopted—and it is a very difficult and technical question—it is important to have these elections conducted in such a way that there is no question but that the true opinion of the people is expressed. I was very glad to note that a trade union delegation had gone to Greece, that the Parliamentary delegation which was in Italy has gone, or is going on there, and that probably another Parliamentary delegation will be visiting Greece shortly, People in this country want to know the truth; they want to know what the facts are. We have heard various stories from the Plastiras Government, but we have not been allowed to hear the answer from E.A.M. I should like to ask the noble Viscount who is going to reply whether General Scobie's ban on all journalists interviewing or communicating with members of E.A.M. or E.L.A.S. could not now be lifted, and particularly whether the members of the delegations could not interview E.A.M. or E.L.A.S. leaders. I understand that eleven out of twelve American journalists have telegraphed to 737 President Roosevelt asking for the ban to be lifted. Another question I should like to ask whether it is true that, on our arrival in Salonika, the two newspapers there were banned because they sympathized with the E.A.M. I do not know if that is true, but I should like to know.
With regard to the forthcoming delegation I would like to suggest that they should be most careful in choosing their interpreters. Any delegation the members of which do not know the language and the country is completely at the mercy of a biased interpreter. For instance, if an E.A.M. interpreter accompanied the delegation, they would only see and hear more or less what that interpreter wished them to see and hear. If, on the other hand, they had an interpreter supplied by the Plastiras Government they would only hear and see his side of the question. It is a terrible power that an interpreter has in those circumstances. I should like to ask whether some of the officers in the British Army who know Greek, and particularly some of those who worked with the Resistance Movement and who know the country and the leaders, could not .be used as interpreters. This would allow a true and impartial account of what has happened in Greece to appear, which would be satisfactory for everyone.
There are two pleas which I should like to make to the Government. The first is that they should urge on General Plastiras that in the trials of people accused of murder, looting, rape and so on during the course of the recent fighting, the Courts should be impartial and not packed with Government partisans, and that the accused should not be kept indefinitely in prison. Under the recent Metaxas dictatorship accused persons were kept in prison for two years or more, having to buy their own food, if they could find the money to do so. We do not want that kind of thing to happen again if we can help it. My second plea is that U.N.R.R.A. should be asked to go into Greece as soon as possible. The food situation on both sides is absolutely desperate. I have heard that there is a ban against any food going into the territory to which E.L.A.S. has been confined by the truce. This is bound to cause bitterness and cannot bring about reconciliation, and even in the interests of humanity I suggest that the ban might 738 be raised. If U.N.R.R.A. comes in it must distribute food to both sides.
I hope that His Majesty's Government will do all that they can to bring about reconciliation. I am convinced that E.A.M., at least originally, was willing, and more than willing, to participate in a Provisional Government, and the question really arises whether General Plastiras, who has been extremely unconciliatory up to now, will make conditions which will allow E.A.M. to participate with honour. If that happens I hope that we shall see the end of this dreadful situation in Greece, and that we shall see a united country taking part in the general war.
§ 4.13 p.m.
My Lords, in what is inevitably a protracted debate I desire to raise .only three points, and to do so with what I consider to be the maximum of brevity; I hope that the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, and your Lordships will agree with me at any rate on that score. The first concerns an unhappy and tragic country, Poland, a name which has been mentioned in the debate only once, I fancy by Lord Addison. Your Lordships will doubtless, like myself, have received a circular sent out by a number of former members of the Polish Senate and Chamber of Deputies in which, while, as they say, having "no wish to interfere in any way with complicated political arrangements," they adduce their loyalty throughout this war to the "Anti-German alliance" in order to make certain suggestions, amongst which is that the Members of the British Parliament should help to "dissuade the Soviet authorities from continuing the deportation of Polish citizens to Russia." These deportations, they claim, are rife at this time on lines similar to those of 1939 and 1940, when approximately a million Polish citizens "were penally deported to the depths of Russia and Asia."
If these statements are true—and I cannot believe that that circular would have been sent out irresponsibly, or would have been sent out if the statements in it did not contain at any rate a fairly large grain of truth—it is just because I firmly believe that the Poles must, for the future happiness of their country, end by forgetting the past and arriving at some working arrangement with their powerful neighbour, that 739 I do not hesitate to ask His Majesty's Government whether it cannot (if that has not already been done) be arranged that this matter should come under discussion at the next meeting of the Big Three, which has been referred to so often in this debate, which is in everybody's mind and on which we build such high hopes. Autocracy is an old tradition in Russia, a thing which we have a slight tendency to forget, and Marshal Stalin moves in just as mysterious a way as his predecessors; but even if, after all that has passed between Russia and ourselves on the Polish question, it is unlikely that the Marshal is going to modify his intentions in regard to Poland in deference to any representations which we may make, I should personally prefer—and I feel that many of your Lordships would agree with me—the verdict of history to be that we tried to play our part in smoothing the way to an eventually satisfactory relationship between Russia and Poland rather than that we refrained from putting in a timely word when we could. And we still can, and, if we care for what we call democratic institutions, as we say we do, and for the privileges which are supposed to accompany them, I sincerely think that we should.
My second point concerns an announcement which I saw in the Sunday Times last Sunday, to the effect that Marshal Tito was considering the establishment of what amounts to an independent Macedonia, this independent Macedonia to be included in a Southern Slav Union. From an historical point of view this is of considerable interest to students of Balkan history. Such a step is considered by some to be feasible and desirable, and by others to be highly unwise and fraught with dangerous consequences, which arise mainly out of what most people admit by this time to be the unruly nature of most of the inhabitants of this particular cross-section of the Balkans. I should like to know whether His Majesty's Government can enlighten us on this project, if only because it seems at a cursory glance that what might be gained on the roundabouts of Serbo-Bulgar relations might be lost on the swings of Greek disapproval.
My third point, which is slightly more involved, is connected with the whole question of what are commonly known as the Resistance Movements in Europe. It 740 is obvious that the reasonable demands of security and the wish to avoid reprisals frequently prevent the detailed truth being known about the exact nature of these movements when they are in operation; but I do suggest that not only in the case of Greece—where it has now been done to a certain extent—but in the case of all of them, the public could, during all this period, have been better informed up to a certain point. The appalling amount of loose thinking which has prevailed on this matter would then have been avoided, and the arrows of a doctrinaire and prejudiced criticism of Government policy based on one-sided interpretations would not have been launched or might in any case have been considerably blunted.
It seems to me that there are two prevalent interpretations. The first is that although all of them were originally what their name implies—namely, underground movements organized against the Germans—they were also, per se and entirely, Communist or extreme Left Wing movements, representing the uprising of all that was both most downtrodden and therefore noblest in the different countries against so-called oppressors within the country themselves—so-called Fascists or so-called capitalists or both. The second, which arises out of the first and which is even more pernicious, is that of which I have an excellent example in the shape of headlines and an article in a little American paper called Newsweek. I do not suggest that this is an important paper, but it certainly provides a significant manifestation of the sort of thing to which I am anxious to call attention. I have no intention whatever of suggesting that the statements made are typical of the American Press as a whole; this is merely a leaf blown towards me on that journalistic breeze mentioned by my noble friend Lord Samuel.
Perhaps I may read the headlines and one or two lines from the article itself:Right-Left Quarrels Cast Shadow Over Britain's Plans for Europe.Aid-the-Conservative Idea Challenged by Soviet Influence in Belgium, Greece, Italy.The two realities of power began to emerge more clearly in Europe last week than at any time since the Allied Armies began the work of liberation.One of those realities was the deep schism between Right and Left in the liberated coun- 741 tries—a gulf so deep as to appear unbridgeable for the present. The Radicals accused the Conservatives of being Fascists or collaborationists at heart. The Conservatives in turn suspected that the Left, as exemplified in the more violent form of the Resistance Movement, was out to proletarianize the Continent by force.The second reality was the power of the three great Allies, the United States, Russia and Britain, to influence political developments in Europe. The United States appeared strangely reluctant to exercise a political influence commensurate with its armed might. Russian policy was straightforward in Eastern Europe, where Moscow insisted on 'friendly' Governments. But in the Western States it appeared to be working through the local Communist Parties in devious fashion.I am sure your Lordships will be able to arrive at your own conclusions on this astonishing document. At any rate, as far as I am concerned it is my considered Opinion that these two dangerous—I might even say poisonous—misconceptions could well be dispelled, or at least have their danger neutralized, by His Majesty's Government enabling the public to have as much clearer a notion of the real nature of the Resistance Movements as a whole as they now have of the Greek one. I need only in this latter connexion call your Lordships' attention to a letter from Istanbul written by a Mr. Sydney Nowill and printed in the Daily Telegraph of January 24.
For the first misconception is a genuine and comprehensible one, but there is no reason whatever to suppose that the present basis of the Resistance Movements is essentially Left Wing. It is possible that the French one utilized the Communist organization when it first began, but it certainly was far from ending by being purely Left Wing. It contained all sots of elements. And the kind of technique adopted by all these bodies was merely the secret revolutionary technique of the nineteenth century, perfected and transposed on to a modern plane—cells, fanatical devotees, pseudonyms, the secret propaganda, and of course the necessary weapons. In the Balkans there is probably a good deal of old-fashioned anarchism, or what one might reasonably call "Comitajism," and even the Royalist Party in France had its own analogous methods. They have become with the passing years the banalities of all political conspiracies, and they will also, alas, probably reappear in Germany after the war.
742 As to the second misconception, which often takes the form of what looks like a quite arbitrary construction put on events, I can only say that whatever the role played by Russia in all these local struggles, whether in collusion with Communist elements or not—and it is probably non-existent—it is not only quite impossible to say openly what it is, it is probably impossible to prove; and in that case it is outrageous for anyone to try to sow unjustifiable seeds of discord between us and our heroic, our admirable Russian Allies at this stage of the war. And it is for this double reason that I suggest that in an epoch as war-worn, as hysterical and as passionate as this is, only His Majesty's Government can dispel the miasma of falsehoods and misrepresentation by letting through, where possible—and I quite see that it is not always possible—more accurate information about the Resistance Movements—and not after the event, but before.
§ 4.24 p.m.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DOMINION AFFAIRS (VISCOUNT CRANBORNE)
(Lord Cecil): My Lords, we shall all agree that this debate which was initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Addison, this afternoon has been well worth while, and that, as he said, the time was ripe for such a discussion on the war situation and the international situation. I think I am right in saying that there has been no debate on developments in international affairs, either in the military or the political sphere, since before the Christmas Recess, and, as the noble Lord pointed out, a great deal has happened since then. The debate this afternoon, valuable though it has been, has, inevitably perhaps, ranged very wide. It has covered the war, both in the West and in the East, it has covered Poland, Yugoslavia, Greece, China, U.N.R.R.A. Dumbarton Oaks, Anglo-American relations, and a great many other subjects; and I am quite certain that your Lordships will not expect me, especially at this late hour, to deal at great length with all these various topics. It would take a very great many hours to do so.
Moreover, as the House knows, within the last week the whole vast canvas of world affairs has been covered by the Prime Minister in a speech the immensity of the intellectual grasp and the brilliant eloquence of which I could not in any 743 case hope to imitate. And the gaps which he left in that survey, perhaps inevitably, were immediately filled by the Foreign Secretary, who wound up that debate. Therefore your Lordships will not expect me to go again, and far less adequately, into the ground which they have already covered. Nor do I propose to deal with pre-war affairs. I might say, perhaps, in passing, that I was a little surprised to hear the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, say several times that the Government before the war had no foreign policy, because I think he is almost the only member of your Lordships' House here to-day who was a member of that Government in the years to which he referred.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
May I draw my noble friend's attention to the fact that I was dismissed in 1935, four years before the crucial date?
I do not think that most of us would limit the danger period before the war to the last three years before the conflict actually broke out. I also may be said to be in part to blame, for I was myself a junior member of that Government, but I did resign. The noble Marquess says he was dismissed; but he did not resign. And I really do not think it is right, if I may say so, for the noble Marquess to throw the whole blame for these events upon the officials of the Foreign Office. Officials, as your Lordships all know, are not responsible for policy. Not even the Foreign Secretary himself is alone responsible for policy in this country. Constitutionally, there is a joint responsibility for policy, and that is the responsibility of the Cabinet. The noble Marquess was himself a member of that Cabinet, and I very greatly wish, and many of us wish, that he had said before the war what he said to us to-day. As one who myself worked in the Foreign Office during some of those years and knows how devoted, how wise, and how public spirited were the officials who worked in that Office at that time, I feel I must protest against what he has said. I must confess I could hardly believe my ears when I heard him. Personally I do not propose to advert to those far-off days. I propose to deal with points raised in the debate on current policy, and espe- 744 cially with one or two random thoughts which have occurred to me, arising from the events which have occurred in the various parts of the world since we last discussed these matters.
Of the war itself, very little remains to be said after the Prime Minister's survey. Well deserved tributes have been paid today to the magnificent qualities of the American troops and, to the limited extent that they were involved, of our own British troops in the Battle of the Ardennes salient. Further tributes have been paid, equally well deserved, to the brilliant achievements of the Russian Commanders and soldiers in the triumphant advance which we are still watching with breathless wonder each day. How far that advance is going to carry them no one yet can say. Already at several points they have passed the frontiers of Germany, and there appears as yet to be no slackening in their progress. The time will of course come when some breathing space will be necessary to enable them to bring up their supplies. That, at any rate, has been our general experience in this new age of mechanized warfare. First you have a smashing blow, which drives rents through the enemy's front defences, then you get an extremely rapid advance through the gaps, and in this phase many enemy formations are left behind and remain a mere disorganized mob, to be mopped up by the troops that follow after the armoured columns.
Then you reach the third phase, the phase when the very rapidity of the advance dictates a pause. The victorious army outruns its communications, and it has to wait until these are built up behind it. That was our experience in North Africa; that, I think, was the Russians' own experience at the time of the battles in the Volga bend, and more recently that was our own experience after our triumphant advance in France and Belgium. Of course, the enemy claims to have held them up by their fighting prowess, but the reason is in fact one far simpler and one less complimentary to themselves. It is merely, as I have said, that by the very rapidity of the advance the Allies have created for ourselves a supply problem which will have to be solved. That is our past experience, and that may well be the course of this Russian advance. But, on the other hand, we may have reached a new and 745 final stage. We may have reached the phase when the enemy forces, even with a breathing space, are unable to dam all the breaches through which the flood is pouring in. We already know that last Angust, in France, the German Armies were not, even at that time, wholly German; they were diluted with men from the occupied countries who had been compelled or cajoled to support the Nazi cause. Since then, on the Western Front alone, the Germans have lost over 1,300,000 casualties in killed, wounded and missing. Every day in the papers we read stories, from enemy sources, of school boys who have been picked from their desks to go straight into the front line, or miners who have been torn from their mines—men completely untrained, inexperienced in warfare—just to plug the gaping holes in the German defences.
It may well be, I think, that this time there will be no complete recovery, but only a steady disintegration. But it would be very rash to prophesy, and time alone will show which of these views is correct. But what is quite clear and safe to prophesy is that the outlook for Germany is getting steadily blacker and grimmer, and we shall all agree that the Prime Minister gave wise advice to the German people—that they would do better to surrender now and save themselves from the appalling fate which is going to befall them in the ensuing months. To fight on, hopeless and helpless, can do them no good at all.
And what is true of Germany I think is equally true of Japan, whose troops equally are being steadily driven back, both in Burma and in the Philippines. Perhaps this would be an appropriate moment for me to refer briefly to the situation in China, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has referred this afternoon. First, I will say a word about the supply routes which he mentioned, and the importance of which of course we all recognize. I think we all of us heard with great joy the news which was published two days ago that the Burma Road had been reopened and that China was no longer isolated by land from the rest of the world. That is an imperishable tribute to the unconquerable courage of those forces—British, Indian, African, Chinese and American—who have been engaged in the Burma campaign.
Burma is a very long way off; it is perhaps not always quite in the forefront 746 of our minds; but that campaign will go down as one of the most remarkable achievements in military history. Fighting against a savage foe, in appalling climatic conditions, in a country where it was necessary to advance over mountains and through jungles, right across the normal lines of communication of the country—in spite of all those difficulties and handicaps the Allied Forces have driven the enemy from their strongholds and are now debouching on the valley of the Irrawaddy and the Burmese Plains. This week, by opening the Burma Road, the troops engaged in that campaign have achieved one of their main strategic objectives, and we and the Chinese people owe them our heartfelt thanks. But I would emphasize that it would be unwise to expect too much from the opening of the Burma Road. It must be, for one thing, some time before it is in full operation. Moreover, a single road is clearly limited in the amount which can be carried on it. But there is no doubt that the opening of the road is a most encouraging and a most important development, and we all sincerely welcome it, as the noble Viscount did this afternoon.
Now, perhaps, he would wish me to add a word or two about the situation in China itself. As the House knows—there has been no secret about it—the position in China in recent months has given rise to legitimate anxiety. The Japanese advance towards Kweiyang at one time constituted an extremely serious military menace, and it looked as if Chunking itself might be threatened. Fortunately, I understand that our latest information is that that threat has now receded, and I am told that measures to prevent its recurrence are being taken by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, with the able co-operation of his American Allies who, as your Lordships know, have undertaken the main responsibility for direct assistance to China.
The noble Viscount also asked for some information about the position regarding the differences between the Chinese Government and the Communist movement in China. These differences, of course, all the friends of China must deplore. They represent an internal problem of China with which other nations perhaps are not strictly concerned, and we can only hope that the Chinese, with their long tradition of civilization and their genius for compromise, will find a basis 747 of settlement which restores the unity of the country. Were such a settlement to be achieved, I can assure the House that no one would rejoice more than His Majesty's Government. There have, I believe, been unfounded suggestions in some quarters that His Majesty's Government are a little lukewarm on 'the question of a restoration of the unity of China. I do not know from whence these suggestions emanate, but at any rate I am very glad of this opportunity, if I can, to kill them stone dead, once and for all. The deep and abiding friendship and sympathy which exists between this country and China is not based, as your Lordships know, merely upon a community of interests deriving from the war; it goes much deeper than that. Our association has been close in the past, and it is our hope that, on the basis of absolute equality which is enshrined in the Treaty of 1942, it will be even closer in the future. It is the earnest desire of His Majesty's Government to see China strong, united and prosperous, and able to play again her full part in the world. I have dealt with this question at some little length, but I feel that the situation in China is one that should be, and I am sure is, of the highest interest and importance, not only to your Lordships' House but to the people of this country.
And now I would like to return to the main issues that have been raised in this debate. We may, I think, fairly hope from what is happening on the various Fronts that this great war, at least in the West, with all its heroism and its suffering, is at last reaching its final stages. The Germans have been driven from nearly all their ill-gotten gains and the period of armistice and reconstruction, we may fairly hope, is approaching. But, as it gets nearer, we can recognize, even more clearly, that that period is not going to be an easy one. As the smoke of war clears away from these unhappy liberated countries, we can see what a bitter legacy of devastation, both physical and moral, the Germans have left behind and how difficult is going to be the task of the Allies in healing the cleavages which, as I think Lord Addison said this afternoon, German wickedness has created in their national unity. That is going to be an extremely formidable task. But it is an essential one if the new world order is to be based on sound foundations. I 748 would echo in this connexion, if I might, the admiration which was expressed by Lord Addison for the fine spirit with which the French people have faced their difficulties. Considering the difficulties which have been found in other countries, it is perhaps the most remarkable example of the essential soundness and courage of the French nation that could possibly have been given to the world.
I would ask the House to consider for a moment what is the basic principle which must actuate us and our Allies in dealing with these liberated countries. I think it was best given in a passage of the Prime Minister's speech in the debate last week. General reference has been made to what he said, but I would like, if I might, to quote the words to your Lordships. This is the relevant passage:We have one principle about the liberated countries, or the repentant satellite countries, which we strive for according to the best of our ability and resources. Here is the principle. I will state it in the broadest and most familiar terms: government of the people, by the people, for the people, set up on a basis of free and universal suffrage election, with secrecy of the ballot and no intimidation.Those were the Prime Minister's words, and we shall all echo them. We are not concerned, as has been said in connexion with the Greek problem, with the colour of the Governments these countries choose, whether they choose Governments of the Right or Governments of the Left, whether they opt for Monarchies or whether they opt for Republics. That is a matter for them, not for us.
But we are vitally concerned that they should have free institutions. For unless the people truly govern, unless the combined wisdom of the populations, if I may so put it, freely expressed, guides their destinies, we know from bitter experience that peace will not be preserved. Sooner or later, the whim of some ambitious and unscrupulous man will hurl those countries into war as has occurred within our own experience. The ballot box is the greatest safeguard of peace; and we must, at any rate, give those countries a chance of moulding their fortunes by the ballot box. That is our object in Yugoslavia; that is our object in Poland; that is our object in Greece; all of them countries which have been mentioned this afternoon. That is our only object, that and the provision, as Lord Templewood said, of food and supplies. For, without 749 food and supplies, not only free institutions but civilization itself cannot exist. Starving people rapidly become savage people.
In connexion with this question of relief, the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, asked for the latest information with regard to U.N.R.R.A. From what I have already said in .:his debate, I think he will appreciate how fully His Majesty's Government agree with him as to importance of that organization, but I am sure he will understand if I do not make a very lengthy statement on U.N.R.R.A. this afternoon. It does, however, seem to me that there are one or two points which might usefully be cleared up. First of all, I would say a word about Mr. Law's visit to the United States. I would do so in one sentence and it is this. That visit was not, as the noble Viscount seemed to suggest, directly concerned with U.N.R.R.A., it was concerned mainly with the shipping problem, though of course the two are, in one sense, closely allied. But I can assure the noble Viscount that every effort is being made to render U.N.R.R.A. effective. He drew attention to a provision which he said existed, or so I understood him, which made it impossible for U.N.R.R.A. to function until six months after the liberation of a country.
I will describe what the position is. What he has said, I am told, would not represent the true position. The true position is this. The period of six months in which the military authorities are presumed to be responsible for relief is no more than an estimate made for planning purposes. In practice, the period may be shorter or longer, as the case may be, and the governing factor in any event is simply military necessity. Thus, there is no question of relief being impeded by a mechanical adherence to a time table which has no good reason behind it. The second point I would make is this, that what has so far limited the scope of relief activities in the areas to which the noble Viscount referred, is not lack of administrative staff with time and to devote to it. It is the limitation on the transport of goods into the various countries and the transport of goods inside them. An immense volume of supply and transport is naturally required for the prosecution 750 of the war itself and while; at the same time communications in many of the countries concerned have been more or less disorganized by the operations which have already been undertaken, this critical limitation on the work of relief exists, and must exist, whether the authorities in charge of relief are the military or U.N.R.R.A. or the national Government. It is just a hard physical fact.
So far as concerns the actual administration of relief inside a country and the provision of personnel with the necessary time and talent to apply to it, the position is that in some cases this work is largely undertaken by the national Governments themselves, in accordance with their own choice and not because U.N.R.R.A. is either excluded or unwilling to assist them. In the case of other countries, however, such as Greece, U.N.R.R.A. is in fact providing staff and has been there from the outset. They cooperate with the local authorities and with the military in the work of relief. I think there was a suggestion in one speech this afternoon that there has been undue delay in bringing in U.N.R.R.A. to Greece. If the work of U.N.R.R.A. has been hampered in that country, the only real reason is the civil strife which unfortunately arose and which we were unable to prevent. I wish we could have done so.
One other country was, I think, mentioned by Lord Samuel—Dalmatia. He said he had heard dreadful accounts of Dalmatia, of suffering amounting almost to famine. There were, I believe, at the beginning certain technical difficulties about bringing U.N.R.R.A. into Dalmatia, in connexion with the provision of observers. U.N.R.R.A. wanted observers to go there and the local authorities were not very anxious to have them. But these difficulties have been surmounted. One ship has already gone there and others will be sent as soon as possible. I hope this explanation will relieve at any rate some of the anxieties of the noble Viscount and of other noble Lords who, I know, are deeply interested in this subject. I can only assure the noble Viscount that, so far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, it is our main desire to assist, in any way we can, the work which U.N.R.R.A. must do and is doing in this area.
Now I would like to return to the main theme of the debate. My noble friend 751 Viscount Templewood, in the extremely interesting and thoughtful speech which he made to your Lordships this afternoon, complained, as I understand him, that present problems appear to be settled too much on a piecemeal basis. He said—I took down his words—that a new Europe was forming itself before our eyes. I absolutely agree with the noble Viscount that it would be very much neater and pleasanter if we could keep all these problems in cold storage until the end of the war and then settle them satisfactorily at the peace conference. It would be a much tidier arrangement. But unhappily, as your Lordships know, it really is not a practical possibility to wait till then. We have to act now, if chaos is to be avoided. Nor do I think it is in fact practicable for the three great Powers always to advance together hand in hand in every area. In one area it will be found that the forces of one great Power are on the spot; in another area the forces of another great Power will be on the spot. We must take the position as we find it and act as swiftly and as resolutely as we can. What does seem to be essential—I am sure there will be general agreement on this proposition—is that no great Power should act without full consultation with the others. It is extremely important that, so far as it can be avoided, there should be no divergence of policy. That principle, I think, His Majesty's Government have observed in every step they have taken. Their actions have never been unilateral. They did not move into Greece without taking every step to keep informed the United States and Russia and obtain their approval, and they have kept in close contact with both our great Allies both with regard to Yugoslavia and with regard to Poland.
The noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, suggested that international questions might well be referred to what I understood to be a sort of glorified European Advisory Committee.
A Committee built up, I understood, something in the nature of the Ambassadors' Conference after the last war. That would be, of course, a very considerable extension of the activities of the Committee which, as your Lordships know, was created prim- 752 arily to deal with the question of armistice terms for Germany. Moreover, in any case, I would suggest that the functions which the noble Viscount apparently had in mind would be very widely different from those of the Ambassadors' Conference. That body never initiated policy. Its task was to implement policy which had already been defined in the Peace Treaties. I doubt very much whether the Governments—I do not say particularly His Majesty's Government, there are other Governments also concerned—would submit questions involving the formulation of policy to a body of that character.
After the war, presumably much of the work which the noble Viscount has in mind will be done by the world organization itself; and the faster we can get on with the Dumbarton Oaks proposals the better we shall all of us like it. For the moment, however, I am afraid it is inevitable that some of these problems will have to be handled on an ad hoc basis. What would be most valuable would be to promote more frequent meetings between those responsible for foreign policy, which means, in effect, meetings of Foreign Secretaries. Those who have read the report or heard the debate in another place last week will know that the Foreign Secretary himself strongly supported that idea. He would like to see periodic meetings of the Foreign Secretaries, and he hopes this will be a matter for discussion by the heads of Governments at the meeting which we all hope will take place at not too distant a date.
What I have said also applies to such questions as a joint announcement by the great Powers of their policy towards Germany, which the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, mentioned. That also seems to me a matter for what we call the Big Three, and possibly, as my noble friend suggested, another might be brought in. It seems to me that only these great Powers can decide if and when it would be useful to make that type of statement. I do not think we ought to forget the experience of President Wilson and the Fourteen Points at the end of the last war. Those Fourteen Points were brought forward with the highest motives, but they led ultimately only to continued charges of breach of faith which were levelled by Germany against us and seriously embittered relations between the two countries in the post-war years. I 753 have not the slightest doubt—I do not suppose any one of us can have—that the time will come When such a statement should be made, but I am by no means certain that the time is ripe, or that the Germans would believe such a statement, however sincerely intentioned, if it were made. In my experience, Germans only believe in one thing and that is Force. Military victories will be far more important than Allied statements for the purpose of bringing Germans to lay down their arms.
Perhaps, now, I might say a word or two about some of the individual countries which have been mentioned' in this debate. There has been some talk of Yugoslavia. That was pretty fully dealt with in the Prime Minister's statement. As your Lordships know, there is always a danger, when countries have been occupied by the enemy, that two authorities will come into existence—the legitimate Government outside the country and the Resistance Movement inside the country. In Yugoslavia, during the period of occupation, we with the other great Powers supported both these authorities because both were opposing the Germans in their own way. We recognized the Royal Yugoslav Government, with whom we had been in diplomatic relationship before the war broke out, and we gave every assistance to Marshal Tito, who was waging heroic resistance against the German invaders. But we always made it clear in your Lordships' House and elsewhere that it was our policy that when the Germans were driven out the Yugoslav people should decide freely their own destiny.
The ideal solution of course would be a fusion between the Royal Yugoslav Government and the National Committee of Liberation until such time as a plebiscite could be taken. Unless the two parties come together, there must always be the risk that not a plebiscite but civil war will ensue. For some coalescence between these two administrations we have therefore always striven. It was for that reason that we warmly welcomed the agreement which was reached between Marshal Tito and M. Subasics. Unfortunately, as your Lordships know, within the last few days King Peter, though accepting this agreement in principle, has found himself obliged to make certain reservations to it. We all hoped that the differences between him 754 and M. Subasics would be resolved. In the meantime, however, His Majesty's Government felt obliged to make it clear—the Prime Minister did so in another place—that if King Peter, after elucidation of the points that had caused him difficulty, still felt unable to give his consent to this agreement we as a Government should have no option but to presume his consent, as a constitutional monarch, to an agreement signed by his Prime Minister. That in our view was the only way to save him and his country from greater troubles. Since the debate last week information has been received—your Lordships will have heard it—that King Peter, without any consultation with us, has dismissed M. Subasics. This, no doubt, further complicates an already sufficiently complicated situation. But it cannot alter the solution. At any rate, we have got a new situation, a situation which must be considered, according to our usual practice, between ourselves, the United States and the Soviet Government. I know that your Lordships will not expect me to say any more this afternoon about this very delicate question.
Then there is the problem of Poland, about which Lord Derwent spoke to-day. That problem may appear to be widely different from that of Yugoslavia, but I would suggest that, in some of its main features, it is exactly the same. There, too, you have a country which has been occupied by the enemy. There, too, the policy of His Majesty's Government is to see the country emerge strong and independent, with a form of government which has been chosen by the whole Polish people. It is the same policy. There, too, there has always been a danger that there might come about the establishment of two authorities, a Government outside the country, and another administration set up inside the country, in those parts liberated from the enemy. That is precisely the situation which His Majesty's Government, which the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, have laboured so arduously to avoid. It would have been perfectly easy for us to have stood aside and allowed matters to take their course. Nothing would have been easier. But I believe that it would have been contrary to all our traditions and that we should be bitterly blamed by the people of this country had we done so.
Poland is our Ally. She has fought heroically at the side of the Allies. We 755 were bound to do what we could to assist her, in what were very real and grievous difficulties. The only way in which we could, in practice, help was to try to find a basis of agreement between the Polish Government in London and the Russian Government in Moscow, to enable those two Governments together to reach some solution of the Polish problem which would be acceptable to both. The matter could not be left until the end of the war. Events were moving far too fast for that. It is on this extremely thorny and ungrateful problem that, as your Lordships know, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have been working for many months now. In Moscow and in London they have sought to find some middle line which would enable agreement to be reached.
A compromise which they supported, and which the Prime Minister announced, was clearly by no means perfect. It involved far-reaching sacrifices on the part of the Poles. It involved sacrifices with regard to Lvov, and with regard to the eastern portion of Poland east of the Curzon Line. Quite clearly, that must have been a very bitter pill for any Polish Government to have to swallow. But it would have given a possibility that the new Poland which was envisaged, and which would have comprised Polish territory west of the Curzon Line, with the addition of East Prussia, could be a free, independent and powerful nation. At any rate, it offered, I think, the best chance of getting agreement. However, the Polish Government, as the House knows, could not bring themselves to agree to the sacrifices involved, and the negotiations broke down. His Majesty's Government here have been criticized in various quarters for supporting the proposal they did, but I must confess that I have never heard any one put forward any alternative plan which was more likely to be acceptable to the two parties concerned.
Now, just what might have been feared has happened. Two administrations have come into existence, one which is recognized by Russia, and the other which is recognized by ourselves and the United States. What is going to follow upon this I cannot tell your Lordships. No doubt this must be a matter for discussion, sooner or later, between the leaders of the great Powers. At any rate we can say 756 this; we have done everything which was conceivable to try to find a solution, and I believe that we should have been extremely blameworthy if we had not tried. Lord Derwent raised one or two detailed points, but he will forgive me if I do not go into them to-day. I assure him that I will bring what he said to the notice of the Foreign Secretary.
Lastly—if I am not keeping your Lordships too long—I would like to say something about Greece, which has been the subject of so many heart-searchings and so many debates during recent weeks. It has been three times discussed in another place, and it has been discussed once already in your Lordships' House. On the last occasion, I described, at great length I am afraid, the earlier chapters of this distressing story, and I do not propose to cover the same ground again. Moreover, since we last met, the situation has happily undergone what at any rate appears to be a very striking change for the better. Following the Prime Minister's characteristically audacious visit to Athens, the Archbishop of Athens has been appointed Regent, General Plastiras has been appointed Prime Minister, and an armistice has been signed between General Scobie and E.A.M. Only two matters were left outstanding. First there was the question of hostages, to which, I think, Lord Addison referred this afternoon. The appalling treatment of these hostages—reports of which have been published—has I believe done more than anything else to open the eyes of the world to the character of some of the E.A.M. leaders. Secondly, there was the question of the intentions of the Greek Government towards those who took up arms against them. That was a point made to-day, I think, by the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon.
Within the last few days these remaining issues, it seems from recent reports, are being satisfactorily cleared up. As the Foreign Secretary announced in the House of Commons last Friday, General Plastiras has made to His Majesty's Ambassador a personal and unequivocal declaration that it is the intention of the Greek Government to "take action only against those guilty of crimes against the Penal Code or the rules of war." In answer to the question which was asked by Lord Huntingdon, I would like to make it clear that that undertaking applies not only to the rank and file of E.A.M. but to the 757 leaders also. Later, since the debate last week in the House of Commons, reports, which your Lordships will have seen in the Press, have been received to the effect that E.A.M. are releasing their hostages, are signing the Geneva Convention, and are sending delegates to Athens to negotiate terms of peace. We must hope that these reports are accurate. I believe, assuming that they are, that we may fairly hope that this most unhappy chapter of Greek history is at last drawing towards its close, and that in due course a plebiscite will be held, the Greek National Army will be built up and, last but not least, it will be possible for British troops to be withdrawn. In this connexion I might perhaps mention a phrase used by Lord Addison who said that he hoped that the Greek National Army would not become a refuge for reactionaries. I should have thought that the most powerful safeguard against that would be the personality of the Regent himself, who is certainly not a man of the Right.
The noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, asked me a number of detailed questions, to one or two of which it might be convenient if I replied now. He asked me whether the British authorities in Salonika had suppressed the E.A.M. newspapers in that city. I can give your Lordships the facts, and they are extremely satisfactory facts. When E.A.M. gained control in Salonika, they themselves suppressed every newspaper hostile to their cause by the simple expedient of calling out the printers. During the period of operations in Athens, only E.A.M. and Communist newspapers appeared in Salonika. No attempt was made by the British authorities to suppress them, though they daily published most scurrilous attacks upon British representatives and British policy. They accused British troops of indiscriminate slaughter and of starving the Greek people into surrender; they referred to our Prime Minister as "a new Metternich" or, alternatively, as "a public menace." They referred to His Majesty's Ambassador in Athens as "the evil genius of Greece." That was the sort of thing which continued to be published in Salonika, without let or hindrance from the British authorities, during the whole time of the troubles in Southern Greece and in Attica, and I hope the House will agree that it does not indicate undue suppression of the rights of free 758 speech, at any rate on our side. I understand that within the last few days the Greek local authorities suspended the publication of these newspapers for two days on the ground of the danger they caused to the maintenance of public order; but now they are appearing again, and I am told that they are just as violent as they were before. I should add that I understand that other papers are now appearing also in Salonika, so that perhaps a more balanced view is available to the people of that great city. In the light of what I have said, it cannot, I think, be maintained that E.A.M. has any serious complaint against us in this matter.
There were one or two other questions put to me. I have not time to answer them all, but one which was asked by several speakers was whether U.N.R.R.A. would be invited to start relief work in Greece. The answer is that it is our hope and intention that U.N.R.R.A. should take over the full responsibility for relief work at the earliest possible date from the British and American military authorities. Meanwhile we hope that U.N.R.R.A. will take as large a share as possible in relief work, even while the responsibility remains in the hands of the military authorities. U.N.R.R.A. had already started to function in Greece before the present disturbances began, and in certain spheres, such as medicine and welfare work, has continued to operate during the fighting. Now that the truce has been signed we hope that it will resume work. There will be the fullest possible co-operation on the part of the British military authorities.
That is all that it is necessary for me to say on that point; but there is one other aspect of the Greek problem on which I should like to say a word. It has already been mentioned by the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, but I should like to add something to what he said. I hope—and I think that this was also said by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel—that what has happened in Greece will lead to one valuable result, if it teaches some people here and abroad, in the Press and elsewhere, that they must not jump too rapidly to conclusions. Noble Lords will do me the credit of agreeing that I have never overstated the case against E.A.M. In the last speech which I made, in the middle of the crisis, I said that they were probably, like 759 everybody else, some good and some bad. I think there is no doubt that during the German occupation numbers of young Greeks did join the movement from motives of pure patriotism, but it is equally true that the chief leaders of the movement from the very beginning were extreme and violent men, much less concerned to beat the enemy than to seize political power. References were made to that fact in this House very nearly a year ago.
I must say that the reaction of certain sections of opinion here, and in particular of the Press, to events in Greece has come as a rather severe shock to many of us. I would not have believed that in this extremely experienced and civilized country people could be so wrong-headed or so unwilling to face simple, evident facts. The Prime Minister dealt with this aspect of the question in the Commons last week, and he seems to have stung The Times to a reply. I understood the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, to say that he did not wish to mention The Times by name but I shall be bold enough to do so. I read the leading article in question, and I hardly think that it will relieve the minds of the many warm admirers of that newspaper to whom, as I have said, its recent attitude has come as a severe shock. For the article to which I refer only proves once again, in my view, that The Times has completely missed the point. It stated, quite accurately, referring to the Prime Minister's plea for unity, thatthe unity that the Coalition represents has never been, and never should be, construed as inhibiting the right of independent judgment and criticism.That is, of course, absolutely correct, and no one would dispute it. But that is not the criticism which has been levelled against The Times and certain other newspapers. The complaint was not that they spoke out, which they had an absolute right to do, but that they misapprehended and therefore entirely misrepresented the situation.
Throughout, these newspapers referred to the issue as a struggle between the Right and the Left. That in fact was not the issue. The issue in these Greek troubles was between free institutions and dictatorship, and on that issue there was only one line which we could have taken. It is indeed a main issue on which we are fighting this war. In 1939, when Poland 760 was invaded, we intervened against a dictatorship of the Right. In 1944, when E.L.A.S. marched on Athens, we intervened against a dictatorship of the extreme Left. What brought us in on both occasions was that we were opposed to dictatorships, and so I hope we always shall be. The method of the ballot box was always open to E.A.M. if they represented the majority of Greeks, and it was their own affair if they preferred the method of tommy guns and hostages and all the panoply of tyranny. If such methods were to prevail all over Europe, we might just as well not have fought the war. That was the issue involved in the recent troubles, but it was not recognized by some organs of the Press. I know that it is considered very bad form nowadays for politicians to criticize the Press. But the Press reserves and exercises an absolute right to criticize both Parliament and the Government to its heart's content, and I feel sure that it will not object if politicians return the compliment.
It is, of course, not my purpose this afternoon to make a general attack on the Press; on the contrary, I believe that we owe the Press during this war a very deep debt of gratitude for the courage and restraint which it has shown. The fact that we have managed to go through five years of mortal peril without any compulsory censorship at all is the admiration of the world, and, as a result, the British Press stands high in reputation throughout the civilized globe. That is why it is so unfortunate that it should have created a false impression at this very vital juncture. Undoubtedly, it did lead public opinion astray both at home and abroad, and especially in the United States, and did much to cloud relations when it was essential that those relations should be close and confident.
And now I am coming to the last subject with which I want to deal. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, referred to Anglo-American relations, and I would echo all he has said. I am sure we are all agreed about the importance of mutual understanding between the two countries. It is probably the most important thing in the world at the present time. Perhaps it is too much to expect that we shall always see eye to eye on all aspects of international affairs. The American approach to foreign policy in the past has always been somewhat different from that of the countries of the British Common- 761 wealth, and this, I believe, is mainly the result—I am only expressing a personal view—oi their widely differing geographical situation. The United States are an immensely powerful nation, concentrated in a single block in one particular part of tae world. As a result, American public opinion has always fought shy of intervening, unless it was absolutely necessary, outside the American Continent. That would have been contrary to their traditions, and no doubt they instinctively felt that it would involve obligations and risks which were neither necessary nor desirable for them. I expect that if we had been in their situation we should very likely have taken exactly the same view.
But the situation of the British Commonwealth is not the same as theirs: in fact it is exactly the opposite. We are not concentrated in a single block, we are scattered far and wide over the whole globe. Whatever happens anywhere affects us; and long experience has shown us that if we allow the situation to deteriorate beyond a certain point in any particular part of the world, the consequences are likely to involve us ultimately in greater dangers than if we took a hand in the early stages. Our instinct, therefore, has always been to weigh in early and try to prevent a situation reaching a stage where it inflicts serious injury on British interests. Sometimes we have been successful, sometimes we have not been successful. But our instinct always continues to impel us to make one more attempt. I thought a typical example of that was the League of Nations directly after the last war. The United States, as has been said by the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, this afternoon, did not join the League, because the American people feared involvement in foreign disputes; we did join the League in the hope of preventing those disputes flaring up into war. The same reason impelled us more recently, as I have tried to show to-day, to intervene in the affairs of Poland and Greece and other countries.
It is not surprising that with their tradition of detachment, the United States should view our activities with some distrust, that they should even have thought that we had some private axe to grind, when in fact there was and is nothing sinister in our action. Our intentions are what they have always been—to prevent bad getting worse. Actually, I believe 762 we need have no really deep anxiety about Anglo-American relations in the future, if we frankly explain our points of view to each other. Moreover, I should have thought that, quite inevitably, the points of view of the two countries would approximate more nearly to each other after this war, because, after all, the United States will come out of this war a nation immensely powerful, in many ways perhaps the most powerful nation in the world. And whether or not her territorial interests continue to be concentrated in one part of the world, her commercial and economic interests are bound to be world-wide, and therefore it will be to her interest, as it is to ours, that peace should prevail in all parts of the world.
The meeting between the Prime Minister, the President and Marshal Stalin which the Prime Minister foreshadowed in his speech last week is I think symbolic of the desire of the three great Powers, ourselves, the United States and Russia, to co-operate for the good of the world. I believe with my noble friend Lord Templewood that this meeting, when it comes, will be fruitful of good results both for the present and for the future, regarding all those great issues which were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Addison, and others this afternoon, and I hope and believe that this meeting will be the forerunner of many others to come. The great Powers cannot dissociate themselves from the affairs of their neighbours, but so long as they do not misuse their powers, so long as they use them properly, their intervention and assistance can only do good. It is in that close relationship between ourselves, the United States and Russia, which is at present being forged, that lies the greatest hope for the future, both for great nations and for small nations. If it is welded together, strong and enduring, as part of a world organization, all the blood that has been spilt in these five years and all the treasure which has been squandered will not have been in vain.
§ LORD ADDISON
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will agree that after the most important statement that we have just heard from the noble Viscount the Motion which I moved was well worth while. I beg leave to withdraw.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past five o'clock.